Whether you’re a parent or not, you probably know what slime is. This snot-looking goo was a huge DIY trend a couple of years ago, and it seemed like there wasn’t an easier way to make a kid happy than to say “Hey, wanna make some slime?”
But what you may not know is that slime has an utterly practical application: It cleans nooks and crannies really, really well. Thanks to its sticky, almost fluid nature, slime can ooze into any opening and pull out hard-to-reach dust, dirt, and crumbs. This cleaning putty is at its best stuffed into cupholders, smushed across your keyboard, and even poked into the tiny holes on your smartphone.
But first, you need to make it.
How to make cleaning putty
- Time: 3 minutes
- Material cost: less than 50 cents for a golf ball-sized blob
- Difficulty: Easy
- ½ teaspoon of borax
- 1 tablespoon of extra-strong white glue
- 2 tablespoons of warm water
- (Optional) food coloring
- 2 small containers
- Measuring spoons
- A small plastic spoon (or chopstick)
1. Make a borax solution. Pour 1 tablespoon of water and the borax into one container. Stir thoroughly to dissolve the borax.
- Note: You can use cold water if you want, but it will take way more stirring than you think.
2. Make a glue solution. Pour the white glue and the other tablespoon of water into your second container. Stir to mix well.
- Pro tip: The kind of glue you use is critical. School-grade white glue will render a messy, non-stretchy, not-that-sticky slime, while using extra-strong glue like Elmer’s Glue-All will result in a more malleable, resilient goo.
[Related: How (and why) to clean your dryer vent]
3. (Optional) Add color. If you’re into it, you can add food coloring into your glue solution to make your slime pop. But since this is a cleaning putty, sticking to white will make it all the more satisfying when you peel that gross gunk off your keyboard.
4. Slowly pour the borax solution into the glue solution as you stir. You’ll see the texture of the glue solution almost immediately turn into slime when it comes into contact with the borax.
- Note: You might not need all of the borax solution. If the slime is big enough or there’s no more glue solution, you can stop pouring.
5. Knead the slime in your hands for a couple of seconds. This will fully integrate any leftover water into the slime.
6. Get cleaning. Your cleaning putty will only last for two to three hours. After that, it’ll become less sticky and more solid. It’s best to use it as soon as you make it. But if you want to prolong its shelf life, store it in an airtight container.
Once you’re done with it, toss it in the trash. Never flush it down the toilet.
How to use your cleaning putty
Blot your putty on any surface to collect crumbs, hair, or dust. If you’re dealing with a hard-to-reach place, like the cupholder in your car, use your fingers to press the putty and make sure the goo gets into every corner.
Try cleaning these places to start:
Depending on the kind of keyboard you have, slime can get in between the keys and extract some of the accumulated gunk.
You may need to be persistent. This cleaning putty is sticky, but not so much that it will leave residue where you don’t want it. Although this makes slime slightly inefficient when it comes to cleaning, it’s safer to use with electronics—you certainly don’t want bits of slime preventing the R key from working properly.
There are lots of reasons why your flash drive may be malfunctioning, or why your phone is not charging fast enough. Dirt and debris in the USB port is a big one. To clean it, carefully push your slime into the hole with your thumb, then slowly remove it. Repeat as necessary. If some of the slime sticks in there, use your finger to get it out.
The holes in your smartphone
If you’re lucky, you’ve never even thought about the tiny holes on the bottom of your smartphone. But if you’ve looked at them even once, chances are you haven’t forgotten about them. These crevices serve as your device’s microphone and speakers, and you definitely don’t want to think about how close to your mouth these pits of grime are when you’re holding your phone to your ear. To clean them, gently push the putty in and remove it carefully. Repeat as necessary.
Your dashboard is probably dirty and your air conditioning vent is most likely covered in dust. Get the cleaning putty in there to get the dirt out.
Those are just a few places we know slime will clean well, but you may find others. Just don’t try to use it on your own body—soap is way better.