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14 Brilliant Uses for Steel Wool

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 woolFamily Handyman

Steel wool for tough stains

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

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Wiping counter with steel woolFamily Handyman

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 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. By the way, here are 8 things you shouldn’t clean with a Swiffer.

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Driving a screwCherdchai charasri/Shutterstock

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. Use this trick for any of these DIY projects that cost $100 or less.

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Cleaning pans with steel woolTTL media/Shutterstock

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. Give the steel wool and little extra elbow grease by using one of our Test Kitchen-approved cleaning products.

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Cleaning an ovenMarsan/Shutterstock

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. If your oven window is dirty too, here’s how to clean it.

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Starting a fireNataliaL/Shutterstock

Fire starters

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. Take a look at these 8 mind-boggling tips that’ll come in handy on a camping trip.

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Steel wool and vinegarFamily Handyman

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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Mouse entrance and exit hole at the bottom of an antique barn wood wall on an old houseOlivier Le Queinec/Shutterstock

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. If there are pests in your pantry too, here’s how to get rid of them.

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Hair clog in drainVlue/Shutterstock

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. On the other hand, these are the 12 things you shouldn’t put down the drain.

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Rusty toolsdimid_86/Shutterstock

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 how to remove rust from your cast-iron skillet here.

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Floor cleaning suppliesjocic/Shutterstock

Remove scuff marks on floors

Dark-soled shoes on vinyl floors can lead to scuff marks. Fear not—a few scrubs with steel wool and the scuff marks will be gone. Take a look at how to clean 10 other tough spots around the house.

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Old rusty scissorsSerge Vero/Shutterstock

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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Crayon on wallstumsubin/Shutterstock

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. Which is good because paint is one of the surfaces this popular cleaner shouldn’t be used on
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Plug exhaust pipes with steel woolFamily Handyman

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.
The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman