10 Clever Ways to Use Flour (Other Than Eating)

Shine up your copper pots with some flour and elbow grease. Colin Bewes/Flickr

I live in Portland, Ore. — the progressive playground of North America. Where all things crunchy and cutting edge rule, like green roofers in Portland, as long as said “cutting edge” is vegan and solar-powered, of course.

A few years back I saw a mustached man riding a fixed gear bike and wearing a T-shirt which read, “Gluten-free is the new black.” The end.

But seriously, “gluten-free” hit Portland and spread like wildfire, just as it now seems to be spreading across the entire country. And at first I laughed and scoffed ... until I was diagnosed with my own gluten intolerance. That’s another story.

The point is, maybe you’re trying to get rid of gluten, too? Or maybe — and maybe more likely — you have some old expired flour that’s been invaded by bugs and you don’t want to bake with it. Or maybe — and maybe most likely of all — you’re just looking for some creative, cheap projects? Well hello then! Have I got a list for you:

1. Make Modeling Clay

To make a simple clay, just mix 3 cups flour with 1 cup water, 1⁄4 cup salt, and 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil. You can add a few drops of food coloring, too. Knead the dough until it’s uniform, then mold it into whatever shapes you desire. Bake in the oven for an hour at 250 degrees to harden. We did this for Christmas ornaments one year and it was easy and adorable!

2. Make Play Dough

Similar to modeling clay but not meant for baking, play dough is easy to make and lasts a lot longer. To make, just mix 2 cups flour with 2 cups warm water, 1 cup salt, and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. An optional tablespoon of cream of tartar will improve elasticity, while food coloring can be added for fun variety. Store your play dough in an airtight container or plastic bag.

3. Make Cloud Dough

Cloud dough is a fun and funky sensory experience for children. Just mix 8 cups flour with 1 cup baby oil. Cloud dough feels a lot like flour, but it’s moldable!

4. Deter Ants

You can help keeps ants at bay by sprinkling a thick line of flour wherever you see them entering or exiting. Supposedly, they won’t cross the barrier. Supposedly. A professional exterminator might work better.

5. Buff Steel

You can use dry flour and a cloth rag to buff your stainless steel sink, appliances, etc. Apply it dry with elbow grease, then rinse it off and let it shine.

6. Polish Copper

You can also polish copper using a mixture of equal parts flour, salt, and white vinegar. Apply the paste to your metal, allow it to dry, then buff it off. The copper beneath should be shiny like new.

7. Refresh a Deck of Cards

deck of cards

You can spruce up an old playing deck by dropping the entire thing (loose) into a paper bag with about a 1⁄4 cup of flour. The thirsty flour will soak up all the oils and grime from years of dirty fingers, greasy snacks, etc.

8. Make Homemade Spray Glue

This stuff is great to have around on hand for a cheap, nontoxic adhesive. Find easy instructions here.

9. Make Paper-Mache

We all did this in elementary school, right? Well, this is a bit more advanced than the standard balloon globe. For example, these gorgeous bowls using vintage paper!

10. Sprinkle It on Squash or Potato Plants

Many gardeners swear by this old, all-natural pest control tip. To rid yourself of buggy predators, simply sprinkle the squash or potato plants with a fine layer of flour.