15 Clever Ways to Use Vegetable Oil

If you're only using vegetable oil for recipes, it's time to start using it to its full potential!

You probably have some vegetable oil in your home that you use from time to time. Maybe you use it to fry up a quick meal or whip up some tasty brownies. But this kitchen staple has lots of other uses that don’t involve cooking, and you should make sure you have some on hand to remedy all of these little household annoyances.

Remove paint from your hands

No need to scrub your hands till they’re raw the next time you accidentally get some drops of paint on them. Andrew Wilson, a home improvement contractor for Contractor Advisorly, has a super-simple solution to easily remove paint from your hands. “Just add some vegetable oil to your hands and let it do its thing for ten [or so] minutes then the paint will come off with ease,” he told RD.com. So next time you’re tackling a painting project, keep some vegetable oil handy. Plus, check out 10 simple solutions for getting paint out of clothes, too.

Keep lids from sticking

Have you been going about your business, trying to do some cooking or meal prep, and suddenly find yourself in a wrestling match with a firmly stuck jar lid? Well, just a bit of vegetable oil can actually loosen up those lids. “Rub vegetable oil around the rim of a glass jar that contains honey, syrup, agave nectar, or any other sticky, sugary ingredient,” says Amber Adams, founder of Kitchens Ready. “This will prevent the lid from becoming ‘glued’ shut.”

Make measuring cups easier to use

In the same vein as the jar-unsticking trick, vegetable oil can also make it easier for you to pour certain ingredients out of measuring cups. Easily pouring jelly, honey, or syrup out of an unadorned measuring cup? Forget it. But Adams says to “rub vegetable oil around measuring cups to make using these sticky substances in recipes much easier.” If it coats the interior of the cup, that will allow your ingredient to slide out more easily; you hopefully won’t need to do any scooping or smacking to release it.

Polish appliances

Steel AppliancesJazzIRT/Getty Images

Odd as it might seem, you can use vegetable oil to “polish” stainless steel! “It doesn’t take much more than a few drops of the oil to remove smudges and fingerprints from your appliances and cabinets,” Adams says.

Rid plants of scale

True plant connoisseurs know how frustrating and icky it can be when scale bugs hang around on your plants. Luckily, you can help dispel them with—you guessed it—vegetable oil! Well, specifically, vegetable oil and water. “Make a simple oil spray with 1 cup of vegetable oil and ½ cup of water,” says Elle Meager, founder of Outdoor Happens. It’s important to “emulsify” it, she says, which you can do by tossing the mixture into the blender or simply adding a few drops of dish soap.

Once you’ve got the spray ready, “spray it all over the plant, especially the stems. Don’t forget to spray under the leaves,” Meager says. “Vegetable oil suffocates scale, and after a few days…you can either rub them off or they will fall off by themselves.” This works on both indoor and outdoor plants. Not sure how to start gardening? Check out these houseplants anyone can grow.

Smooth your feet

Rub your feet with vegetable oil before you go to bed and put on a pair of socks. When you awaken, your tootsies will be silky-smooth and soft. You can also use the oil as a moisturizer for other areas of dry skin, such as your elbows.

Soothe chapped lips

When your lips get dry and chapped in the wintertime, it can hurt like crazy. No need to buy fancy chapstick—it’s vegetable oil to the rescue! It moisturizes your lips just like it does your skin.

Lubricate squeaky hinges and machinery

Door KnobsGeorge Mdivanian/Getty Images

A bit of vegetable oil can make your creaky, squeaky tools and hinges, if not quite like new again, certainly smoother and less noisy! Lorrisa May, lifestyle and home decor expert for TaskRabbit, recommends rubbing a bit of oil on squeaky hinges or even renitent doorknobs. Move the door (or knob) back and forth a few times to work the oil in. “You can also…make your gardening equipment non-stick and prevent [it] from rusting,” May adds.

Protect wicker furniture

Wilson suggests daubing some vegetable oil onto the surfaces of your wicker furniture, which can keep cracks from forming and improve its longevity.

Help remove a splinter

When that stubborn splinter just won’t come out, take a break from poking at your finger or foot for a few minutes and soak it in vegetable oil. The oil will soften up your skin, perhaps just enough to ease that splinter out with your tweezers.

Remove labels and stickers

Used jars, both plastic, and glass, are always handy to have around. But removing the old labels always leaves a stubborn sticky residue. Soak the label with vegetable oil and the label will slide right off. This works great for sticky price tags too. Registered dietician Bri Bell has a step-by-step guide for this DIY trick on her site, Frugal Minimalist Kitchen.

Separate stuck glasses

When stacked drinking glasses get stuck together, it seems like nothing you can do will separate them. But the solution is simple: Just pour a little vegetable oil around the rim of the bottom glass and the glasses will pull apart with ease.

Prevent clippings from sticking to your mower

The next time you turn over your lawnmower to remove the stuck-on grass clippings, rub some vegetable oil under the housing and on the blade. It will take a lot longer for the clippings to build up next time.

Control mosquitoes in the birdbath

It’s so satisfying to watch birds enjoying the garden bath you provide. But unfortunately, that still water is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Floating a few tablespoons of vegetable oil on the surface of the water will help keep mosquitoes from using the water, and it won’t bother the birds. But it’s still important to change the water twice a week so any larvae don’t have time to hatch. You should also know about these mosquito-repelling plants you should have in your garden.

Season cast-iron cookware

Cast IronJupiterimages/Getty Images

After washing and thoroughly drying a cast-iron skillet or wok, use a paper towel to wipe it down with vegetable oil. Just leave a very thin layer of oil. It will prevent the pan from rusting and season it for the next time you use it. Vegetable oil is a kitchen staple that you can use elsewhere, too.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for RD.com since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.