They’re bulky and take up precious cabinet space, but we’ll never get rid of our slow cookers. They can be such a lifesaver those days when time is scarce and we just want to make a big batch of something deliciously comforting to get us through.
A slow cooker, aka Crock-Pot®, is one awesome household appliance for hands-off cooking. If you have one (a recent study says at least 80 percent of us do) you may know what a great time- and money-saver it is. Surprisingly, your slow cooker is good for other tasks that have nothing to do with eating. Everybody needs a slow cooker!
RE-MAKE CANDLES. We all have those old candles that are lopsided or have holes burned through one side. Rather than toss them in the trash, toss them in the slow cooker instead. Once melted, fish out the old wicks and gather your heatproof containers. Tie a weighted candle wick (you can find these at any craft store or online) on a pencil laid across the container’s rim and let the other end dangle into the empty container. Carefully ladle the melted wax into the container without disturbing the wick and let cool. There you go, new candles!
HOMEMADE SOAP. Looking for a great homemade gift idea? This could be it! Homemade soap is wonderful because you can customize your soap bars with the scents and ingredients you prefer. While there are many recipes and instructions available online, you can skip the tedium with a clear melt and pour soap base. It’s detergent free. An hour in the slow cooker plus essential oil (20 drops lavender essential oil would be an awesome choice) plus colorant and any variety of botanicals and you’ve made your own beautiful soap products.
FRESHEN THE AIR. Whether you need to get rid of cooking smells or want to scent the house for the holidays, your slow cooker can pull double duty as an air freshener. Fill it three-quarters with water, add a couple tablespoons of baking soda and a few drops of your favorite essential oil, then turn it on high and leave it uncovered.
The steam will waft fragrance throughout your house. No essential oils on hand? Toss in apple and orange peels, a few cloves and some cinnamon sticks instead.
MAKE PLAYDOUGH. You’ll need: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup corn starch, 1 cup table salt, 1/4 cup cream of tartar, 2 cups hot water and 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Dump dry ingredients into cooker. Add the water and oil. Stir to mix well. Apply the lid and set to High. Set a timer for 2 hours. Every 30 minutes stir the dough well. You will know it’s about done when the playdough begins to form a ball as you stir. Switch to Off and continue stirring for a few minutes. Dump it out onto a smooth surface and begin to knead carefully. It will be hot! If your dough is overly sticky, add a bit of cornstarch; if overly dry, add a touch more hot water. Separate the dough into manageable portions and push a hole into the center for a few drops of food coloring. Knead and squish until color is well distributed. Kids’ hands may be slightly colored for a few hours after playing with the playdough. No worries. It’s harmless. When done playing, store in an airtight container for another day.
STRIP PAINT. If you want to strip paint from metal hinges, knobs, handles, doorknobs etc., without the nasty fumes and mess of chemical strippers, just fill a slow cooker with water, cover and set the dial to high. The heat and moisture will soften the paint, and often it will fall off as a single piece.
This works on oil, latex and spray paints, but it may not remove some clear finishes like lacquer. Cooking the hardware may stain or contaminate the pot, so use an old one you won’t be using again for food. This method won’t harm hardware made of non-rusting metals like copper, brass or aluminum. You’ll end up with a little rust on steel—not enough to ruin hidden parts like hinge pins or screws, but possibly enough to roughen shiny surfaces. Beware: If the steel has a plating like chrome or brass and the plating is already flaking off, this method will cause more flaking.