10 non-food uses for your crockpot you didn't know about

We absolutely adore using crockpots in the kitchen. Whether it's making a huge hot dip for game day, beef stew for an exciting weeknight dinner, or keeping a batch of mashed potatoes warm and luscious for a dinner party, the crockpot is a culinary superstar that we wouldn't want to live without. It turns out, however, that there is SO much more that your crockpot can do for you than just making tasty treats. Did you know your crockpot can be a DIY-lover's dream come true? It can help keep you clean and beautiful, get your home smelling and looking terrific, and also make you the grand champion of DIY gift-giving. Check out 10 non-food uses for your crockpot you didn't know about.

Make soap

Anyone familiar with homemade soap making knows it's an extremely rewarding, but very time-intensive procedure. The most common method for home soap making is known as "cold process," and involves stirring oils and fragrance into a solution of lye and water, followed by up to 4 – 6 weeks(!) of waiting for your precious soap bundles to cure. "Hot process" soap making, on the other hand, delivers that sudsy payout in just one week of cure time. Debra Maslowski at DIY Natural offers an excellent step-by-step tutorial on how to use your crockpot to make a batch of hot process soap, but does recommend that you use an old crockpot for the activity (the lye will abrade the interior pot's ceramic coating over time.)

Make lip balm

If the concept of even a week's worth of waiting is more than you can handle for your make-it-yourself beauty needs, we bet that lip balm will be more your bag. All you need is a short list of ingredients: beeswax, coconut oil, fragrant oils, and perhaps a touch of lanolin or shea butter. Your measured ingredients are melted in the lined slow cooker, then added to glass jars or chapstick containers. The mixture cools and hardens very quickly, meaning you will be enjoying the fruits of your DIY labor in no time at all. We love Wellness Mama's recipe, which mimics Burt's Bees Peppermint Lip Balm. Custom made labels make your signature lip balm a hip and economical gift for the holidays and beyond.

Dye yarn

Crock-pot yarn dyeing is a favorite among DIY divas who credit the stillness of the water in producing more defined colors compared to the more traditional method of dyeing yarn on the stove top. The key is knowing which dye will work best for the type of yarn you wish to dye. Animal fiber yarns, like wool or alpaca, fare well with food coloring, or even Kool-Aid (check out the expert example of how to master Kool-Aid dyeing over at Lee Meredith's knitting blog, Leethal. For acrylic blends, reach for a commercial dye, like Rit — the brand even posted their own handy tutorial on perfect slow cooker dyed yarn on their blog.

Strip paint off hardware

No need to replace that vintage doorknob or hinge that someone carelessly painted over… all you need is some soap and your trusty crockpot. As we learned from This Old House, who spoke with Brad Kittle of Discovery Architectural Antiques, a hot, overnight soak in a lined crockpot with a mixture as simple as water and liquid detergent is all you need to remove paint from any old metal hardware. The overnight bath should leave the hardware ready for you to slide the paint right off with your fingertips, but a nylon brush or even a toothbrush can also be employed for hard to reach areas. Rub your hardware with beeswax or non-abrasive polish to deliver a sheen you will enjoy for years.

Make candles

If you love scented candles as much as we do, then you are all too familiar with how crazy expensive they can be. Lucky for us, candles can be made at home, for a fraction of the cost, and with just a few ingredients that can be purchased at a craft store or online. Traditional homemade candles are created using a stovetop double boiler, but using a lined slow cooker is an excellent alternate way to make candles, especially if you are a first-timer. You're less likely to burn your hands with a slow cooker, and plus, it holds the wax at a steadier temperature — wax that gets too hot has the potential to smoke, which is why you should never leave large batches of melting wax unattended. Check out this tutorial from The Frugal Crafter who ups the DIY game by pouring her candles into cut-off wine bottles. Want to get the kiddies into crockpot candle making? Consider making safety-friendly, hand-dipped candles for a super fun activity that can be completed in one afternoon.

Make play dough

If you really want to get the kiddos involved in your DIY crockpot spree, perhaps nothing is as easy or rewarding as whipping up a batch of crockpot play dough. Sure, play dough can be made on the stovetop in a little less time, but the crockpot method (which only takes 30 minutes for a small batch) is a safer bet for teeny hands. All you need are a few items you may already have in your kitchen: corn starch, salt, hot water, cooking oil, cream of tartar, flour (rice flour works too if your family is gluten-free and you think your kids might sneak a taste) and food coloring or sugar-free Kool-Aid. The prepared play dough lasts for 3-4 months when stored in a plastic baggie. Go ahead, be the play date queen!

Make an air freshener

When you think about how the aroma of a hot meal cooked in your crockpot wafts through your whole house, the idea of using your crockpot as an air freshener is a no-brainer. The only limits are your imagination, so pick a scent recipe that suits your mood or purpose. Want to absorb stinky kitchen odors? Whip up a batch of lemons and baking soda with water and chase the stink away. During autumn, what could be better than the scent of simmering oranges and cloves? At Christmastime, a mixture of pine needles and candy canes will quickly put your whole home in the spirit. You could even provide your family some relief during cold season with a simmering pot of water scented with lemon and eucalyptus. Just remember, when using the crockpot as an air freshener, leave the lid off!

Sanitize baby toys

Parents will agree, kiddies absolutely adore chewing and sucking on all of their toys. The dishwasher is an ideal place to wash off the grime and bacteria that toys can collect… but what to do if, like so many city-dwellers, your apartment or house is lacking in the appliance department? Enter your trusty crockpot, which can stand in for your non-existent dishwasher. Simply fill your crockpot with water and one cup of white vinegar, add the plastic toys, and let them simmer for 30-60 minutes for perfectly sanitized toys.

Recycle broken crayons

Are broken, crumbly little nubs of crayons collecting in your junk drawer? Don't toss them in the trash… toss them in your slow cooker, just like Stephanie did for her blog, A Year of Slow Cooking. A disposable 6-cup muffin tin will help you out with this task. Remove the paper wrapping from each crayon (a soak in warm water will help you with stubborn paper) and place the broken pieces of separate colors in each cup. Place the muffin tin inside your lined crockpot, then cover and set on high for one to two hours. Once the crayon wax is melted, remove the tin carefully from the crockpot, and place in your refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Your brand new crayons are now ready to pop out and use!

Make Christmas ornaments and gift tags

If you are the type to rock the holidays DIY-style, then you must wow your friends and family this year with handmade crockpot Christmas ornaments and gift tags. Angela at About a Mom came up with this clever use for her crockpot, and all you need to pull it off is salt, flour, vegetable oil, and water, which you use to make a dough that can be shaped by hand or with cookie cutters. Poke a hole for the string, and place your shaped dough in the bottom of your parchment-paper-lined crockpot. Cook on high for 2 or 3 hours, flipping them once in between. When your ornaments are browning and hard to the touch, they are ready! Paint with acrylics, or attach gems with a glue gun for stunning decorations and gift tags.