· Bright Ideas · 9 Household Swaps That Are Really Useful In A Pinch

9 Household Swaps That Are Really Useful In A Pinch


It’s happened to all of us – you’re in the middle of a project, when you suddenly realize you don’t have that one thing you need. I really hate having to make unnecessary trips to the grocery store, so I’m always looking for ways to “make it work,” as Tim Gunn from Project Runway would say!

Luckily for me—and for all of us—there are many simple substitutions you can make in a pinch that can eliminate the need for that one-item trip to the store. Here are a few of my favorites, but I know there are a LOT more out there.

If you know of a simple substitution that wasn’t listed here, share it with us in a comment at the end of this post!

9 Simple Substitutions You Can Make In a Pinch

Note: For each item in this list, the thing you need is listed first and the thing you can use as a substitute is listed second. (For example, the header for #1 below signifies that if you need all-purpose cleaning spray and don’t have any, you can use shaving cream instead.)


1.  All-Purpose Cleaning Spray ➜ Shaving Cream

Shaving foam contains a high concentration of soap (typically about 8 percent), which makes it perfect for removing stubborn greasy stains. The long-lasting foam also gives the soap a chance to really work on grease and grime.

Grab a can of foaming shaving cream and spray a dollop on your table or countertop. Spread the shaving cream around with your hand or a rag, let it sit for about 10 minutes, then wipe the cream away with a damp sponge or towel.


2.  Dry Shampoo ➜ Cornstarch

You can use plain old cornstarch as a dry shampoo in a pinch. Sprinkle it on your scalp and use your fingertips to work it into your roots, then shake your hair to get rid of any excess. The cornstarch absorbs oils in your hair, leaving it clean and smelling fresh!


3.  Dish Soap ➜ Shampoo

You can use a plain, unscented shampoo to hand wash dishes if you don’t have any dish soap or can’t make your own. Don’t put it in your dishwasher though… that’s a bubbly disaster waiting to happen!


4.  Deodorant ➜ Lemon Juice

If you have some lemon juice on hand, pour a bit out onto a paper towel and wipe your underarm area with it. The lemon juice kills bacteria and will keep you smelling fresh—for a few hours, anyway. (Or you can always make your own all-natural deodorant!)


5.  Bread Crumbs ➜ Crackers

You don’t always have to have a box of Panko on hand for bread crumbs! You can crush up a sleeve of crackers, or even grind up some oats to use as a crumb-y topping. Or if you have some sandwich bread at home, you can always toast up a few pieces to make your own bread crumbs.


6.  Buttermilk ➜ Lemon Juice & Milk

How often have you found yourself in this situation? You want to make a recipe, but you don’t necessarily want to buy an entire carton of buttermilk when you only need a half-cup. Here is a simple solution: make a quick buttermilk substitute by adding 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of milk.

This mixture won’t get as thick and creamy as buttermilk, but it will perform its role in a recipe just as well. Incidentally, yogurt or sour cream thinned with milk (or plain water, in a pinch) also work well as buttermilk substitutes.


7.  Vinegar ➜ Lemon Juice (And Vice Versa)

Vinegar and lemon juice can be used interchangeably in a lot of recipes since they have a similar acidic quality. Use 1/2 teaspoon vinegar per 1 teaspoon of lemon juice needed, and vice versa.


8.  Baking Powder ➜ Baking Soda & Cream Of Tartar

Mix 1 part baking soda with 2 parts cream of tartar to make a baking powder substitute. For instance, if I needed 1 tablespoon of baking powder for a recipe, I would just add 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar instead. (Learn more about cream of tartar’s wide range of household uses here.)


9.  Arrowroot Powder ➜ Cornstarch (And Vice Versa)

Arrowroot powder and cornstarch can be used interchangeably in most recipes. They are both starchy powders that help thicken whatever mixture they are added to.

While this post focused on simple substitutions you can make in a pinch, there are plenty of pantry staples that you can make in your own kitchen too. Read my post on 20 Pantry Staples You Can Easily Make Yourself to learn more!

Do you have a simple, in-a-pinch substitution that you would add to this list?

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Bright Ideas

  • Baking soda is an excellent “shampoo.” I’ve been using it exclusively for over a decade. If you like, use diluted apple cider vinegar as a conditioner, but only after you’ve rinsed the soda out. The acv really softens hair nicely but I don’t need it ever since we installed a whole house filter

  • I have often used bar soap to do dishes. Seems like I am always running out of Dawn. It’s a little slippery but bar soap on your sponge does a great job in a pinch.

  • A simple one for me is using toilet tissue instead of Kleenex – but not interchangeably. Never flush Kleenex or face tissue unless you’ve checked out Jillee’s post on how to unclog a toilet!

  • If you don’t want to use deodorant because of its chemicals, you can substitute Milk of Magnesia. I am loving it so much better than anything else I have tried.

    • +1 I’ve been using Milk of Magnesia as deodorant for years. I buy the sugar-free version as it is not sticky. Sugar free is more expensive but a 4 oz bottle lasts me a very long time, so it’s still economical.

  • An amazing substitute for breadcrumbs…grind up some pork rinds! Throw them in a blender and pulse until you get a fine consistency. Yes, they are high in fat, but worth it to me…following a high fat, low carb diet (NOT keto though, a bit too risky for me) has been a wonderful gift for me. I’ve lost 70 lbs, and my cholesterol numbers (both good and bad cholesterol) have stayed very good!

    Ground pork rinds add such great flavor to chicken, pork chops, onion rings, I was really surprised. I dip the items in egg first, then the rinds. Onion rings are a struggle…nothing wants to stick to them, it seems…but a little patience goes a long way! :)

    • What a great idea, Kate! I bet they ARE good on the things you named. I will definitely give them a whirl! Thanks so much for sharing. :)

      And as always, thank you, Jillee. You’re the best! <3

  • When a recipe calls for an egg, and you don’t have an egg, add 1 Tablespoon real mayonnaise instead. In a baked item, you should not notice a difference. Of course, this doesn’t work for scrambled eggs or any all-egg dish. LOL

  • Out of shampoo? Use an egg. If your hair is long/thick you may ant to use 2 or 3. I’ve done this and you would be surprised at how nice it works. If you have chickens, you may not buy shampoo anymore. Use vinegar for the final rinse (lemon juice if your blonde) for conditioner.

  • Powered buttermilk can be found in most health food stores, I use it all the time in
    pancakes and when making bread in my machine instead of the dry skim milk it calls for .

    I also make a quick cleaner spray of vinegar and tea tree oil .( 10-12 drops in spray bottle ) Smells great and disinfects at the same time . Sometimes I add one or two drops of dish soap .
    Saves on all those other products with the chemical additives . I have even tried it on laundry stains (with the soap ) and it worked for me .
    Tea tree oil is a great item to have on hand for multiple other uses .

  • Just wanted to mention that if you have dark hair, you can use cocoa powder instead of cornstarch for the dry shampoo. Just be careful not to get it next to your scalp or you will have an orangey brown looking head. We put it in a shaker, like you’d use for parmesan cheese, the sprinkle it on your hair. Let it sit for a few seconds to absorb grease then fluff your hair around with your hands to get most of it out. It’s also best not to do it after you’ve got your good clothes on, until you’re confident you’re not going to get it on your shoulders and back, LOL.

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