vintage white slow cooker on white background

8 Surprising Non-Food Ways to Use a Slow Cooker

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 on those days when time is scarce and we just want to make a big batch of something deliciously comforting to get us through.


vintage white slow cooker on white background

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.

For the projects that follow, you may want to find that old vintage slow cooker gathering dust in the garage so that you have one dedicated for non-food projects. Or pick up a second liner (inner pot) for your multi-cooker Instant Pot.

Hot towels

Roll some hand towels or washcloths and place them in the slow cooker. Cover with 1-2 cups of water—enough so they’re just damp, not soaking. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil and heat on Low for 1-2 hours. Use tongs to remove the towels and gently shake loose.

Hot towels are great for relieving joint pain, for guests to clean up after a meal of ribs or other finger foods.

Use hot towels for relaxation before bed. Some great essential oils for joint relief are eucalyptus, lemongrass, wintergreen, peppermint,  and marjoram.

Or for bedtime to relax and soothe,  lavender, cedarwood, and or chamomile essential oils are great choices.


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Re-make candles

We all have 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 allow to cool. There you go, new candles!


Candle wick

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.

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Freshen the air

Whether you need to get rid of cooking smells, need to freshen a stale room, 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 lemon slices, cinnamon sticks, essential oils, or any healing aromatherapy scents. Set it on low and as the water cooks off, top it up. You can keep the lid on, or remove it for a stronger aroma.

The steam will waft fragrance throughout your house. No essential oils on hand? Toss in apple and orange peels, cranberries or a few cloves and some cinnamon sticks instead.


A bowl of fruit on a table, with Slow cooker and Art

Pro-Tip: Don’t toss out-of-date spices that you won’t use for baking or cooking. Use them here. You’ll be amazed by how much “life” they have to contribute to this second use.

Make play dough


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup table salt
  • 1/4 cup cream of tartar
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • food colors


  1. Dump dry ingredients into the cooker. Add the water and oil. Stir to mix well.
  2. Apply the lid and set to High. Set a timer for 2 hours. Every 30 minutes stir the dough well.
  3. 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.
  4. Dump it out onto a smooth surface and begin to knead carefully. Caution: It will be hot! If your dough is overly sticky, add a bit of cornstarch; if overly dry, add a touch more hot water.
  5. Separate the dough into manageable portions and push a hole into the center for a few drops of food coloring. Knead and squish until the color is well distributed.

Note: Kids’ hands may be slightly colored for a few hours after playing with the play dough. No worries. It’s harmless. When done playing, store in an airtight container for another day.

A small child sitting on a plate

DIY Lipbalm

Strange as it may sound, you can make your own lip balm using your slow cooker. Flavor it any way you like, and turn it into great DIY gifts. One batch makes about 12 tiny jars. You will need:

  • 3 tbsp beeswax
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp vitamin E oil
  • 9 drops of essential oil

Place beeswax, coconut oil, and vitamin E oil in a small bowl and set it in the slow cooker set to Low. Put the lid in place and allow heat up until melted. Let cool for a few minutes, then add essential oils like peppermint, grapefruit, lemongrass, or lavender. Use an eyedropper to fill 12 tubes or small tubs, keeping them upright while they set.

The slow cooker is the perfect way to gently melt these ingredients.

Lotion Bars

While cruising around the internet looking for more unusual but useful ways to use a slow cooker, I ran across a fabulous idea—which especially piqued my interest as we’re always looking for great DIY gifts people actually like to receive. Lotion bars!

What a great idea! Lotion bars are a great way to clean up your beauty routine and avoid toxic chemicals and treat your skin with care and natural ingredients. Here are full instructions for how to make slow cooker lotion bars.

Strip paint

If you want to strip paint from metal hinges, knobs, handles, doorknobs, and so forth—without the nasty fumes and mess of chemical strippers—haul out the slow cooker.

Place items to be stripped into the pot and about 1/4 cup baking soda. ill it with boiling water. Set the dial to High and cover.

In a few hours, 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.

Pro tip: If the steel has a plating, like chrome or brass, and the plating is already flaking off, this method will cause more flaking.


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6 replies
  1. Cathy down on the farm...wnon eo3n o says:

    I almost kicked myself there for a second because I JUST gave two vintage crock pots away to the Neighborhood Center, along with 20 boxes of other clothing, glassware and things. Then I realized I have a few tiny crockpots and two other larger ones in the basement along with my Instant pot, that I dearly love!! 😀 Great ideas, Mary…

    • Mary Hunt says:

      You fill the cooker 3/4 full … that exact amount of water will vary from one size cooker to the next. Hope that helps! xo m

  2. Cally Ross says:

    I have one of those baby crock pots for serving dip, maybe 4 cups in size, it would be perfect for the lip balm, candle renovation, and a few other of these ideas, Thanks!

  3. Gina Stevens says:

    Mary, you must have a fun house! Homemade candles and play dough sounds like the fantasy grandma of every child’s dreams! Love your articles! Gina


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