June 9, 2023 | Samuel Ira

People Share The Surprisingly Cool Features Of Common Products

All products have a main intended purpose, but if you look a little deeper into their features or employ just enough creativity, you might be able to find extraneous uses for them that are just as useful. Here are the surprisingly cool features of common products that everyday people have discovered and shared online:


#1 Measuring Tape Facts

Measuring tapes have a few features that a lot of people don't seem to know about. The notch in the metal clip is so you can pop a nail into something and hook the tape onto the nail to measure on your own. You can also hook it onto a nail, hold a pencil at a measurement you want, and use it to draw a circle.

That metal clip is also serrated so that you can use it to scrape a mark in something like wood when you don't have a pencil handy. Also, in relation to the metal clip, you may notice it's loose. It's loose by exactly the thickness of the clip so that you get a correct measurement of whether you're measuring from inside or outside.

Finally, if you look at the side of the tape, you'll notice a measurement is written there, like 70 mm. This is the length of the measuring tape housing itself. The reason for this is so that you can sit the tape against a window frame, for instance, and measure to the other end. Now just take the measurement and add the measurement on the housing.

Most people seem to just bend the tape into the corner, but that's just cumbersome and likely inaccurate.


#2 With The Press Of A Key

Microsoft Word has a reference section that will auto-format bibliographies and in-text citations with different styles. All you have to do is add the sources and it does everything else. My middle school history teacher taught us this feature and pretty much forced us to use it to save herself headaches, and then my high school English teacher viewed it as CHEATING and wouldn’t let us use it... Good to know just in case you decide to go through with this.


#3 Android Convenience

I only found out a couple of weeks ago that with most Android phones you can double-tap the button that shows your open apps to switch between the last two you used. Go into Settings > About Phone and find "Build Number." Tap seven times, it will say "you are now a developer!" Developer options will now appear in your settings and provide you with more advanced options for your phone.

In particular, what I like in this menu is that can turn off (or on) auto system update, make sure your phone isn't always using mobile data even on wifi, and choose to edit your animations. I like to have my "animation scale" set to 0.5x or off because it makes the phone seem faster.


#4 A Fire Safety Feature

Most toasters have little removable trays at the bottom that catch the crumbs that fall off the bread. It turns out that you can empty those periodically to keep from accidentally burning down your house. Also, you can push the lever up to make the toast stand out of the toaster, so you don't have to stick your fingers in. I feel like lots of people don't realize it doesn't only push down.


#5 Your Political Leaning

Facebook has you labeled as a certain political leaning: Settings > Account Settings > Ads > Your Information > Your Categories > US Politics. Apparently, I'm "moderate." Frankly, I am pretty much politically moderate, for better or worse. I'm not letting Facebook tell me what I am, it's just fascinating to see what data they think they've gathered on us, profiling us, and compare it to how we see ourselves. It's just a small and spooky glimpse into the nature of what sharing our data looks like.


#6 For Peace And Quiet

You can turn off the sound from those annoying videos at the gas pump by hitting the buttons on the right from the top down in sequence. Screw those ads for real, though. I wouldn't mind just the video, but the sounds are tiny and piercing and I already don't want to be standing in the cold pumping gas. They probably only get like a dollar per day from those, too.


#7 You're Not That Important

Cell phones can be held up to your ear so you talk in a normal voice instead of holding the phone like it's toast you're about to eat and letting everyone in a 12-foot radius hear your entire conversation. I, for the life of me, cannot figure out why people do this. My impression is that it makes the person doing it feel important.


#8 A Living Footrest

If you own a dog of at least 35 pounds, then you also own a footrest. Source: My dog doubles as a footrest. Also a towel. And a package delivery alert system. She's basically a Swiss Army knife I have to feed. Also, you never have to pick up dropped food. I find myself at friend's houses sweeping crumbs onto the floor in default treat-for-the-dog mode and they don't have a dog.


#9 Finding Lost Glasses

Many phone cameras can see infrared. Point a remote at your phone, push a button, and watch your screen. You should be able to see the light that comes from the remote. I use mine to find my glasses when I can't see. Say you lose your glasses and your vision is too blurry to fumble around your rooms trying to find them. So instead, you turn on your phone camera and point your phone around the room. Instead of looking at the room, you look at your phone screen, which is clearer to you.


#10 Shake It Real Good

I just recently realized that shaking a window of an application minimizes all the others that you have open. It's not just my Windows being stupid as usual... it's done so you can hide your browser at work when your boss comes in. The application has to be in window mode (may work a bit wonky if it's maximized). Grab the top bar of the window and "shake it" left to right (or up and down) a couple of times.


#11 I Love Baking Soda

Baking soda is phenomenal at cleaning sinks and tubs. Just sprinkle it on dry and use a dry cloth to erase the stains. Also, vinegar—add a cup at the start of your rinse cycle along with detergent. It makes an excellent fabric softener for cotton-based fabrics. If you add it in the beginning, it will lessen the efficacy of the detergent. It also does not leave a smell once the fabrics have dried.

Close-up Of Baking Soda On Spoon.Flickr

#12 Stove Hoods?

Most ovens' range hoods can be opened and propped up like a car hood making it easier to clean underneath. I did this once while house hunting. The realtor was like, "This is a new stove." It looked pristine but the skeptic in me lifted the "hood." It was, in fact, new, and my realtor was very upset at my "destructive behavior."

#13 Avoiding A Mess

Baby onesies have that weird shoulder construction so that when the baby has a blowout and there's a mess everywhere, you can pull the onesie down off the baby to avoid smearing the mess on the baby's face, hair, or upper half. It's also helpful for fitting over their ginormous baby heads, of course. I have two kids with giant freaking heads, so I can confirm.


#14 Libraries Rock!

Not so much a product but a service: your local library almost certainly offers free ebooks and audiobooks via Overdrive. All you need is a library card number and a PIN. Many libraries also offer online learning courses like Lynda. They're a delight. And some libraries get a little crazy and loan out artwork, cake pans, hand tools...


#15 Proper Dispensing

Do you know those rolls of tin foil or plastic wrap that come in the long rectangle boxes? They have tabs on either end that you’re supposed to push in and it keeps the roll in place so you don’t have to hold it down when you unravel it. I'm pretty upset at how infrequently I open a new roll, but at least I know now.

Aluminum foil, close upFlickr

#16 A Good Combination

Liquid dish detergent is really good for taking oily or greasy stains out of clothes (the kind that is still there even after a cycle through the washer). For even better results, put the dish detergent on the stain, dampen the area, and then sprinkle salt on it. I don't know why it works, but it does. I've had stains that have already gone through the dryer that came out next washing with this method.


#17 Reverse Stapling

There's a bit at the end of a stapler you can reverse so the staples bend out instead of in, for a less permanent stapling that is easier to remove by hand. This absolutely blew my mind, and the pivoting "anvil" is common across all decent staplers. My coworkers were less impressed than myself, but you just can't account for poor taste.


#18 Handy Excel Tip

If you have multiple sheets and need them all formatted the same way, you can press CTRL and click each sheet to "group" them together. Whatever you do in one sheet will be done on the other sheet. So, if you need like First Name, Last Name, birthday on each sheet in a specific font, by doing this you only have to type it in once and it will show up exactly the same on each sheet that you have grouped together. It's seriously a huge time saver!


#19 A Hidden Key

If your car won't start with the electronic push-button, you can touch your key fob to the start button and push it in and it should turn on. If it turns on, it likely means you have a dead key fob battery which is extremely cheap to replace. If the car doesn't start, you have a bigger issue—a dead battery, an issue with the starter, etc. You should take it to a mechanic in those cases.


#20 Coffee Bag Science

The valves on coffee bags are not for you to smell (although you certainly can!) Rather, they are to release gases like CO2 whilst not letting back in oxygen which stales coffee. Coffee emits a lot of gas after being roasted, so if that valve wasn’t on there, bags would puff up and possibly explode. Just a bit of science for your day.


#21 Browser Shortcut

It might be obvious, but most times someone's over my shoulder on my computer, they seem surprised. In most browsers, if you want to Google some text from a webpage, you can highlight it and drag it up to the tabs area. No need to copy and paste or right-click. You can also right-click and choose the phrase you highlighted. It's great!


#22 Get In Sync

When watching YouTube videos, the J, K, and L keys are rewind 10 seconds, pause/play, and fast forward 10 seconds respectively. But if you’re using the VLC media player (and honestly, you should be), J and K adjust the audio sync. Ever been watching a movie and the audio doesn’t quite line up with the actors’ mouths? For me, that’s infuriating. Use J or K to dial it in.


#23 Lower Your Windows

With many car key remotes, you can make all the windows go down at once by pushing the "unlock" button three times: the first time unlocks the driver's door; the second time unlocks the passenger doors, the third time lowers all windows at the same time—a handy feature in warm weather. My old VW Passat did this. I could never figure out why I would need all my windows open at once. But I do live in England so maybe I wasn’t the target market for this feature!


#24 Always Gathering Data

Your iPhone gathers a lot more location data than you may have originally thought. It's a setting called "Frequent Locations." As you go about your daily routine, your iPhone makes note of where you are and how long you're there. When it starts detecting patterns, it marks the spot as one such "frequent location." It (rather accurately) assumes workplace location based on where you are during the day and your house address based on where you are at night. It tracks various repeated locations regardless of time: friends' houses, favorite restaurants and the like.


#25 Oh, Jane.

Microsoft Excel allows you to password lock whole sheets or just sections of sheets. This means you can save a template and don’t have to worry about it getting messed up. Or you can lock the sheet so when you send it off, nobody can screw it up and BLAME IT ON YOU JANE I HATE YOU SO MUCH I HOPE THE ACCOUNTING WING BURNS TO THE GROUND!


#26 Streetlight Strategy

In cities on average-use intersections, there are sensors on left-hand turns that track two settings: "Is there a car above me?" and "Estimated cars inline." Heavy-use intersections tend to just be on timers and low-use intersections have just the first sensor.

The first setting is simple: if there is a car before me, change the light. This means you need to stop before the stop line on the sensor. The second is more complex: when the light turns green, the computer wants to know how long to keep it green before letting other traffic through. It does this by counting cars that drive over it and analyzing the gap between them.

The longer the gap, the faster the light goes yellow. This means when making a turn, get off your phone and stay close to the person ahead of you and we'll all make it through without a single one of us running a red.


#27 Dim The Reflection

That weird switch on your rear-view mirror is a dimmer switch to prevent headlights behind you from blinding you. If you look carefully you should be able to see a second fainter reflection in the mirror. It's more notable at night, with lights in the mirror. I always assumed it was just a flaw until I noticed it lines up with where you have the main reflection when you flip the switch up. I've never bothered to confirm this theory, but I've checked in every car I've owned since, and they all worked the same.


#28 The New Aloe

To totally eliminate sunburn pain, apply apple cider vinegar. I was on a family vacation and got absolutely FRIED by the third day. My sister in law wanted to spray me down with it, saying it would help, but I wouldn't let her because I thought she was trying to punk me. By the evening it hurt so bad that I'd try anything. Sprayed it on with a sprayer (like a Windex bottle) and within five minutes the pain was gone. I was still red, of course, but the pain was 99% gone. It was absolutely miraculous!


#29 Emergency Dial

Almost all modern cell phones will dial the correct local emergency number if you dial any common emergency number from anywhere in the world. So dialing 911 in England gets you emergency services and dialing 999 in the US does too. It's part of the industry standard for cell phone protocols. This is probably why you keep hearing about people pocket dialing 911, it seems like there should be very low odds of that happening but they're actually pocket dialing 999.


#30 Clueless Dad

The bottom liquid catchers on most Keurig coffee makers can be removed so you can fit a Thermos underneath. My brother kept making coffee in a cup and pouring it into his Thermos. He had no idea the bottom could be pulled off. Then again, his six-year-old daughter did show him that lint roller papers can be removed...

#31 The Android Beam

Android phones have a feature called Android Beam where you can transfer data from other phones, and even objects, by touching it to the back of the phone. I discovered this when I was Googling ways to know how much money I had left on a Japanese subway card. The only other thing I have found this useful for was a Tamigotchi, so maybe this is really only useful if you're a teenage girl in Japan ffive years ago, which I am not.


#32 Setting Locks

I just learned this—you can reprogram the locks in your car so they lock and unlock when you want them to. I just got a new car and when I park and shut off the car, only the drivers side door would unlock. I Googled instructions to set it so that when I shift into park, all the doors unlock. You can also set it so they don't unlock until you turn off the car, and adjust the lock settings so all the doors lock when you go into gear, get up to speed, or don't lock themselves. I always thought different cars had different settings and you just had to live with whatever it was.


#33 Fire Starter

Your clothes dryer has a lint trap that keeps the exhaust from getting clogged and becoming a fire hazard. You need to clean this every load, and as a bonus, the clothes will dry faster than if it's clogged. If you go camping, take the lint with you in a baggie. They make an excellent fire starter if you need to start one.


#34 Guided Access

You can enable Guided Access on your iPhone in your settings. When enabled, you can triple-tap your home button, which brings up a prompt to start Guided Access. When in Guided Access, you have options to disable certain functions of your phone, such as touch. This is perfect for lending people your phone to show them a photo so that they can't do anything else on your phone.


#35 Coca Cola Connoisseur

On those fancy Coke machines with the touchscreens, there's a QR code in the bottom right corner. Turns out, Coca Cola has an app you can download that lets you create your own mixes of their products. You can pick up to three coke products, pick an extra flavor for each (cherry, lime, vanilla, etc.), and even specify how much of each drink you want in your mix based on percentages.

When you go to the machine, you scan the QR code with the app, and then your top three mixes will appear on the screen. From there, you can pick one and the machine will pour it out for you. Also, the app has a locator for those machines, so if you REALLY want to use one, you can find it.


#36 Made For Recycling

Cheap water bottles have those ridges in them so that when you're done drinking the bottle, you can simply crush them downwards, then spin the cap back on to seal them shut. This prevents air from getting back into the bottle and minimizes the amount of space the trash takes up should it not end up in a recycling facility.


#37 Lettuce Hack

If you want to remove the core from a head of iceberg lettuce, first grab the head of lettuce like you're palming a basketball. The base of the core should be on the opposite side away from your palm. Then slam the lettuce down on a countertop. Not so hard you smash the whole freaking thing into oblivion, but slam it down. The core will come out nice and clean.


#38 Soap Opera Effect

Ever wonder why Blu-rays or some video files look weird? Like the shot seems to feel unnatural in that it kind of looks like a soap opera? It's called the Soap Opera effect. Go to your TV's picture settings and turn OFF Auto Motion Plus. Different brands of TVs will often have different names for the same thing, so Google it first if anything.


#39 Handy Silencing

Literally every cell phone I have ever dealt with can mute an incoming phone call by hitting any of the volume buttons on the side. It won't reject the call; you can hit the side button and it will simply continue to ring without making any noise or vibrations.

It's handy if you forget to silence your phone and it goes off in your pocket as you can quickly mute it by feel. Also handy if someone leaves their phone out on a table and walks away. If you're left to deal with it vibrating nonstop but don't want to intrude by messing with their stuff then just hit mute as calls come in.


#40 Saved My Bacon

Leaving a voice mail. Nearly all voicemail machines allow you to press * and re-record if you screwed up your message. Most people don't know this and feel like idiots when they mess up. I use this all the time at work when I nervously jumble my words. Especially that one time I left a message to a director and started mumbling curse words after calling him by the wrong name on the message. Saved my bacon.

#41 For Nintendo Lovers

The S8 and probably other newer phones can program NFC tags that are used for amiibos. I just cheaply bought some tags and downloaded a couple of things to my phone and now I have a bunch of tags to scan in games that allow them. It worked nicely for Zelda. Cost me ten bucks and shipping. Amiibos aren't cheap and I'm not collecting them for fun so it was worth it to me to buy tags.


#42 Coca Cola Detergent

Pour a can of Coca Cola in the wash once the water fills up, let soak for 30 minutes, close the lid and let the wash continue. I've used this to get blood, sweat, and tears from coveralls and flight suits for years. They come out looking and smelling fresh even if they were dripping head to toe in jet fuel, hydraulic oil, engine oil, gear oil... heck, even that 90W gear oil smell and the stain will be gone. The best trick the Marine Corps taught me for household use.


#43 A Natural Remedy

Apple cider vinegar is a great natural remedy for removing plantar warts. It's way cheaper than the over the counter remedies and works way better. Just dip a little bit of cotton swab in the vinegar, and put it under a band-aid which you place over the wart. after a day or two, the thing will turn black and start to die, eventually just falling off.


#44 Bringing Back Radio

Most cellphones have built-in FM radios that are disabled in the US because heaven forbid we use the radio instead of our data to listen to music. Can you enable yours: possibly. I didn't think we actually could until today. I knew phones had the FM tuners for years, it's just most if not all phones lack a stock app to provide access.

Depending on your carrier and your phone model some apps will be able to tap into your phones FM tuner. You'll probably need to use headphones as having the headphone plugged in extends the antenna to improve the signal.


#45 About Credit Cards

A lot of credit cards offer an extended warranty on items purchased with the card. Usually +1 year from whatever the warranty on the item itself is. They don't include easy information on their website to find it, it's often in an entirely different website that you have to call and wait on hold to get. But you can register items you buy on there and get them replaced for free if they die before the extended warranty is up. Chase Freedom has this and it's a free credit card so it's not like this is only on premium cards.


#46 Efficient Procrastination

You can make nearly every app on your Android phone work in split-screen. Just open developer options and turn on "force activities to resize" (it's near the bottom). Anything that wouldn't normally allow split-screen should now work in split-screen. Watching YouTube while going through Reddit, Instagram, playing games. Makes wasting too much time so much more efficient.


#47 Office Chair Settings

Most everyone knows that office chairs have height adjustment, but many don’t realize there is also often a tilt tension control knob under the seat that adjusts how far forward the backrest will tilt, I make sure it’s always far forward on my older office chair because it helps it feel stiffer. Other days, I put mine all the way back, when I feel like I got to be able to move.


#48 Nail Glue Magic

Nail glue (the kind for faux nails) can also be used to fix cracked plastic. I broke my glasses once and added a little dab of glue, three years later it's as good as new and still just as sturdy. It's a very high strength product, waterproof, and dries in a couple of seconds. I keep a small bottle in my bag at all times.


#49 Splitting The Y

A lot of earbuds have a tiny slider right where the wires split and make the Y. This is not intended to allow you to cinch them tight to your chin. It's meant to make the two wires one, for easy tangle free winding and unwinding. Simply slide this piece up to the drivers/buds making it one single wire, then you can easily wind and unwind them without them tangling due to separation.


#50 A Useful Notch

That notch in the blade of your kitchen shears is for cutting things like flower stems and chicken bones that would otherwise just slide out when you try to cut them. If this is still too difficult to use, get a pair of serrated safety scissors. Definitely a must-have if you're playing around with food. Emergencies happen!



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