12 Ways to ‘Hack’ Appliances and Small Household Items to Serve Double-Duty

Spending the 4th of July holiday in the city? Get your barbecue fix without leaving the apartment by turning your balcony into a portable grilling station. | Photo courtesy of Flickr user ComfortBetrays.

Whether you live in a tiny studio apartment or you’ve just got too much stuff in your small single-family home, you’re probably always looking for ways to get the biggest bang for your space-buck. Appliances are some of the biggest space-eating culprits, but many of them can perform more than one task, saving you precious square footage.

Here are 12 great ways to get extra use out of the appliances you already have or survive without the appliances you don’t have room for:

1. Ironing board. If you don’t have room in your apartment for an iron and ironing board, hang your clothes in the bathroom while you take a hot shower. This will zap most of the wrinkles. Get rid of any remaining wrinkles with a hair straightener (turned on its lowest setting).

2. Washer/dryer. Small items can be washed by hand in your kitchen or bathroom sink; larger items, in the tub. Wash your feet, then blast music while you stomp on your clothes in the tub. Give yourself bonus points if you actually play the the soundtrack of Stomp.

If something is heavily soiled, pre-treat it with stain remover or let it soak for a while before washing. Use an old-fashioned washboard to squeeze water out of bulkier items, and then tuck it under your bed when you’re done. To dry your clothes, set up a fold-away drying rack or a retractable clothesline in your bathtub/shower when you’re not using it.

3. Vacuum. Get a small, multi-surface vacuum with a detachable hose to clean almost anything, including table crumbs, beard trimmings, and even spider webs on the ceiling.

4. Hair dryer. These little appliances can do a ton of tasks around the home, from defrosting food and removing candle wax from furniture to dusting items with lots of nooks and crannies. Need to re-seal two pieces of plastic together? Detach a photograph from an album? Remove stickers and price tags? The answer to all of the above: your trusty hairdryer. If you’re just using your it to dry your hair, you’re missing out!

5. Griddle. A pancake griddle can be used to cook more than just pancakes. Use it to make bacon and eggs, warm up left over pizza, or cook quesadillas and grilled cheese sandwiches. The best part? You can cook several of these at the same time. If you’re in the mood for quesadillas, but your roommate or guest would rather have grilled cheese, you can cook both together.

6. Mini-fridge. Mini-fridges can pull double-duty as end tables, kitchen islands, nightstands and more, giving you much-needed table top or work space and a place to store drinks and small refrigerables.

7. Food processor. Say goodbye to your “unitask” specialty kitchen gadgets and use this multipurpose appliance for a whole host of things. Food processors can make everything from doughs and dips to homemade ice cream (freeze the base overnight in an ice cream tray, and then “churn” it in the food processor).

8. Slow cookers. Slow cookers are fantastic jack-of-all trades appliances, good not only for standard soups and stews, but also for baking bread, making desserts like puddings and brownies, and cooking pot roasts. If you don’t have a slow cooker, your rice cooker can also make more than just rice.

9. Grilling hack. No room for a grill? No problem. Turn your balcony into a grilling station with your portable camp stove. (For the aesthetically-inclined, check out the Bruce Handrail over-the-railing grill designed by Henrik Drecker).

10. Dishwasher. If you’re pressed for kitchen storage, wash your dishes by hand each day and use the dishwasher for storing items that won’t fit in your cupboards—pots and pans, dry goods, etc.

11. Coffee maker. If you don’t have a coffee maker, coffee can be made “camp-style” in a saucepan on the stove. Simply boil ground coffee and strain the brew into a mug.

If you have a coffeemaker, make it pull double-duty for you. Traditional coffee pots can be used to boil vegetables in a pinch. Just fill the pot with water, add veggies (or eggs), flip the “on” switch, and let it cook for about 30 minutes.

A French press can be used to whip cream or brew loose tea.

A drip-coffeemaker can make anything that requires hot water, from instant oatmeal to Ramen noodles. Technically, this appliance is just an automatic hot-water dispenser, so place any “just add water” in the spot where your coffee mug usually sits. (The Keurig coffee brewer is the best for this application. You could also try this with an automatic coffeemaker, but you’ll need to watch closely to make sure the water hits the target.)

12. Makeup Brushes. Okay, a makeup brush isn’t really an “appliance” (or is it?), but this tip just needs to be shared: You know how tough it is clean your computer keyboard? Use your makeup brushes as your new toolset. Just make sure you wash the residual blush away first.

Find the author, Paula Pant, on her blog Afford Anything, on Twitter as @affordanything, or on Facebook.com/AffordAnything. If you can’t guess, there’s a pattern unfolding here. But for those of you who like to go against-the-grain, you can also follow her on Instagram under her handle @paulapant.

Photo credit: Flickr / Jasper Chia