15 Things You Didn’t Know Your Hair Dryer Could Do

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istock

You know a good hair dryer can fight frizz, tame cowlicks, and accentuate curls and layers. But its other functions might blow you away. You don't need to be a stylist to use your hair dryer as any of these things.

1. SHOE SIZER

Breaking in new shoes can be a painful process. Skip the wait—and the blisters—by putting on a pair of thick socks, stepping into your new kicks, and then blow-drying the tight areas for a few minutes. Walk around until your feet cool off to loosen up the leather. Be careful using this method on synthetics, though; it's possible to melt the shoes on too high a setting. 

2. GLASSES ADJUSTER

If your glasses are too tight or too loose, here's how to get them just right: Take off your frames and use a hair dryer to blow hot air on the part that hooks over your ears. After a minute or so, gently adjust the bend up to loosen or down to tighten. Repeat on the other side. Spec-tacular! 

3. STICKER REMOVER

Price tags and other stickers can be a pain to remove, unless you've got a hair dryer to loosen the adhesive’s hold. Blast the pesky paper for 30 to 45 seconds and peel it right off. (With some patience and a lot of heat, you can get bumper stickers off this way, too.) 

4. BAND-AID PEELER

The previous trick doesn’t just work on inanimate objects. Don't rip off a Band-Aid—and all your arm hair. Blow some warm air on it for a few seconds and peel it off painlessly. 

5. GUM CLEANER 

When chewing gum gets stuck in carpet or clothing, don't curse. Find your hair dryer! Heat softens the gum so you can pull it out. 

6. AIR MATTRESS INFLATER

Can't find the pump to the air mattress you last used in 2003? Impress your houseguest by inflating it with a hair dryer. Just make sure you use cool air—there's nothing hospitable about a melted bed. 

7. EYELASH CURLER

Combine an eyelash curler and hair dryer for maximum curl power. Blast the curler for a few seconds on medium heat and then check the temperature on your wrist before using. 

8. CAKE FROSTER

Bakery-style frosting is a piece of cake. Lightly blow warm air over your dessert's frosted top and sides for a glossy finish. 

9. SHOE SHINER

Shoes look brand new when you blast them with some heat between coats of polish. Shine on!

10. ICE CREAM THAWER

Scooping ice cream shouldn't be an upper-body workout. Give your frozen Ben & Jerry's pint a quick blast of warm air for easy transfer from the container to your bowl to your mouth. 

11. SPOT IRON

A completely wrinkled cotton garment requires an iron. Everything else can be tamed by your hair dryer. Hang the garment up, spray a little water on it, and then blast it with hot air from an inch or two away until the wrinkle disappears. If you're really in a hurry, you can even do this carefully with your clothes on. 

12. TOWEL WARMER

Some people have fancy heated towel racks and use the word "summer" as a verb. The rest of us have a hair dryer to make towels toasty and use "summer" strictly as a noun. (You can also do this with sheets in the winter for that cozy, straight-out-of-the-dryer feeling.) 

13. CRAYON CLEANER

When the muse calls, young artists listen, which can result in crayon all over the wall. Blow hot air to melt the wax, then wipe it up with regular dish soap and a paper towel. This trick works on most walls, but you should start with a test spot just to be sure—some walls can be prone to "ghosting" when the image doesn’t quite disappear.

14. ART MEDIUM

Then again, maybe you like the look of crayon on the wall. If so, here's an even cooler way to do it. Peel the labels off a pack of crayons and hot glue them to the top of a blank canvas. Once the glue's dry, put some newspaper on a table and then prop the canvas at an angle crayon-side up. Melt the crayons by blowing hot air on a low setting, so you won't get wax everywhere. Go all Jackson Pollock and vary the tilt to control the drips. Once your masterpiece is dry, you can hang it up or sell it for $1 million. Your choice. 

15. KEYBOARD DECRUMBER

There's a good chance you're reading this while eating at your computer. No worries—just make sure you clean up your keyboard every now and then. Instead of a compressed air duster, try using your hair dryer to excavate the crumbs. Stick to cool air to avoid melting your spacebar.

8 Surprising Uses for Potatoes

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Potatoes are one of the world’s most common, and most beloved, vegetables—and they can be used for much more than just sustenance. In honor of National Potato Day, here are a few other ways to use a potato.

1. WEAR THEM

Potatoes come from a nightshade plant called Solanum tuberosum, which blooms with white, pink, red, blue, or purple flowers. In the late 1700s, in an effort to inspire their starving subjects to plant the newly introduced vegetable—which the Spanish had brought to Europe from the New World—Marie Antoinette wore potato flowers in her hair, and her husband King Louis XVI wore them in his buttonholes. This inspired potato flowers to be a favorite of the French nobility for a time, but the ploy didn't work: The lower classes spurned the upper class's efforts to get them to farm the crop. 

2. MAKE ELECTRICITY

If you’re in a lurch, or perhaps a doomsday prepper, start stocking up on potatoes now. With just a few household items—wires, some copper, and a zinc-coated nail—and one of the tubers, you can power a clock, a light bulb, and many other small electronics.

3. GARDEN IN SPACE

In 1995, the potato became the first vegetable grown on the space shuttle. Raymond Bula of the University of Wisconsin spearheaded a project in which five Norland variety potato leaves were propagated in space. Bula’s research group monitored this project from Wisconsin, staying in constant contact with NASA, who stayed in contact with the crew on the space shuttle. When the shuttle arrived home, everyone was pleased to find that the potato plants not only survived the ordeal, but actually grew potatoes.

4. GROW ROSES

Gardeners can insert rose cuttings into a potato, and then plant the entire potato as if it were a seed or bulb. The nutrient-rich potato helps provide moisture and sustenance to the growing plant, giving the cutting a better chance to survive.

5. MAKE PLASTIC

Bio-plastics, as they’re called, can be made from corn, wheat, and—you guessed it—potatoes. The concentration of starches and cellulose in a potato can be used to make plastic, and the plastic made out of potatoes can be burned and composted with much less impact on the environment.

6. MEASURE TIME

Peru’s Incas used the potato for all sorts of things at the height of their civilization. Known for creative, forward-thinking agricultural practices, the Incas also studied time—and started using the time it takes to cook a potato to measure time.

7. REMOVE RUST

Have a knife with some rust spots? If you insert the knife into the potato and let it sit for awhile, you'll go a long way in removing the rust. Potatoes naturally contain oxalic acid, which is used in many household cleaning products (in much greater quantities, of course). Oxalic acid also dissolves rust. To attack larger rusted surfaces with a potato, cut it in half, sprinkle baking powder on it or dip it in dish soap, and get to scrubbing.

8. MAIL THEM

Thanks to Mail A Spud, for only $9.99 everyone’s dream of mailing a potato to their closest friends and family can be a reality. The site advertises that it can send potatoes anywhere in the U.S., and that your choice of mailed gift will be sure to delight recipients. And, if not delight, at least confuse ... in a good way.

Additional Sources: Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent

This article originally ran in 2016.

15 Uplifting Facts About the Wright Brothers

Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Before they built the world’s first powered, heavier-than-air, and controllable aircraft, Wilbur and Orville Wright were two ordinary brothers from the Midwest who possessed nothing more than natural talent, ambition, and imagination. In honor of National Aviation Day, here are 15 uplifting facts about the siblings who made human flight possible.

1. A TOY PIQUED THEIR PASSION.

From an early age, Wilbur and Orville Wright were fascinated by flight. They attribute their interest in aviation to a small helicopter toy their father brought back from his travels in France. Fashioned from a stick, two propellers, and rubber bands, the toy was crudely made. Nevertheless, it galvanized their quest to someday make their very own flying machine.

2. THEIR GENIUS WAS GENETIC.

While they were inspired by their father’s toy, the Wright brothers inherited their mechanical savvy from their mother, Susan Koerner Wright. She could reportedly make anything, be it a sled or another toy, by hand.

3. THEY WERE PROUD MIDWESTERNERS.

The Wright brothers spent their formative years in Dayton, Ohio. Later in life, Wilbur said his advice for those seeking success would be to “pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.”

4. THEY NEVER GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL.

While the Wright brothers were undoubtedly bright, neither of them ever earned his high school diploma. Wilbur became reclusive after suffering a bad hockey injury, and Orville dropped out of school.

5. THEY ONCE PUBLISHED A NEWSPAPER.

Before they were inventors, the Wright brothers were newspaper publishers. When he was 15 years old, Orville launched his own print shop from behind his house and he and Wilber began publishing The West Side News, a small-town neighborhood paper. It eventually became profitable, and Orville moved the fledgling publication to a rented space downtown. In due time, Orville and Wilbur ceased producing The West Side News—which they’d renamed The Evening Item—to focus on other projects.

6. THEY MADE A FORAY INTO THE BICYCLE BUSINESS.

One of these projects was a bike store called the Wright Cycle Company, where Wilbur and Orville fixed clients’ bicycles and sold their own designs. The fledgling business grew into a profitable enterprise, which eventually helped the Wright brothers fund their flight designs.

7. THEY WERE AUTODIDACTS.

The Wright brothers’ lifelong interest in flight peaked after they witnessed a successive series of aeronautical milestones: the gliding flights of German aviator Otto Lilienthal, the flying of an unmanned steam-powered fixed-wing model aircraft by Smithsonian Institution Secretary Samuel Langley, and the glider test flights of Chicago engineer Octave Chanute. By 1899, Wilbur sat down and wrote to the Smithsonian, asking them to send him literature on aeronatics. He was convinced, he wrote, “that human flight is possible and practical.” Once he received the books, he and Orville began studying the science of flight.

8. THEY CHOSE TO FLY IN KITTY HAWK BECAUSE IT PROVIDED WIND, SOFT SAND, AND PRIVACY.

The Wright brothers began building prototypes and eventually traveled to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1902 to test a full-size, two-winged glider with a moveable rudder. They chose this location thanks in part to their correspondence with Octave Chanute, who advised them in a letter to select a windy place with soft grounds. It was also private, which allowed them to launch their aircrafts with little public interference.

9. THEY ACHIEVED FOUR SUCCESSFUL FLIGHTS WITH THEIR FIRST AIRPLANE DESIGN.

The Wright brothers started testing various wing designs and spent the next few years perfecting their evolving vision for a heavier-than-air flying machine. In the winter of 1903, they returned to Kitty Hawk with their final model, the 1903 Wright Flyer. On December 17, they finally achieved a milestone: four brief flights, one of which lasted for 59 seconds and reached 852 feet.

10. THE 1903 WRIGHT FLYER NEVER TOOK TO THE SKIES AGAIN…

Before the brothers could embark on their final flight, a heavy wind caused the plane to flip several times. Because of the resulting damage, it never flew again. It eventually found a permanent home in the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum—even though Orville originally refused to donate it to the institution because it claimed that Smithsonian Secretary Samuel P. Langley’s own aircraft experiment was the first machine capable of sustained free flight.

11. …BUT A PIECE OF IT DID GO TO THE MOON.

An astronaut paid homage to the Wright brothers by carrying both a swatch of fabric from the 1903 Flyer’s left wing and a piece of its wooden propeller inside his spacesuit.

12. THE PRESS INITIALLY IGNORED THE KITTY HAWK FLIGHTS.

Despite their monumental achievement, the Dayton Journal didn’t think the Wright brothers’ short flights were important enough to cover. The Virginia Pilot ended up catching wind of the story, however, and they printed an error-ridden account that was picked up by several other papers. Eventually, the Dayton Journal wrote up an official—and accurate—story.

13. THE BROTHERS SHARED A CLOSE BOND...

Although the Wright brothers weren’t twins, they certainly lived like they were. They worked side by side six days a week, and shared the same residence, meals, and bank account. They also enjoyed mutual interests, like music and cooking. Neither brother ever married, either. Orville said it was Wilbur’s job, as the older sibling, to get hitched first. Meanwhile, Wilbur said he “had no time for a wife.” In any case, the two became successful businessmen, scoring aviation contracts both domestically and abroad.

14. …BUT WERE OPPOSITES IN MANY WAYS.

Although they were much alike, each Wright brother was his own person. As the older brother, Wilbur was more serious and taciturn. He possessed a phenomenal memory, and was generally consumed by his thoughts. Meanwhile, Orville was positive, upbeat, and talkative, although very bashful in public. While Wilbur spearheaded the brothers’ business endeavors, they wouldn’t have been possible without Orville’s mechanical—and entrepreneurial—savvy.

15. OHIO AND NORTH CAROLINA FIGHT OVER THEIR LEGACY.

Since the Wright brothers split their experiments between Ohio and North Carolina, both states claim their accomplishments as their own. Ohio calls itself the "Birthplace of Aviation,” although the nickname also stems from the fact that two famed astronauts hail from there as well. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s license plates are emblazoned with the words “First In Flight.”

This article originally ran in 2015.

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