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10 Uses for Keys

Spare keys for old locks find a new home

Putting Brass to Task

Photo by Manfred Koh/Time Inc. Digital Studio

These indispensable openers—often made of brass—can do more than provide access. Read on to unlock new uses.

1. Use as a Plumb Bob

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Tie a key to a string when you need a vertical reference line for indoor jobs, such as hanging wallpaper. Because the key is flat, it will sit flush against the wall, unlike a regular plumb bob, making it easier to check that your work is straight as you go.

2. Turn Them into Hooks

Photo by John Gruen

Bend the keys using pliers and a crescent wrench—if keys are old and brittle, you may want to heat them over a gas burner first to make the metal more pliable and prevent them from cracking. Attach to a piece of wood with decorative nails or tacks.

3. Clean Boot Treads

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Use a key to dig out caked-on mud from the soles of work boots. The tip fits between treads perfectly.

4. Weigh Down Curtains

Photo by John Gruen

Slip keys into the hem pocket along the bottom edge of lightweight drapes that are near a breezy floor register, to keep them from blowing around.

5. Pop a Top

Photo by John Gruen

Grab the edge of a beer or soda bottle cap with a key's teeth and lever it off.

6. Anchor a Balloon

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Tie a few loose keys to the ribbon on a party-ready helium balloon to keep it from floating away.

7. Create a Door Chime

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Suspend keys from staggered lengths of fishing line attached along the edge of a narrow board with eye screws. Hang on a door to alert you when someone is entering.

8. Distress Furniture

Photo by John Gruen

Place several old keys on a ring and attach to a piece of string or a long zip tie. Beat furniture with the keys to create indentations where wear marks might occur naturally with age.

9. Make Magnets

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Glue small magnets to the backs of old tarnished keys to add a fun touch to your fridge front.

10. Donate Them to Charity

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Send extra keys to Keys for Kindness, an organization that raises money for multiple sclerosis by recycling the metal.