Survival gear can get expensive quickly. Fortunately, there are many household items that have multiple survival or preparedness-related uses.
The best household items with survival uses are:
- Zip Ties
- Dental Floss
- Petroleum Jelly
- Steel Wool
- Safety Pins
- Coffee Filters
- Paper clips
- Duct Tape
- Soda Cans
- Pool Noodles
- Garbage Bags
In this article, I’ll cover some of the best survival uses for each of the items listed above. I’ll also talk about some other hacks that, while aren’t necessary for survival, can make everyday life easier.
The first household item with survival uses is zip ties. They can be used to make repairs to various pieces of gear, including bags, slings, and even cars. One of my favorite ways to use them is to attach non-ALICE or MOLLE pouches to belts or bags.
This works especially well with smaller ammo or multitool pouches. If using an ALICE pistol belt, simply run a zip tie through the holes on the belt and through the pouch’s belt loop. Zip ties also work well to “lock” ALICE clips so that they don’t spring open.
You can also use zip ties to hang different types of items, such as lights. They also work well for more mundane tasks, such as hanging clothes from the roll bar in a jeep.
The next household item with survival uses is dental floss. It’s incredibly strong for its weight, making it useful for many tasks that require thread or lashing.
Dental floss can be used in a variety of ways to help you procure food. It can be used to attach a knife or other sharp object to the end of a stick or can be used a snare. You can also use it as a tripwire to alert you if someone enters your campsite.
Dental floss can also be used to repair different types of gear or clothing. Since it is so strong, it can also be used as a makeshift shoe or bootlaces if your primary one breaks. If you need a pole saw, you can use it to secure a saw to a stick to give you a little more reach.
The next household item that has multiple survival uses is petroleum jelly, also known as Vaseline. It’s most well-known for being an effective emergency fire starter. Soaking a cotton ball in petroleum jelly will help it catch fire easier and burn longer.
You can also use petroleum jelly to make a candle. Take a piece of a cotton ball, stretch it out, and saturate it with petroleum jelly. Take a spoonful of the petroleum jelly and place it in a shot glass or the concave end of an upside-down mug. Place the cotton ball wick into the petroleum jelly and light it up.
Petroleum jelly is also a decent lubricant. You can use it to prevent leather belts and holsters from drying out or carbon steel knives from rusting. You could also probably use it to lubricate a firearm in a pinch.
Petroleum jelly has medicinal uses as well. You can use it to moisturize dried and cracked skin or to cover small cuts and scratches. It will create a barrier that will make it more difficult for contaminants and debris to enter the wound.
The next household item with survival uses is ChapStick. ChapStick is very similar to petroleum jelly and can be used in similar ways.
Like petroleum jelly, ChapStick can serve as a decent backup lubricant. If you own a crossbow, it can be used to lubricate rails and cables. Since it is in a tube like regular crossbow lube, it should go on with very little mess.
You can also use ChapStick to help prevent your glasses from fogging up. Simply apply a small amount to each of your lenses and buff it out with a soft cloth. What is left behind should prevent water vapor from condensing.
When your ChapStick tube is empty, you can use it as a mini survival kit or a container to help organize a larger kit. Small items like matches or Vaseline-soaked cotton balls can be stored inside.
The next household item that you can use for survival is steel wool. One of the most well-known ways to use it is to touch a ball of steel wool with a 9-volt battery. The electricity will set the steel wool on fire, allowing you to use it as a fire starter. You can use a Ferro rod to ignite steel wool as well.
Steel wool also works well if you need to plug a hole. For example, in college, I lived in a rent house that had a big hole between the window frame and the wall. I could have used steel wool to plug the hole, and it would have had the added benefit of being able to kill rodents. It really messes up their insides when they ingest it.
One of the best ways to use steel wool is to clean metal, such as gun barrels or even cast-iron cookware. Fine-grade steel wool, such as 0000, is a good choice if you need to remove surface rust from a gun barrel. However, a more coarse variety will help you remove large amounts of rust from other items.
Safety pins are another household item that can be used for survival. They are an excellent choice if you need to make a quick repair to a sleeping bag or article of clothing.
Since they are sharp, you can also use them for tasks such as removing splinters or lancing boils. Fun, right? Safety pins can also help you make a squirt bottle if you poke a hole in a water bottle’s cap. You can then use it to help do things like clean your toothbrush or irrigate wounds. Doing this will also help you save water.
Safety pins also work well as a shim if you need to open a zip tie without cutting it. Simply use the sharp end to pull the lock out of the way and pull the strap back out. This can help you use the zip tie multiple times or could be used if you needed to free yourself if detained.
Coffee filters are another household item with survival uses. One way to use them is as a prefilter to remove large debris from water before running it through a Sawyer or Berkey. This will help extend the life of your primary filter and reduce the amount of maintenance that you need to perform.
Coffee filters are also flammable and can be used as tinder to help start a fire. You can also use them as bowls or even bags to hold things like berries and nuts you have foraged. Coffee filters can be placed around or between items making noise in a backpack to help you move as quietly as possible.
Another household item with survival uses is paper clips. I’m sure you have probably seen someone use them as lockpicks to open a doorknob or padlock. If you want to try this, you will actually need two paper clips. One will be the rake used to move the lock’s pins and the other will be used to keep tension on the lock.
You can also use paper clips as flathead screwdrivers. A larger paperclip will work to remove screws such as those used to attach light switch covers. (Never attempt to touch wires or insert a paper clip into a plug.)
To work with smaller screws, such as those found on glasses, straighten one end of the paperclip and flatten it with a hammer or rock. This should make it thin enough to fit into smaller slots.
You can also use paper clips to unclog spray nozzles, and, with a little work, you can even turn one into a small keyring. Straighten one out and attach one end to a larger Phillips screwdriver with vise grips. Wind the paperclip tightly around the screwdriver, and cut the end when you are finished.
Buckets have a wide variety of survival uses. They work well as water filters, whether you are using natural materials, or something like a Sawyer Tap Filter attached to a spigot installed onto a bucket.
You can also use buckets to create things like toilets or even clothes washers. To make a toilet, you can use either a dedicated bucket toilet seat or a pool noodle cut to the proper length. Some of the seats, such as this one, even include bags that you can use to make cleanup easier.
I use buckets as planter pots in my garden. In fact, most of my plants are growing in 5-gallon buckets. This will allow me to take them with me if I need to bug out.
Buckets can also be used to transport water if you need to retrieve it from a pond on your property or another nearby source. Using lids and some sort of utility cart will make the job easier as well.
The next household item that you can use for survival is duct tape. It is a good choice for making repairs around the house as well as repairing different kinds of gear.
Duct tape can also be used as butterfly bandages. When used in this way, you will be able to keep debris out of a wound without permanently closing it. This will allow you to clean it as needed.
Similar to dental floss, you can also use duct tape as a lashing to do things like make a pole saw.
Soda cans are another household item that you can use for survival. During the 2021 Texas Ice Storm, I used soda cans to make an alcohol stove. They can run on various forms of alcohol and work well if you need to cook indoors.
Soda cans also work well as lanterns. Make a vertical cut down the middle of the can and horizontal cuts at the top and bottom. This will create a door that you can open and place a candle inside of the can. Since the inside of soda cans is reflective, the light and heat will be directed back towards you.
Pool noodles are another household item with survival uses. I used a larger one to help me run an extension cord through a window as a temporary way to connect my fridge to a generator. You can see instructions for how to do this by clicking here.
If you are a deer hunter, you can use a pool noodle in a tripod or box stand to give you a more stable and quiet way to rest your rifle. Pool noodles can also be used as a hose to fill water containers if you need to fill something that won’t fit in your sink or tub.
The next household item with survival uses is garbage bags. The best option for many of these tasks is heavy-duty contractor bags. They are thicker and hold up better to abuse.
Garbage bags work really well if you are trying to keep yourself or your gear dry. They work well as emergency ponchos as well as pack liners. You could also put your clothes into one before you wade across a body of water so they are dry when you reach the other side.
You can also use garbage bags to collect water. They can be used to line things like trash cans or tubs and can be used to channel water into a container.