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14 Steel Wool Uses and Applications

Steel wool pads can be used for a lot of things around the home. Check out some of our favorite uses – you just might be surprised at the versatility of this material.

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Steel wool for tough stains

Steel wool for tough stains

If you need to remove tree sap, adhesive residue or other tenacious stains from your windows, try #0000 (4 ought) steel wool. Lubricate the glass with a spritz of window cleaner (Windex) and buff away the stains with a wad of super-fine steel wool.

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Flawless Surface Prep

Flawless Surface Prep

Anxious to put varnish on that freshly sanded project? Well, just hold on for a second! Before applying the finish, rub the project (with the grain!) with No. 0000 steel wool. You'll lift sanding dust from the grain and burnish and shine the surface fibers.

Follow up with a Swiffer Sweeper cloth (sold at grocery stores) to wipe away any specks of dust or steel wool. You've now ensured a pristine surface for perfect results with oil-based (not water-based) finishes.

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Fix a loose screw

Fix a loose screw

This is an old carpenter's trick. If you have a screw hole that's too big, just wrap a bit of steel wool around the screw before you drive it in. It provides just enough friction to hold the screw firmly in place and takes less futzing than trying to fill a hole and re-drill.

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Clean pans and metal cookware

Clean pans and metal cookware

For stubborn, cooked-on stains on steel cookware, steel wool is the answer. Soak pots and pans, then use a steel wool scrubbing pad to remove even the most baked-on messes.

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Clean the oven

Clean the oven

For burnt food stuck to the bottom of your oven, steel wool is a much better alternative than oven-cleaning chemicals. After running your oven’s self-cleaning cycle, use steel wool to remove the burnt debris and make your oven shine like new.

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Fire starter

Fire starter

Need to start a fire but you’re out of matches? Some steel wool and a 9-volt battery will do the trick. Just touch the positive and negative terminals of the battery to the steel wool, and it will start to glow and smolder (the 9-volt battery is sending a current through the thing strands of steel wool). Add some kindling, and you have the start of a fire.

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Age wood quickly

Age wood quickly

If you want to make new wood age quickly, use a mixture of steel wool and vinegar as stain. The brown-gray liquid, when applied to new lumber, gives it a silvery patina. It’s a much faster way to create this in-demand look than letting your wood sit outside for a few years (and it’s non-toxic, too!).

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Fill critter holes

Fill critter holes

Dealing with a mouse problem is never fun. Once you’ve done your detective work, you can plug suspected mouse holes with a wad of steel wool. It’s inexpensive and mice won’t chew through it.

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Disposable drain strainer

Disposable drain strainer

Don’t end up with a clogged drain! Before you give Fido his next bath, use a wad of steel wool to block the drain. There’s enough room for water to get through, but nasty hair and gunk will get caught up in the steel wool (and won’t go down the drain). The best part? Just toss the steel wool after the bath.

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Clean rusty tools

Clean rusty tools

At some point, every metal tool develops rust. Fortunately, steel wool excels at removing surface rust. Just grab a wad of steel wool and start buffing your tools. They’ll look like new in no time! Learn more about removing rust here.

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Remove scuff marks on floors

Remove scuff marks on floors

Dark-soled shoes on vinyl floors can lead to scuff marks. Fear not – a few scrubs with a some steel wool and the scuff marks will be gone. Make sure to add some to your floor-cleaning arsenal.

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Sharpen scissors

Sharpen scissors

It may seem counterintuitive, but using your dull scissors to cut steel wool actually sharpens them! You won’t be able to grind a new bevel by any means, but a few snips through steel wool will renew the cutting edges of your scissors. Learn how to sharpen other household and workshop tools here

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Remove crayon from wallpaper

Remove crayon from wallpaper

If your miniature Monet was inspired to create a masterpiece with crayons on your wallpaper, don’t despair. Steel wool is just abrasive enough to remove the crayon marks. Just make sure to test it in an inconspicuous spot first.

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Critter-proof the air intake and exhaust pipes

Critter-proof the air intake and exhaust pipes

When you're putting your vehicles to bed for the winter, it's a good idea to critter-proof them, too. Mufflers and air cleaners are “homes of choice” for critters. Keep them out by stuffing a sandwich bag with steel wool and then pushing the bag into the air intake and tailpipes. The bag keeps steel wool strands out of the engine. Use bright-colored caution tape as a reminder to remove it in the spring.