A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

22 Brilliant Uses for Q-Tips That’ll Come in Handy

You know you’re not supposed to use cotton swabs to clean inside your ears (right?), so here are more uses for that bathroom staple.

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q tips 22 uses for q tips cotton swab uses
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You’re using Q-Tips wrong

For years we’ve all been using Q-Tips to burrow down in our ears and give them a good cleaning. But as it turns out, we’re not supposed to be doing that. Using cotton swabs to clean your ears is really dangerous and can seriously damage your hearing and general health. Once you master the right way to clean your ears, you may be looking at that box of cotton swabs in dismay wondering what on earth you’ll use them for but as it turns out, there are tons of approved uses for it that will really come in handy for you. Which means that the only question left is what does the “Q” in “Q-Tips” really stand for?

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leather scuff q tip q-tip
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Erase leather scuffs

Unfortunately, it is all too easy to scuff up that expensive leather, be it on a sofa or on your shoes. The good news is, the fix is just as easy! Swipe your cotton swab in a little petroleum jelly and buff the scuff marks right out. Wipe off any extra jelly and your leather will gleam like it’s brand new.

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hair spray q tip life hack
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Static begone

Whether it’s flyaway hair or fabric that’s a bit charged up, the easiest way to fix a little extra static is with a cotton swab. Spritz the cotton swab with a bit of hairspray and gently wipe the area affected with static. You’ll notice an immediate change. Don’t have any hairspray? Here are 8 more ways to get rid of static.

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sharpie q tip
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Erase permanent marker

Getting some of that permanent ink on a prized possession isn’t quite the permanent problem that your immediate reaction would imply. Dip cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and gently rub the mark to erase the inky problem.

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clean jewelry q-tip q tip uses
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Clean your jewelry

The intricacies of jewelry can be a real trick to get clean. Just when you think you’ve polished your favorite necklace or a pair of well-worn earings back up to their former glory, you notice that gross buildup in the tiny filigree or minuscule clasp. Never fear, Q-Tips are here! These tiny wands are the perfect size and shape to get into those tiny cracks you’d never be able to properly clean otherwise. Here is some more advice for cleaning your jewelry at home.

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car detail q tip uses
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Detail your car

Q-Tips may be a horrible shape for cleaning your ears, but it’s absolutely perfect for detailing the tiny nooks and crannies in your car or motorcycle. Use them alone to give those hard to reach spots a good dusting or spray them with a little all-purpose cleaner first and get a really good clean.

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face medication q tip
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For better skin

Creams like acne treatment and wart medication can be overly drying. Using a Q-Tip to apply them will keep a light layer over your target, rather than rubbing the product into the surrounding skin, which could cause excessive dryness.

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q-tip cotton swab makeup eyeshadow
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For makeup application

No need to redo your eye shadow if you end up with mascara on your eyelids. Wait for the mascara spot to dry so it doesn’t smear further. Then spin a cotton swab clockwise on top of the smudge until it disappears. The mascara will be gone, but your eye shadow will stay. Here are other makeup mistakes that make you look sloppy.

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eye shadow easy travel q tip solutions life hacks
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Lighter travel

Eye shadow tends to fade, but lugging around a full palette for touch-ups can be a hassle. Get portable shadows to tuck in your purse by coating the ends of a cotton swab with the colors you’ll want. Stow them in plastic baggies, then use them like travel-size eye shadow brushes when you need to add pigment. Check out these other great ways to pack makeup for travel.

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laptop electronic cleaning dust q tip rubbing alcohol life hacks
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Easier chores

Soak a Q-Tip in isopropyl alcohol, then rub it over your computer, phone, and tablet. The tiny shape makes it especially easy to navigate between the keys on your keyboard. Wipe down the battery contact—built-up dirt could be one of the things killing the battery life of your electronics.

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eye cream q tip look alert life hacks
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Look more alert

Dampen a cotton swab with water, or dab it in your favorite eye cream, and put in a freezer bag. Leave in the freezer overnight, then roll it under your eyes to reduce swelling under your eyes.

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lip powder lipstick makeup tricks life hacks q tip uses
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Prettier makeup

To keep the color from smearing out beyond your lips, dip a cotton swab in translucent powder. Outline your mouth with the Q-tip to create a barrier that will seal in your color.

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candle q tip uses life hacks
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Light a candle

When the wick is getting short, use a cotton swab to reach down to your candle safely. Dip the tip in alcohol to light it on fire, then hold it over the wick to get it to glow. Drop the used swab into a glass of water to extinguish it.

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make up moisturizer q-tip q tp uses life hacks
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Prettier skin

Face makeup has a tendency to dig into fine lines, making them even more prominent. Get rid of any cakiness by applying a bit of moisturizer to the end of a cotton swab, then rubbing it over your foundation to blend. Don’t miss these other makeup mistakes that age your face.

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jeans zipper wardrobe malfunction q-tip
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Thwart a wardrobe malfunction

If you’re tugging at a stubborn zipper with no progress, a bit of lubrication could help it pull through. Dip a cotton swab in shampoo, oil, or lip balm and smooth it over the zipper to unstick the jam.

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hair dryer q tip 22 Q-tip uses
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Easier cleaning

Built-up lint in the back of your hairdryer could be blocking the airflow, making your hair tool less effective, and even become a fire hazard. Bring it back to its original condition by cleaning out the filter. Use a cotton swab to dig out all the lint that’s stuck inside.

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painting with q tips
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Do art projects

Polka dots seem simple, but that nice round shape is deceptively hard to make with your typical paintbrush. Dip a Q-Tip into the paint of your choice, then poke it against the surface you’re painting for a simple way to create a dotted pattern.

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smokey eye shadow q tip uses life hacks
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Apply eye makeup like a pro

Create a bold, sultry eye look with the help of a cotton swab. Line your whole eye with kohl eyeliner, then use a cotton swab to smudge the color, creating an effortless smoky eye.

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eyebrow fix q tip
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Perfect your eyebrows

In place of eyebrow gel, glide petroleum jelly over your brows toward your ears using a Q-tip. The product will keep unruly hairs in place.

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perfume q tip q tip uses
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Smell better

You probably don’t want to lug around a bulky bottle of perfume in your bag, but you can still freshen up your scent when it starts to fade. Soak the ends of cotton swabs with your fragrance, then stash them in a zip-top bag to lock in the scent. Pull out a cotton swab and run it over your wrists, neck, or behind your ears to reapply your perfume as needed. Here are other tricks to make your perfume last longer.

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hair salon roots eye shadow life hacks q tip uses
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Avoid the hair salon

Cover up grown-out roots when you don’t have time to get to the salon. Dip a cotton swab in an eye shadow that matches your hair color, then dab it over the spots where your natural color is peeking through.

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teaching kids to paint q tips
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Teach painting

A toddler might be too small for a full-sized paintbrush, but your kid can use a cotton swab instead. The cotton swab is a good size for small hands during arts and crafts.

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essential oils q tips
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Relax anywhere

Saturate a cotton swab with essential oil to have aromatherapy on hand anywhere you go. Lavender can help you relax on a plane ride, while peppermint could help perk you up at work. Here are some more helpful uses for household staples you already own.

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.