14 Brilliant Uses for Steel Wool
Steel wool pads can be used for a lot of things around the home. Check out some of our favorite uses—you just might be surprised at the versatility of this material.
Steel wool for tough stains
Flawless Surface Prep
Anxious to put varnish on that freshly sanded project? Well, just hold on for a second! Before applying the finish, rub the project (with the grain!) with No. 0000 steel wool. You’ll lift sanding dust from the grain and burnish and shine the surface fibers. Follow up with a Swiffer Sweeper cloth to wipe away any specks of dust or steel wool. You’ve now ensured a pristine surface for perfect results with oil-based (not water-based) finishes. By the way, here are 8 things you shouldn’t clean with a Swiffer.
Fix a loose screw
This is an old carpenter’s trick. If you have a screw hole that’s too big, just wrap a bit of steel wool around the screw before you drive it in. It provides just enough friction to hold the screw firmly in place and takes less futzing than trying to fill a hole and re-drill. Use this trick for any of these DIY projects that cost $100 or less.
Clean pans and metal cookware
For stubborn, cooked-on stains on steel cookware, steel wool is the answer. Soak pots and pans, then use a steel wool scrubbing pad to remove even the most baked-on messes. Give the steel wool and little extra elbow grease by using one of our Test Kitchen-approved cleaning products.
Clean the oven
For burnt food stuck to the bottom of your oven, steel wool is a much better alternative than oven-cleaning chemicals. After running your oven’s self-cleaning cycle, use steel wool to remove the burnt debris and make your oven shine like new. If your oven window is dirty too, here’s how to clean it.
Need to start a fire but you’re out of matches? Some steel wool and a 9-volt battery will do the trick. Just touch the positive and negative terminals of the battery to the steel wool, and it will start to glow and smolder (the 9-volt battery is sending a current through the thing strands of steel wool). Add some kindling, and you have the start of a fire. Take a look at these 8 mind-boggling tips that’ll come in handy on a camping trip.
Age wood quickly
If you want to make new wood age quickly, use a mixture of steel wool and vinegar as stain. The brown-gray liquid, when applied to new lumber, gives it a silvery patina. It’s a much faster way to create this in-demand look than letting your wood sit outside for a few years (and it’s non-toxic, too!).
Fill critter holes
Disposable drain strainer
Don’t end up with a clogged drain! Before you give Fido his next bath, use a wad of steel wool to block the drain. There’s enough room for water to get through, but nasty hair and gunk will get caught up in the steel wool (and won’t go down the drain). The best part? Just toss the steel wool after the bath. On the other hand, these are the 12 things you shouldn’t put down the drain.
Clean rusty tools
At some point, every metal tool develops rust. Fortunately, steel wool excels at removing surface rust. Just grab a wad of steel wool and start buffing your tools. They’ll look like new in no time! Learn more about how to remove rust from your cast-iron skillet here.
Remove scuff marks on floors
Dark-soled shoes on vinyl floors can lead to scuff marks. Fear not—a few scrubs with steel wool and the scuff marks will be gone. Take a look at how to clean 10 other tough spots around the house.
It may seem counterintuitive, but using your dull scissors to cut steel wool actually sharpens them! You won’t be able to grind a new bevel by any means, but a few snips through steel wool will renew the cutting edges of your scissors. Learn how to sharpen other household and workshop tools here.