A hair dryer is the handiest gadget you probably already own. But did you know that there's a lot more that this device can do than just drying hair — like painlessly removing Band-Aids and breaking in a new pair of shoes?
But before you grab your dryer and start pointing it at everything in the house, there are a few things you need to know. While a hair dryer doesn't get as hot as a stove, it does get pretty warm. You shouldn't put it right on top of anything. Use your hair dryer from several inches away, and don't use it at a higher heat than you need. (We recommend starting at low heat and going up from there.) Some items — like flimsy plastics — could be damaged by the heat.
Got it? Good. Now here are 10 of our favorite less-than-conventional uses for a hair dryer.
Remove (Almost) Anything With Adhesive
Adhesive usually melts with a little heat, which makes stubborn price tags, unwanted bumper stickers, and even Band-Aids easier to remove. A quick blast from your hair dryer can make peeling off that sticker a breeze.
But going back to our warning above, remember that not every item tolerates heat well — including your car's bumper. That info can come in handy if you're trying to peel a bumper sticker off your vehicle. Low heat is fine for a car, so set your hair dryer on low.
Regardless of what kind of sticker you're working with, begin by running the hair dryer for about 10 seconds to see how well the sticker peels off — or doesn't. Try 45 seconds for particularly stubborn or large stickers. Repeat the process, heating the sticker and then peeling it up, until the entire thing comes off. Some sticky residue may remain, but the hard part should be done.
Custom Fit Plastic Glasses
While we can't recommend doing this with pricey glasses, a little heat can make store-bought plastic glasses or sunglasses fit perfectly. Using your hair dryer to heat up the arms (the parts that go over your ears) will soften the plastic so you can mold it for a custom fit. Let them cool and you'll have just the right fit!
Coil Stray Cables
If you have an overly long cable that always seems to be in the way, use a bit of heat to mold it into a coiled cable that takes up less space — but still stretches if you need it to. Be warned that not all cables are happy getting twisted up like this, but it seems to work fine on standard USB. Also, avoid trying this on any pricey specialty cables you can't bear to lose.
As with the glasses hack, the goal is to soften the plastic until you can reshape it — in this case, the casing around the cables. To get started, wrap the cable around a pencil (or similar object) and use tape to hold it in place. Then, turning the pencil as you go, blast the cable with the hair dryer until it's warm. Let it cool, pull it off the pencil, and you have a freshly coiled cable!
Break in New Leather Shoes
New shoes or boots are usually snug until you've spent some time walking in them, but a hair dryer can fix that. Put on a pair of thick socks and then your new shoes, and blast any snug spots with hot air. After a minute or so, those snug spots should have stretched just enough to make your new shoes fit perfectly. Keep wearing your shoes until they've cooled off; then you can put them in the closet.
Avoid this technique with synthetic materials, however, which may or may not respond well to heat. If you aren't sure whether a shoe is real leather, don't risk it!
Rid Clothes of Wrinkles
While the worst wrinkles will still require an iron, a hair dryer and some water can freshen up rumpled clothes. Just hang up the item, spray it with some water, and blast it with hot air. The wrinkles should quickly fade away. If a few seconds under the hair dryer doesn't help, though, break out the ironing board.
Inflate an Air Mattress
You know your air mattress came with a pump, but you can never find it when you need it. Don't panic: Your hair dryer will work just as well. Using the cold air setting, press the hair dryer to the mattress valve and inflate away. If you have trouble getting a good fit that way, a kitchen funnel inserted into the valve can make the inflating process easier.
Just remember: cold air only!
Get Rid of Wax Stains and Crayon Marks
Whether the problem is drips of candle wax on a table or a masterpiece your child drew on the wall with crayon, the root issue is dried wax. Whatever the source, a little heat will melt the wax so you can wipe it away with a clean cloth. (For particularly large amounts of wax, scrape it up with a spatula and then wipe away whatever's left.)
If candle wax has spilled on the carpet, the same principle applies, but you'll want to set a paper towel on top of the wax stains before you hit them with hot air. The paper towel will absorb the wax, so heat it up, daub it with the paper towel, and repeat. Replace the paper towel as necessary until the stain is gone.
Fix Water Stains on Wooden Furniture
Water stains are just moisture, and you can make it evaporate with a blast of heat. Set your hair dryer to medium heat and point it toward the stain. It may take a minute or two, but the water mark should start to fade away.
Get Gum Out of Carpet
Nothing's worse than gum drying on carpet or clothes. Fortunately, a bit of heat can soften the gum so you can peel it away. You'll probably still have some gummy residue to deal with, but this will get rid of the bulk of your gum problem.
Defrost Your Favorite Food
Your freezer's job is to keep things cold, but sometimes it overdoes it. If you have food that's frozen together or ice cream that's too hard to scoop, a blast from the hair dryer should thaw things enough to get dinner (or dessert) back on track.
Readers, what are your favorite hair dryer hacks? Share them with us in the comments!