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One day in 1859, a young chemist named Robert Chesebrough visited Titusville, Pennsylvania. He noticed that oilfield workers were using something they called “rod wax” to dress minor skin wounds.
Rod wax was an oil-drilling byproduct. Chesebrough was intrigued enough to start refining the goop. In 1870, he introduced his product to the public, marketed under the name “Wonder Jelly.” In 1872, it became “Vaseline.”
Although other companies now manufacture the stuff, some people still use the word “Vaseline” to mean petroleum jelly. Whatever you call it, you likely grew up with a jar in your home. And what a wonder this emollient continues to be: Consumers use it in dozens of ways both inside and outside the home.
Take a look at the following everyday problems and annoyances that you can solve with petroleum jelly, and you’ll never see it the same way again.
1. Water rings
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Have you noticed water rings on a table or other wood surface? Rub some petroleum jelly into the stain. Architectural Digest reports that you can leave the jelly sit as long as overnight if the ring is stubborn.
2. Stuck zippers
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Zipper a bit stiff? Apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to the teeth.
3. Pesky squirrels
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Use petroleum jelly to keep squirrels away from the bird feeder. Apply it to the pole, and the squirrels won’t be able to climb up the slippery surface.
4. Stubborn stickers
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No matter how often you tell them, kids may “forget” and put stickers on doors and furniture. Rub on a little petroleum jelly and, after a few hours, use the edge of a credit card to remove the goo.
Note: This also works for stubborn price tags. No one has to know that gift cost you only 50 cents at the thrift store.
5. Makeup removal
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Out of makeup remover? Gently massage a little petroleum jelly on your face, then wipe with a soft cloth.
6. Flyaway hair
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Flyaway hair? Instead of a wax or pomade, rub a very small amount of petroleum jelly into your hands and use it smooth down frizzy flyaway hairs.
Obstreperous eyebrows? Put a dot of petroleum jelly on a clean mascara wand or the tip of your finger. Then, sweep from the beginning of the brow line to the end.
7. Chrome at risk of rusting
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Coat the metal parts of bikes, strollers, mowers and other equipment with petroleum jelly to protect them from rust during winter storage.
8. Sensitive pooch paws
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Before going for a walk in the snow, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) suggests putting petroleum jelly on the tender pads of your dog’s feet. This will protect against salt or snow-melting chemicals.
9. Rough feet
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Got super-dry skin on your feet? Coat with petroleum jelly just before bedtime, then put on socks. It feels weird at first, but you get used to it.
In the morning, marvel at your skin’s softness.
10. Flying insects
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Do flies get into the house every time someone opens a door? Make your own flypaper: Coat strips of paper with petroleum jelly, and hang the strips in strategic spots.
11. Troublesome earrings
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Rub on a bit of petroleum jelly for easier earring insertion.
12. A stiff shower curtain rod
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Rub the shower-curtain rod with a thin coating of petroleum jelly to help rings slip freely when you open or close the curtain.
13. A chafed nose
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Bad cold + generic tissues = sore, sore nostrils. Gently apply some petroleum jelly to protect the raw skin from moisture and rubbing. Reapply as needed.
14. Stubborn rings
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If your finger swells, trapping a ring in place, you can coat your finger with petroleum jelly and keep tugging — gently.
15. Squeaky hinges
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Got noisy or stiff hinges on cabinets or doors? Petroleum jelly works just as well as WD-40 — without the smell. Family Handyman offers step-by-step directions with photos.
16. Uncooperative pipes
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Rub some petroleum jelly on pipe threads to make joining them easier. Don’t use it on any rubber or latex elements, however, as this will cause their material to break down over time.
17. Dry skin
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Lips dry and flaky? Create an exfoliating scrub by mixing petroleum jelly with sugar.
You can also make up a big batch of the stuff and give yourself a good rubdown, to remove dead skin. (Or better yet, have someone else massage you with the stuff.)
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Apply a little bit of jelly on the parts of your shoes that rub against your feet. This helps prevent friction and thus blisters, the American Academy of Dermatology says.
19. Short-lived fragrance
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Before you spray on perfume or cologne, rub a little jelly onto your pulse points. It will make the fragrance last longer, says Dr. Travis Stork of “The Doctors.”
20. Rust rings
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Rub some petroleum jelly on the base of shaving cream cans to keep water away, preventing the bottom of the can from rusting and leaving a rust ring on the bathtub or shower.
21. Yard tools at risk of rusting
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After the gardening season ends, wash and dry your trowel, hand rake and other garden implements. Then coat metal parts with a thin layer of petroleum jelly to ward off corrosion and rust.
22. Lackluster leather
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Shine leather or patent leather shoes — or revive a leather jacket, belt or bag — with a dab of petroleum jelly. Rub it in with a soft, lint-free cloth.
23. Faint eye shadow or eyelashes
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Prime your eyelids with foundation and translucent powder, and then mix a small amount of jelly with your powdered eye shadow. The result is a much more intense look.
Or just use petroleum jelly as makeup. My mom wouldn’t let us wear mascara until age 16, so my sisters and I rubbed a little petroleum jelly on our eyelashes to make them look darker.
24. Fire-starting struggles
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For a fast fire-starter when camping, saturate some cotton balls with petroleum jelly and put them in a small paper bag. Set the bag on fire, then add wood.
25. Fishing knives headed to storage
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Do you fish? Rub petroleum jelly on your fishing knives before storing them, and they’ll be rust-free next season.
26. Risk of eczema
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Apparently, it’s not just for a baby’s backside: Citing a study published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, the Mayo Clinic reported last year that a daily application of petroleum jelly on a newborn’s skin for the first six months of life can reduce the risk of eczema. This irritating skin condition affects as much as 30 percent of children.
27. Shriveling jack-o’-lanterns
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Have you ever carved pumpkins a bit too early, only to have them shrivel before Halloween arrived? Next time, try a light coat of petroleum jelly around the carved areas to keep the gourds in good shape.
28. Gummy hair
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Once again, Junior fell asleep while chewing gum. Work jelly into the lump of hair and goo until the gum can be slid off of the hair.
29. New baseball gloves
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Nothing like that new-leather smell, but an unconditioned glove can be pretty stiff and hard to use. Apply petroleum jelly, rub it in well, and then tie up the glove with a baseball inside, both to condition and shape the glove and to get it thinking about the next game.
30. Unreliable gaskets
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Soften a dried-up refrigerator door gasket with a thin layer of jelly. You’ll get a better seal until you can replace the gasket or the fridge.
What uses have you found for petroleum jelly? What do you think it the single most useful product? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.