Who would have thought that the humble paper clip could have so many uses? Like how to create necessary items, like a makeshift compass to find your way when you are lost.
Put the paper clip to use in cleaning the hard to get at areas in the house; and keep kids busy and entertained with arty projects based on paper clips.
Finding original uses for common items is a sign of a divergent thinker, according to researchers. We have listed 83 ways to use paper clips.
There are articles out there with lots more uses, but we thought we would hone it down to the more useful tips. Always have a few of the smaller and a couple of larger paper clips on hand in EDC. They are so small, but they may save the day at some point.
1. Create magnetic stationery
Wrap straightened out paper clips around pens and pencils and attach them to a magnetic strip on your fridge or at your desk (just not close to your computer). This saves going out and buying expensive magnetized stationery.
2. Rattle snake eggs/scuttling cockroaches
Watch this to see how a soda cap, paper clip, and a rubber band can be placed inside a card. When the person starts to open the card is rattles.
Usually, people don’t get to open it fully as they throw the card and run. It can be labelled as rattle snake eggs that have hatched, or cockroaches scuttling inside the card. It provides some priceless photos of the recipient’s reactions.
3. Chinese hair sticks
To secure a bun, straighten a large paper clip and stick it through the hair to keep it in place.
Ok, they aren’t decorated but they will keep hair up and out of your face while you work.
4. Box opener
Straighten a paper clip and slice through packing tape on boxes instead of pulling and tugging. Box tape is sooo hard to remove if you can’t slice through it, and usually when you need it a Stanley knife or ordinary knife don’t happen to be around.
5. Fidget toys
The first example on this video shows how to make a fidget toy out of colored paper clips. Use it the next time you are waiting in a doctor’s office.
The second one on the video shows how two sewing machine bobbins and a paperclip make an easy fidget toy. Kids will love this one:
6. Cleaning gun
Watch the video that shows how to use a paper clip to clean stainless-steel gun barrels here:
7. Escape handcuffs
Watch this to see the first hack showing how to shape the paper clip to unpick handcuffs. There are 10 hacks here – showing how to make fishhooks, a makeshift lamp wick, safety pins and a whole lot more:
7. Cleaning around taps
That hard to get at ring around water taps in the kitchen and bathroom can be cleaned by bending open a paper clip into an S shape then straightening one end and using it to gently remove the gunk around taps.
If you are worried about scratching surfaces a disinfecting wipe can be used to cover the end.
8. Cleaning around pot handles
You know how kitchen tools just can’t get between where pot handles attach to the pot – especially those semi-circular handles, and you get that brown built up.
Take a humble paper clip bent open to an S shape, cover with a wipe, shake on some baking soda, or use some 50/50 vinegar water spray and get to work. Soon, the spots where the handle joins to your pots and pan will be sparkling.
9. Keeping shoes fastened
Use a paper clip as an emergency fastening of the top holes in shoes when the shoelace breaks. You can adjust the broken shoelace and fasten as far as it will go, but you need to keep those top holes together– and that is where the paper clip comes in
10. Meat hooks
When you have fairly small pieces of meat to hang up to dry on racks outside. A straightened-out paper clip bent into an S shape is also useful for hanging up the meat in your biltong or jerky maker.
11. Keep calendars tidy
Slide two paper clips over the bottom corners of month by month wall calendars to stop the edges from curling up and looking messy.
12. Pull tab on zipper
When the pull tab on a zipper breaks, slide a paper slip into position on the zipper pull and it will work perfectly.
13. Unclog spray bottles
A straightened-out paper clip should do the trick in unclogging spray bottles, whether for paint or another household uses.
14. Clearing glue tops
Use a straightened paper clip for unclogging the top of your tube of super glue – just be quick about it, or it may be there permanently! It also works well for getting that dried glue plug out of the top of fabric and wood glue tubes.
15. Clean your computer keyboard
Wrap the end of a paper clip in gauze and then roll it small enough to get between the letters on the keyboard and gently sweep out the dust and crumbs.
16. Emergency phone stand
Well this one didn’t work for me – maybe you will have better luck. The phone fell over, or the paper clip broke – even one of those bigger ones, so after a couple of tries I decided it was a fail on that one although people say you can do it and here’s a video to prove it can be done:
17. Pop out SIM tray
Unbend the paper clip and pop out the sim tray or reset your phone or tablet if you have lost that little metal key that comes with your new phone.
18. Fixing spectacles
When the screw comes loose and you don’t have one of those teeny tiny screwdrivers you can unbend a paper clip and use the sharp end as a mini screwdriver.
19. Earring organizer
Use a paper clip to keep your earrings together.
Hang your earrings for pierced ears onto the lower bend of a paper clip, then slip the clips over a piece of ribbon fastened across the inside of a cupboard door.
A large clip will stay in place unlike a paper bookmark that slips out when you are reading in bed. Attach a piece of ribbon to make it more obvious or use a glue gun to attach a small charm to the top of the paper clip. I find this works well.
21. Letter opener
For the odd letter you may still receive in the mail – open out one end of a paper clip and slide between the gap where the envelope folds over and rip.
22. Hairbrush cleaner
Pick out the bits of hair that break and get stuck in the hairbrush.
23. De-burring dog brushes
A paperclip also comes in useful for dog brushes when burrs get caught in the bristles.
24. Plant hook
Bend into a hook and use for hanging air plants.
25. Christmas card fasteners
When stringing up Christmas cards use a paper clip instead of a peg to stop them flying off the string when someone opens the door and the wind whooshes in – they are less intrusive than pegs.
26. Seal chip or cracker bags
Seal a chip bag or biscuit bag with paper clips after folding over the bag a couple of times so the air doesn’t get in and make them soggy.
27. A spoon for dyeing egg
If you insist on dyeing eggs then create a spoon out of a large paper clip. Why not just use a normal spoon you may ask?
Because we don’t want a pool of dye in the bowl of the spoon – the open paper clip spoon enables the dye to drain and the egg can be left to dry evenly after taking out of the pot of dye.
28. Mark the end of tape
I hate holding tape up trying to figure out where the end is. Slip a paper clip over the end of the tape so you can always find the end quickly. Make sure you replace the clip after you have used the tape.
29. Pick a lock
Watch the video to see how to use a paperclip to pick a lock:
It requires a little patience but it can be done.
30. TV antenna
Create a small antenna for your TV or phone – see how it works by watching here:
I can’t say I have tried this one, so would like to know if anyone had success.
31. DIY Splint
I could have done with this when I had my fingers in the ring of the dog’s collar and she jumped and twisted – my finger was standing out at an angle.
Splinting fingers or toes with a straightened paper clip and some tape will do fine until you can get professional medical help.
Desperate for a lanyard so you are hands free on keys or a visitor card? Make a lanyard by string paper clips together. Possibly not the height of fashion but it will save you losing certain items that you can just hook around your neck.
Some people suggest bending the paper clip so it fits through the pierced holes in ears but many people react badly if the metal for earrings is not gold or stainless steel.
Maybe just make a shape with the paper clip and attach to the proper jewelers’ hooks that go through the ear to avoid infections.
34. Bra strap hider
If you are wearing an item with cutaways towards the back then a paperclip slid over the bra straps will hold them together in an x shape at the back so no unsightly straps stick out of that sexy top.
35. Cleaning fingernails
You are just about to go into an interview and your beautifully clean fingernails that have been scrubbed and buffed get something under them. Don’t worry, the straightened-out paper clip works every time.
Also, useful after gardening or working on DIY projects when the nailbrush just won’t remove some stubborn dirt and you can’t find a nail file with a pointed end to clean them.
A large paper clip will work as an emergency hair clip to keep hair out of your face. The smaller ones just get tangled.
37. Key ring
Unbend a large colored paper clip and wrap it around a marker pen to create a spiral – slide off and you have an instant color coded ring with which to attach the key to a larger set of keys or to a plastic, wooden or cardboard key ID marker.
38. Cherry pitter
No cherry pitter – no problem. Simply bend open a larger paper clip until you have an S shape and use it to pit your cherries.
39. Bread packet closer
Long ago they had twisty ties for bread packets that really worked well, then along came the square plastic tab that is a mission to get back onto a bread packet, or splits as you try to use it. The solution is to bend open a paper clip and use it like a twisty tie.
40. Fastening photos to a board
When you put photos on a display board instead of sticking drawing pins through the photo itself simply attach a paper clip and put the drawing pin through the space at the upper curve to hold the photo without damaging it.
41. Wire crafts
This is not my personal cup of tea, but for those who have the patience, paper clip wire can be put to use in creating all sorts of figures and letters. You’ll need a small pair of pliers to manipulate the wire.
42. Nail art
The end of a straightened-out paper clip can be dabbed into nail polish and onto nails to create tiny flowers, or even used to draw designs into wet nail polish.
43. Emergency awl
Awls are useful little tools for making holes. One made from a straightened-out paper clip will need to be filed at one end to make it sharp. Unfortunately, it won’t have a comfortable handle, but in an emergency it could get the job done.
If you are lost and need to find your way watch this video to see how to use a paperclip and a couple of common items to create a makeshift compass:
45. Keeping cables tidy
When you have to coil up small cables or keep a bunch of them together – just so your desk doesn’t look like a writhing nest of snakes – all you need is a rubber band and a paper clip.
You slide the rubber band onto the side of a paper clip, pull the band through itself and tighten, so it is securely in place on the side of the paper clip. Then you loop the band around the cables and slip the end over the whole paper clip. Nice and secure.
It works a treat for Christmas lights too. Rubber bands tend to perish rather fast though, so I prefer to use a hairband, like you see in the photo below.
46. Makeshift note binding
Notes from those A4 punched exam pads often need to be attached in notebook form rather than stapled.
So, you basically do what you did for the cable holder above – loop one end of an elastic band around one end of the paper clip, and thread through itself then pull tight.
Thread the doubled-up rubber band through the punched holes and bring it forward to loop over the other end of the clip.
And there you are – notes neatly stored and can be undone in a second if you need to extract or insert a page. Yes, we know you can tie ribbon or wool through the holes and make a knot, but it takes a lot longer to undo.
47 Tie tidy
If you don’t want the narrower portion of your tie showing and your tie wasn’t made with one of those little loops to hold the shorter bit in place, then slip a paper clip over the edge of the tie and over the shirt. The front of the tie will cover it.
48. Bracelet fastener aid
Women trying to fasten a bracelet that just fits the wrist will find it hard to grab the other end of the bracelet to bring it towards the first end while holding the clasp open at the same time.
Use a paper clip to bring the two together– it makes getting the clasp fastened way easier.
49. Notebook dividers
Use different colored paper clips to mark certain sections in a notebook so you can get to the pages you need easily. To make them even more obvious you could attach a thin strip of ribbon to the clip.
50. Diary/receipt book clip
To get to the correct page quickly I usually clip pages that have been completed together, so the diary or receipt book opens to the page I need to use.
Make a mini slingshot by straightening, then re-bending the paper clip – it should be a larger one – into a two-pronged fork. Fasten a wide elastic band between the fork, tying in place so it doesn’t slip.
Congrats you have a mini-slingshot. See how accurate you can be with it by setting up some empty tin cans and using tiny pieces of gravel for ammunition.
52. Ceramic/Pumpkin carving tool
Open the paper clip so the two end loops are facing away from each other, forming an S shape. When you need to carve into leather-hard clay use either the larger loop or the smaller loop to carve designs.
Alternatively, you could open one end out completely to make a point to scratch in fine lines.
53. Wrapping paper saver
To secure the end of wrapping paper without destroying a bit of it with Sellotape, slip a paper clip over each end to it doesn’t unravel.
54. Shaker toy
Babies love shaker toys – use an empty plastic pill container – one that is hard to open – drop a few paper clips inside and give it to a toddler to shake.
55. Guitar pick
A paperclip will do if you can’t locate your favorite guitar pick.
Straighten one side of a paper clip, bend it upwards at 90 degrees, then use it as a sun dial to tell the time by checking the length of the shadow. At midday there should be no shadow.
57. Keyboard pry tool
If for some reason you need to pry the keys off your keyboard you can use a paper clip to remove and either refurbish them or replace them.
58. Bird ladder
Create a tiny ladder for small cage birds to climb by opening up and reshaping paper clips into a little ladder.
59. Popping bubble wrap
It’s so satisfying to pop bubble wrap. I even had a dog who would sit and pop bubble wrap – whenever she spotted a bubble wrapped parcel, this great 50 kg dog would sidle up to it and start popping the bubbles, watching out of the corner of her eye for someone who would shoo her away.
Eventually we gave her pieces of bubble wrap to pop. She never chewed them – just enjoyed the pop sound. Straighten a paper clip and use it to pop bubble wrap – it’s even better than worry beads.
60. Scraper tool
Straighten a paper clip and you’ll be able to get the paint or gunk out of carving on furniture.
61. Golf tee
If you don’t have one to hold your golf ball, fashion one from a paper clip before teeing off.
62. Microscope specimen mover
Don’t use your fingers to move a specimen – use a straightened-out paper clip for minimal contact with the specimen when you move it around under the microscope.
63. Breaking through paint skin
When a can of paint has been standing a while, it gets a skin on top. Now you don’t want to use a screwdriver or knife because then you’ll have to clean off the paint. A large paper clip, opened out, will penetrate, hook up that skin and be disposed of all in one.
64. Etching glass
Need to put your name on a favorite drinking glass so no one else contaminates it with their germs – straighten out a paper clip and etch your name.
65. Mosaic grout cleaner
When you make mosaics, you have to clean the extra grout off. A paper clip is nice and light so you don’t risk moving the delicate pieces of the design.
It’s cleaner than using your fingertips when the grout dries out your hands, so besides the hand cleaner you also need to spend on extra hand cream. All round, a paper clip is way cheaper and less messy.
66. Makeshift compass to draw circles
Use a string of paper clips and two pencils to create concentric circles for drawing a mandala if you don’t have a compass or string handy.
67. Locking pet cages
Some pets are pretty clever at working the locks on their cages loose – especially parrots. Thwart their efforts by using a paper clip, either as is, or by bending and twisting to create a secure catch.
68. Game pieces
Need to identify different players and the game pieces have been lost – a couple of colored paper clips will solve that problem.
69. Paper clip necklace
This is not the most fashion forward item, but at least there will be plenty of paper clips to use if you need them – something like a paracord bracelet.
70. As a sewing aid
Use paper clips to indicate the right side of the fabric so you don’t get mixed up when sewing pieces together. Pins can leave marks in delicate fabric so the paper clip works much better.
71. Sewing pin substitute
Use paper clips to hold two pieces of material together before sewing a seam with your machine. Clip are easy to remove, and you don’t risk getting pricked.
72. Organize paper serviettes
Serviette leftovers – paper clip together with a card indicating the number of serviettes, so when you have an event you can whip out 8, 10, 12, or 16 of the same pattern serviettes instead of wasting time matching up and counting.
Photo D5 Different designs of paper serviettes clipped together with the number in the bundle indicated.
73. Black resist scratch paper for kids art
Get kids to cover a page with various colors of crayon, paint over with a water based black paint.
Give them a straightened-out paper clip to scratch in their design and create a unique artwork – so much cheaper than buying ready-made paper
74. Create pin-prick patterns on paper
Let kids sketch a shape or give them a coloring page to place under a clean sheet, then let them trace the image with pencil dots, then remove page from underneath and on a foam surface use a straightened paper clip to make pin prick holes.
Once finished, place a candle behind to create a pretty lamp. This idea can also be used to cover glass candle jars.
75. Potato stamps
These are usually cut quite coarsely with a knife, but with the straightened-out end of a paper clip you can get in so much more detail, carving out intricate patterns that go beyond the usual kindergarten stuff.
76. Makeshift toothpick for snacks
Not for picking your teeth, but as a makeshift way to stab those oily mussels or smoked oysters from a can on a picnic without getting your fingers oily or oil dripping over your top.
77. Cocktail stick
When those pieces of pineapple, cherry or whatever perched on the side of a cocktail glass won’t stay put, thread onto a pretty colored straightened paper clip, then bend over the glass edge, so it all stays put.
78. Identity marker
Scratch your name in inconspicuous places on frequently borrowed stationery such as rulers, staplers and punches.
79. Polystyrene piercer
Have to hang up polystyrene ornaments and don’t want big holes or obvious hanging cords? Straighten a large paper clip and stab a holes through, then thread fishing line through the holes and hang.
80. Extracting tool
I don’t know about you but coins or nail files sometimes slip into cracks when you open the compartments on the dashboard of a car and nothing seems small enough to slide the item out. The straightened end of a paper clip does the job perfectly.
81. Mark car batteries
Scratch your name in an inconspicuous place on car batteries with a straightened paper clip, so you know if one is replaced with a junked one by dishonest workshops.
Jeanie is an avid camper and a cook. She likes to do pioneer recipe sin particular, and any other type of survival food that our great-grandfathers loved.