If you didn't already know that bananas were one of the world's favorite fruits, a quick look at the produce section of your local supermarket would tell you so. Their sweetly aromatic flavor makes them ideal for eating out of hand or baking, and they're one of the few fruits whose peel tells you exactly how ripe they are at any given moment. Bananas don't have seeds or cores so their peels are the only part of the fruit that's commonly wasted, yet they're uncommonly useful around the house.
Soothe Bug Bites
Being out in nature may literally be good for your health, with numerous studies showing it improves both mental and physical well-being. One of the few downsides of spending regular time outdoors is that there are a host of biting insects wanting a piece of you. If you're a favorite target for those miniature vampires and routinely return home from a day of fun dappled with itchy bite marks, reach for the first banana peel you see. Apply the white inside of the peel to your skin, holding it in place with a wrist band or a strip of wrapped-around plastic wrap, until the itch subsides.
Shine Up Leather Surfaces
It might sound crazy at first, but banana peels are also great for cleaning and conditioning leather surfaces. It's logical when you think about it, because the peels are good for your skin and leather is just another kind of skin. It turns out that commercial leather polishes are high in potassium — who knew? — and so are banana peels. Rub the inside of the peel over your scuffed hiking boots, walking shoes or leather sofa, then buff with a soft cloth when you're done to reveal a soft, gentle luster.
Trap Those Annoying Fruit Flies
Biology lab humor says, "Time flies like the wind...and fruit flies like bananas!" One of the few downsides to keeping bananas and other fresh fruit in your house is that your fruit bowl will inevitably attract fruit flies. Those irritatingly persistent little bugs will colonize your kitchen rapidly if you let them, so to stop them in their tracks, set out traps. This is where you turn their love of bananas against them: Place a dead-ripe peel or two in a disposable container like a leftover yogurt tub, and punch a few small holes in the lid. Set this alongside your fruit bowl, where the overripe banana smell will lure them into the trap. Discard and replace it every few days until the fruit flies are gone.
Shine Your Houseplants
Houseplants with big, showy leaves can lend a lot of drama to the most humdrum of rooms, but the effect isn't as good as you might wish when those leaves are covered in dust. An electrostatic duster will do a decent job of removing and trapping the dust so it doesn't just settle back, but to restore the leaves to their full glossy glory, use a banana peel. After you've finished dusting, use the inside of a banana peel to wipe down any plant with large, glossy-surfaced leaves. When you're done, they'll shine beautifully in the sunlight.
Polish Your Silver
Silver tableware is maddening stuff: So beautiful when it's clean and shiny, but so quick to dull and tarnish. Really it doesn't take that long to bring it back to a beautiful shine, but silver polish is often full of unpleasant and nasty-smelling chemicals. For fume-free cleaning of silver pieces you use or display regularly, banana peels can help. Blend a peel or two with just enough water to make a thick paste, then use a soft brush to apply the paste to your silver. The peels' gentle acidity will strip away light tarnish, leaving the silver shiny. This works best as regular maintenance; heavily tarnished pieces will still need conventional polish.
Make Seriously Amazing Plant Food
If you're a gardener, banana peels make a great addition to your compost. Not only do they break down quickly, they're high in phosphorus and potassium — the "P" and "K" of commercial fertilizers — and can give your plants a real boost. In fact, they break down so quickly, you can put small pieces of banana peel directly into the soil around plants to act as a sort of natural slow-release fertilizer. Alternatively, you can dehydrate the peels and crumble them before adding them to the soil, or boil them to make a nutrient-rich compost "tea."
Whiten That Smile
Maintaining a perfectly bright, white smile is a lot of work — surprisingly, banana peels can help. Choose the peel from a just-ripe banana with a hint of green at the end, and use a paring knife or kitchen shears to lop off a piece that's a manageable size. Rub the white inner side of this piece of banana peel across your teeth, working your way methodically from side to side and top to bottom. The peel's high levels of manganese, magnesium and especially potassium work to strengthen and brighten your teeth.
Attract Desirable Insects to Your Garden
Humans don't often eat them but if you've ever misplaced a banana peel in your home or car for a few days, you'll know that most insects love banana peels. This includes a lot of bugs that are welcome in the yard or garden, from beautiful moths and butterflies to beneficial pollinators and pest predators. Leaving a bit of the banana inside the peel enhances the effect. Place a few peels in an elevated spot, where only flying insects can find them, and wait for the colorful visitors to arrive. Ideally this should be at a distance from your window, because bees and wasps, great predators of common garden pests, are among the bugs that will be drawn to your feeding station.
Use Them for Skin Care
The gentle acidity and high mineral content of banana peels makes them a surprisingly effective tool in your skincare arsenal. For a simple, gentle facial, rub your skin with the inside of a banana peel and let it sit for 30 minutes before rinsing it off. To shrink puffy eyes, rest a piece of banana peel (or frozen banana peel) on your puffy underlids for a few minutes. Banana peels can also minimize acne, reduce bruising or help shrink warts. You can even use them to gently fade scars, by rubbing the affected area with a peel every day and then wiping away the residue after it dries.
Putting pieces of banana peel directly into the soil isn't just a way to nourish your plants, it can also help discourage one of the garden's most tenacious pests. Aphids are an ongoing problem for gardeners almost everywhere, attacking everything from pumpkins and melons to your favorite rose bush. Not only do they literally suck the life from your plants, they also commonly spread viruses from plant to plant. Surprisingly, unlike humans, aphids loathe the smell of bananas. Surrounding your plants with buried pieces of banana peel will encourage them to look elsewhere for their next meal.