Oatmeal is handy stuff to keep around the house, whether you favor the rolled kind or heartier steel-cut variety. Not only is hot oatmeal a sturdy breakfast for a cold morning, oats are an essential ingredient in granola bars, muffins and best of all, oatmeal cookies. If none of those things appeal to you, or if you're the carb-avoider in a house full of omnivores, you might still want to keep oats on hand so you can try some of these handy household hacks.
Soak Up Messy Spills
Where there is cooking and eating going on, there will be spills. You won't always be able to avoid them, but you can certainly make cleanup easier. If you've spilled oil onto your counters or floors, or have greasy spatters, sprinkle the affected areas with quick oats and let them sit for a few minutes. The oats will blot up oil and water-based spills equally well, and they act as a gentle abrasive when you wipe the area clean with your cloth.
Make a Hot/Cold Bag to Soothe Your Aches
A lot of aches and pains can be soothed by the application of gentle heat and cold, and most pharmacies and department stores sell convenient, flexible bags you can heat or chill to soothe your aching neck, back or joints. Alternatively, you could just make your own with steel-cut or large-flake oats. To keep sewing to a minimum, use a sock or the leg or sleeve from an old garment you don't wear any more. Stitch or tie it shut at one end, fill it with oats and then close the other end. Microwave the finished bag or put it in the freezer, then wrap it around your aching knee or neck for effective, drug-free relief.
Some foods just naturally have strong odors — there's no way to avoid that, but you can avoid having them smell up the rest of your fridge. Most people know that baking soda can absorb odors, but few realize that oats are capable odor-fighters too. You'll just need to put them into a container that lets air in, but won't spill the oats. A food-storage container with a perforated lid would work, or even an open cup if it's held safely in place by the fridge door's shelves. For an odor-fighter that can go where the food is, tie up oats in the toe of a clean stocking and place it right alongside problematic foods like onions or strong cheeses.
Make a Hand Scrub
When your hands are especially dirty from gardening or a DIY project, getting them clean again with soap alone can take a long time. Oats can help. Shake a handful of rolled or steel-cut oats onto your soaped up hands and then rub vigorously, and you'll find that dirt and oil come off much more easily. You can also moisten the oats with a bit of water, and add a bit of salt or baking soda, to make an exfoliating scrub for rough skin.
Have a Skin-Soothing Soak
There aren't many things more maddening than a persistent itch, whether they're caused by dry skin, a rash, sunburn or even poison ivy. One of oatmeal's superpowers is its ability to soothe and moisturize your itchy skin, which is why it's used in so many commercial skincare products. You could just sprinkle it directly into your tub, but that could be problematic for your drains. Instead, pulse oatmeal in your food processor to pulverize it finely and then use it to fill a clean sock or the toe of a stocking. Slide this over your tub faucet and let the warm water run through the oats as it fills the tub. A relaxing soak in the oat-infused water will help ease the irritation.
Pest Control in Your Garden
Slugs and snails have a role to play in the backyard ecosystem, but unfortunately that role often includes demolishing the plants in your garden. Your local garden center probably carries lots of toxic chemicals you could use to control them, but those can impact beneficial species you might want to keep around. Instead, just scatter a small handful of oats around the affected areas. Slugs and snails love them but can't digest them, which neatly solves the problem but doesn't endanger your pets or the local wildlife.
Enjoy an Oatmeal Facial Mask
You don't need to go to a spa to indulge yourself (though it's nice when you can). In between visits, you can pamper yourself in the comfort of your own home by using oatmeal to rejuvenate your skin. Pulse some oats in a food processor or spice grinder until they're finely pulverized, then make a paste by stirring in warm milk or water and a bit of honey. Spread this on your face, or even just your tired, closed eyes and then sit back and relax. Wash it off after 10 to 30 minutes, depending how much relaxation you needed.
Make Modeling Dough for Kids
When you have bored kids and a rainy day, giving them something to do with their hands will make your life a lot simpler. Combining oats with flour, salt, water and food color to make a play dough for sculpting and modeling is pure genius. Most recipes don't include oats, but they give the dough more visual interest and give it a textured feel that kids love on their fingertips. If you leave them out overnight, your tiny artists' creations will harden and become keepsakes you can display around the house.
Make Soothing Oatmeal Soap
It only takes a quick look at the skin cleansers and body washes at your local pharmacy or department store to realize how many of them use oatmeal for its skin-soothing qualities. You can capture that yourself by making up DIY oatmeal soaps. You can start with soap base from the hobby shop, or just use hotel-sized bars or your own leftover soaps and soften them in water. Combine them with finely ground or quick oats, plus essential oils, spices or other ingredients for scent. Shape the bars and leave them to harden, then use them yourself or wrap them nicely for gifting.
Once you know that oatmeal soothes and cleanses the skin, and is effective at cleaning up oils, it's not surprising that it works well for acne as well. You could make up a scrub from uncooked oats, but it's even easier to fall back on leftover cooked oatmeal. Use it after it cools to room temperature or straight from the fridge. Spread a spoonful or two over the affected area, massage it gently, then leave it sit for a few minutes before rinsing it off.