New ways to use your slow cooker (that don't involve food)

That slow cooker can do more than make meals. Here are just a few uses.

Alina Bradford CNET Contributor
Alina Bradford has been writing how-tos, tech articles and more for almost two decades. She currently writes for CNET's Smart Home Section, MTVNews' tech section and for Live Science's reference section. Follow her on Twitter.
Alina Bradford
4 min read

Your slow cooker can do a lot more than just make a yummy meal.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

I love finding new uses for old appliances . Slow cookers are the savior of busy people everywhere. All you have to do is put the ingredients inside, turn it on and -- boom! -- when you get home, there's a meal waiting for you.

Your crock pot can do so much more, though. Here are just a few ways it can be a multitasking wonder.

Pro tip: Use an old slow cooker or slow cooker liners so that your next meal isn't inadvertently contaminated by any of these new, nifty uses.

1. Remove paint during reno time without harsh chemicals

No matter if you're renovating your kitchen cabinets, a door or a dresser, you'll probably find some old hardware covered in paint. No need to throw the old knobs and hinges away. You can remove the old paint easily with your crock pot:

  1. Fill your crock pot 2/3 of the way with water.
  2. Add one tablespoon dishwashing liquid.
  3. Put the hardware into the water.
  4. Turn on the crockpot to the highest temperature setting and let the hardware soak for 24 hours or until the paint falls off.
Watch this: Freshen up your house for the holidays with a slow cooker

This method can also be used with any tools that may have paint on them.

2. Slow cookers clean your jewelry, too

This method of cleaning your costume jewelry will leave it sparkling without any chemicals. Clinton Kelly from the television show "The Chew" swears by this method:

  • Add 2 1/2 cups of white vinegar.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of salt.
  • Mix, turn the crock pot on high and let the water heat up.
  • Put your jewelry into your slow cooker.
  • Let your jewelry sit for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the jewelry and scrub with an old toothbrush.
  • Polish jewelry with a soft cloth.

This method also works great for removing tarnish from silverware.

3. Remove labels in a snap

One of the easiest ways to remove labels is by soaking the item in a slow cooker full of water set to the highest temperature setting. After around 30 minutes the label will slip right off. If the label is extra stubborn, try adding a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid to the water.

Hamilton Beach's feature-rich slow cooker is big on value

Your slow cooker can make your house smell amazing.

Alina Bradford/CNET

4. Freshen up your house for guests

You have probably bought candles, scented plug-ins and sprays to scent your home, but here is an easier and cheaper way:

  1. Fill your crock pot halfway with water.
  2. Add three sticks of cinnamon.
  3. Add ¼ cup cloves.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of nutmeg.
  5. Mix and turn your slow cooker to the lowest temperature setting. Leave the lid off.
  6. When the water starts to evaporate, add a cup or two of warm water to keep the mixture from drying out.

Here are some more crock pot scent ideas.

5. Use it as a bottle warmer

Microwaving a bottle is iffy and may cause burns. Warming a bottle on the stove takes a while. Slow cooker? Just right! Before going to bed, fill your slow cooker 2/3 of the way with water and let it heat on low while you sleep. When baby wants to eat, drop the bottle into the hot water for a few minutes to warm it up.

6. Make it your new spa buddy

Use your slow cooker to create a spa experience at home. For example, you can use it to heat paraffin wax for hand treatments. Just set it on low and add the wax.

You can also use your slow cooker to heat towels for facials. Simply roll up some hand towels, add a couple drops of lavender essential oils, and pour half a cup of water on top. Set the cooker to low and let the towels sit for two hours before your facial. When you need a towel, use a pair of tongs to remove it from the cooker and shake it a couple of times to cool it down a little before you put it on your face.

7. Make modeling dough for the kids

Slime is all the rage, but if you want a DIY change of pace, try making some homemade modeling dough in your slow cooker. 

Here's what you need:

  • 1/2 cup salt.
  • 2 cups flour.
  • 4 tablespoons cream of tartar.
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.
  • 2 cups water.
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of food coloring.

To make the dough, mix all of the dry ingredients together, then mix in the wet ingredients. Add the mixture to your slow cooker and set it to high heat for 45 to 60 minutes. Make sure to stir the dough around every five minutes or so and cover the pot with a dish towel and then the lid to absorb extra moisture.

Once the dough isn't sticky, it's ready to play with. Just let it cool down first. 

Bonus: Make dulce de leche caramel with one ingredient

OK, so this one is technically food, but I just couldn't leave it out. If you love candy, but hate making it, then this tip for making dulce de leche-style caramel in a crock pot is for you:

  1. Fill your crockpot 2/3 of the way full with water.
  2. Take the label off of a can of sweetened condensed milk.
  3. Leave it sealed and place it in the water.
  4. Make sure the entire can is covered in water.
  5. Put the lid on the crockpot and leave overnight, or around 8 hours.
  6. Take the can out of the crockpot using tongs.
  7. Let the can cool.
  8. Open the can and pour into a bowl.

Editors' note: This article was originally published November 9, 2015, and has since been updated.

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