Even the biggest discoveries can happen by accident. So it's only natural that many of the world's famous products were created for one purpose but people found them useful for a completely different task.
In an attempt to learn about as many of these cases as they could, Redditor u/ljchazal posted a question on the platform, asking other users, "What products serve a better purpose than what they were designed for?" And everyone immediately started submitting their answers.
As of this article, there are 14K comments under the post, many of which provide surprising insights into such things as talcum powder or botox. Bored Panda went through them all and handpicked a selection we believe is worthy of your time. Enjoy.
Press and Seal sucks for food use in my experience, but we use it to apply numbing cream on my son's chest at home before he gets blood drawn from his port at the oncology clinic each week. It holds the cream in place and adheres to his skin well enough that the film doesn't get dislodged by the seat belt on the ride to the hospital. It comes off painlessly, which is not the case for any medical films we have tried. It's a strange little miracle in the pediatric oncology world.
There are many approaches to creating a product. So to find out more about these practices, we contacted Chris Lefteri who's recognized throughout the world as a leading authority on materials and their application in design.
"In my work, the process starts with researching and finding materials and because it's about bringing material innovation to my clients, it's essential that we understand what the material can achieve and start designing from that," the creator of FixIts, a reusable bioplastic stick that is revolutionizing repairs and the fight against unnecessary waste and product obsolescence, told Bored Panda.
"If you play with materials, pull them apart and ask them what they want to be, then they will give you the answers. It's much more effective than designing products and then trying to fit a material into something you have already designed."
The royal dansk danish cookie container, used by many for storing sewing/ knitting supplies
Trying to determine whether or not a particular design is good, many turn to Dieter Rams and his '10 commandments.' According to Rams, good design is innovative, makes a product useful, is aesthetic, makes a product understandable, is unobtrusive, is honest, is long-lasting, is thorough down to the last detail, is environmentally friendly, and involves as little design as possible.
But can we say that something is inherently bad because people found a new use for it? One that wasn't foreseen by the manufacturer?
"I love products that are misused!" Lefteri said. "People do it all the time, the back of a chair to hang clothes, a brick to hold open a door, an upturned pot as a step to reach. It's inspiring to see creativity applied in this way. My product FixIts, which is a moldable plastic that can be reused again and again, was created exactly with this in mind. It lets consumers find their own uses and be creative in how to make, mold, and mend."
Amputee here. VR systems have been shown to reduce phantom pain. The proprioceptive illusion of a VR system is similar to mirror therapy but more effective.
Taking a broader look, Lefteri thinks that it's more and more important that we find new ways to use materials and products since the global community needs to really think about the impact we all make on our planet. "If you can reuse something rather than throwing it away then that's far better than it ending up in a landfill," Lefteri added.
And he's right. Every year, we dump a massive 2.12 billion tons of waste into the Earth — if we put all of it on trucks, they would circle the world 24 times.
Garbage is dumped on land-based dumpsites or in the oceans and include:
- Construction waste;
- Industrial waste;
- Household waste;
- Plastic waste;
- Electronic waste;
- Radioactive waste;
- Run-off waste (fertilizers, pesticides, and oil from, for example, farms running off into groundwater, rivers, oceans).
We need to do better.
Sugar free gummy bears would be better marketed as gummy laxatives
Tampons were invented to plug bullet wounds and bloody noses. Then the nurses started using them to plug a different bloody hole.
Shaving cream, the super foamy cheap kind, cleans glass shower doors better than any cleaner!
Congested? Vicks Vapor Rub. Cough? Vicks Vapor Rub. Headache? Vicks Vapor Rub. Squeaky door hinge? Vicks Vapor Rub. Dry skin? Vicks Vapor Rub. Anything stuck? Vicks Vapor Rub.
I was prescribed a diabetes medication called Metformin, despite not having diabetes, which helped me to fall pregnant after almost 1.5 years of unexplained infertility so that’s pretty cool.
There's a prostate drug that my wife's doctor prescribed her for passing kidney stones. It relaxes the ureter, which let her pass the stones, which made surgery or other options unnecessary. I thought that was pretty neat.
Also, doc gave her another drug to lower her blood pressure (beta blocker), which reduced her anxiety almost immediately. All the time I've known her, she's been a nervous wreck over the most mundane things. Now she lives normally. She became a different person instantly. I could always see the shell she lived in and now it's broken away and gone. She's the person I saw behind the shell. Amazing.
Lebatolol (the BB) and flomax for the kidney stones.
There used to be a rat poison that would make the blood in the vermin stop clotting and literally let it bleed to death on the inside and lacking vitamin k. It's also odorless and tasteless, so the rest or mouse would come back and have more blood thinning until it died. Well, eventually rats and mice became resistant to this poison (because the smart survive and learn to avoid it or they had higher forms of vitamin k), and this, combined with a Navy officer attempting suicide by taking this four blocks of this poison and being just fine after getting vitamin k to stop the blood thinnig effects led to the creators taking a different path for this now ineffective rat poison...
And that's the story of the popular heart drug Warfarin.
I very, very seldom use flathead screwdrivers for their actual purpose. They’re just so useful - chisels, scrapers, punches, exploratory instruments, very small crowbars, shitty chopsticks... the possibilities are endless!
Botox. Originally used to control crossed eyes, then to control spasming facial muscles, when it was noticed it alleviated wrinkles. Now also used as a migraine treatment. Who would have thought injecting a toxin that temporarily paralyzes muscles would find such widespread usage?
Ketchup cleans up brass and gold better than most toxic chemicals sold as cleaners.
I used to clean cars at a rental company. We obviously didn't have enough time to deeply clean every car, and sometimes people would bring their dogs. We had a rubber brush for removing dog hair, but it hardly worked. Wearing a rubber glove and rubbing the hair off the seats and carpet worked wonders.
I use them for everything except holding documents- closing chip bags, holding parking stubs or packets of headache powder on my visor in my truck, keeping cables bundled, keeping the trash bag from slipping down into the trashcan, holding up my mini Spider-Man bobblehead so it looks like he's clinging upside-down on the bottom of a shelf, keeping rubberbands contained so they can't take over my junk drawer...
sticky notes were invented on accident when the adhesive used in them was rejected as a glue because it wasn’t strong. The inventor had a musician friend who loved how easy it made pinning his sheet music up, and now we have post-its
Originally developed as treatment for morning sickness, Thalidomide infamously caused serious birth defects in thousands of children. However, a cancer research lab in the 90s found out that Thalidomide cut off blood vessels shortly after the same lab discovered that solid tumors need new blood vessels to grow. Thalidomide has turned out to be a good potential treatment for multiple myeloma.
If you’re in an Asian household, dishwashers serve as excellent drying racks, as do empty ovens.
Talcum powder is great for getting excess sand off your feet when you get off the beach and want to put your shoes on without getting sandy socks and shoes for the rest of the day
Q-tips are meant for cleaning my ears and don't let anyone else tell you otherwise
A disposable razor will get all the loose bobbles from your clothes.
Hairspray takes toddler ink pen doodles off my couch. While it makes my hair look just awful sometimes.
Pipe cleaners. As a teacher and a pipe smoker, I can safely say I use them for arts and crafts about 1000x more often than I use them to clean out my pipe.
Melon baller. It's for making balls from melons but works perfectly to take the core out of apples and pears.
Ive used the same carabiner as a keyring for over a decade.
Its never had to support anywhere near the kilo Newtons its listed to be able to support.
Slipping keys on and off it is kilo tonnes easier and secure than normal key rings though.
My FoodSaver never sees anything edible. Instead, I use it to protect infrequently used items from dust & moisture, and to make archived papers (taxes, passport, etc.) easier to store. It's also very useful to repackage bulky or specialized cleaning products & supplies & emergency items.
Food, that just gets eaten, usually.
Bubblewrap initially was just fancy wallpaper.
Also, superglue was invented by accident, when engineers couldn't separate glass sheets after attempting to make clear plastic. Later it was used in battlefields to temporarily close wounds.
My dad bought a fruit scale specifically for the purpose of weighing meatballs. His reasoning was that, if all the meatballs he prepared are the same weight, he'd only have to poke one to know whether or not they were all cooked because the heat absorption would be more or less identical.
Scarf hanger = camisole holder.
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