About three years into our marriage, my wife confronted me with a strange look on her face. Denise had been poking around my workshop in the garage and discovered my stash of pantyhose.
"Jeff, is there something you want to tell me?"
"Don't worry, honey," I said. "They're not mine. Well, I mean, I don’t wear pantyhose." I could see from her expression that thought hadn’t crossed her mind, although when I mentioned it her jaw dropped another level lower.
"Oh, no, no, no! They’re not some other woman’s either." Now she looked a little relieved, but still confused.
"They're your old pantyhose," I said proudly "Ever since we've been married, I've been picking them out of the garbage can whenever you throw away a pair."
"OK. Dare I ask why?" she said.
"Well, you can do a bunch of things with worn-out pantyhose," I said.
That conversation was 25 years ago. Now, Denise gets even more excited than I do when a pair of her hosiery is ready for the box in my workshop. Here are our money-saving reuses for pantyhose on their last legs:
Cheapskate’s soap on a rope: Rub-a-dub-dub, there’s a cheapskate in my tub! Save your soap slivers and put them in the foot of a pair of pantyhose to get every last bit of suds out of them. I also keep one of these cheapskate’s soap on a rope tied to the outdoor water faucet for a quick cleanup after working in the yard.
Garden ties: Lengths of old pantyhose are perfect for tying up tomatoes and other plants in the garden; their elasticity is easier on tender plants than string is.
Wrinkle-free gift wrap storage: Store rolls of gift wrap paper in old pantyhose — one roll per leg — and hang them in the closet to keep paper neat and tatter-free.
Sachets: Put a little potpourri in a length of pantyhose, tie it off at both ends, and use it to keep closets and dressers smelling sweet. Or, fill them with a few mothballs to prevent clothes damage during storage.
Stuff a pillow: Cut pantyhose into strips and use them to stuff toys or pillows.
Replace a torn pair in a pinch: If she has a run in the left leg and a matching pair with a run in the right, my wife sometimes cuts off her bad legs (so to speak) and doubles up, wearing two layers of panties with a good leg attached to each. God, I love that frugal woman.
Avoid the draft: Fill pantyhose with kitty litter to make your own "draft dodgers" for sealing off cold drafts coming under doors and windows.
Protect veggies in the garden: Put pantyhose over vegetables such as melons, pumpkins, and squash while they’re still growing to protect them against pest damage without using chemical pesticides.
Packing peanut storage: Foam packing peanuts can be neatly stored in a pair of pantyhose to keep them from flying all over the house. Cut a hole in the toe and tie it off with a twisty seal for easy peanut dispensing when you’re ready to use them.
Pantry storage: Store potatoes, onions and garlic in pantyhose and hang them in the pantry to promote good air circulation that makes veggies last longer.
Homemade bungee cords: The elasticity of pantyhose makes them perfect all-purpose tie-down straps. Tie a metal S hook from the hardware store on each end for a homemade bungee cord. Or, just cut off the waistband and use it as a giant rubber band to keep garbage bags from sliding down into the can.
Lint removal: Use old pantyhose like a mitten to remove lint and pet hair from clothing and upholstery rather than using a lint brush. The mitt will also remove deodorant residue from clothing.
Soft scrubbers: Try pantyhose to scrub tile and other surfaces where you're afraid of scratches. They’re also perfect for applying polishes to silver, brass, gold and other easily scratched metals.
Stop mold and mildew: Put a little kitty litter in pantyhose and place in closets, shoes, luggage, dressers, etc. to reduce mold and mildew and absorb moisture.
Shoeshine buffer: Put a spit-shine on your shoes by buffing them with a length of old pantyhose.
Apply paint and stain: Use pantyhose to add interesting designs and textures when applying or finishing paint, stain and even plaster.
Store flower bulbs: Storing seasonal bulbs in pantyhose and hanging them up in a dry place will promote good air circulation and keep bulbs from rotting.
Avoid insect bites: Don't be shy about wearing a pair of worn out pantyhose next time you're working in the yard or go camping — even if you're a guy. Outdoorsmen know that they prevent chigger and other insect bites, and minimize foot blisters, too.
Fisherman's trick: My grandfather taught me a great trick for catching catfish. He'd wrap a piece of chicken liver bait in a piece of pantyhose to keep it on the hook; the fish would still bite, and he’d still have his bait.
Special photo effects: Stretch pantyhose over your camera lens to give photos a starburst or muted effect. (Just remember, it’s best to have her take them off before you try this.)
Fan belt in a pinch: At least on older model cars, a band of pantyhose can still replace a broken fan belt in an emergency.
Patch a screen: Glue a pantyhose patch over holes in window or door screens rather than replace them.
Water gardening: Fill pantyhose with a mixture of gravel and soil, and plant water lilies and other aquatic plants in them for your water garden. Tear a small whole in them so plants can grow freely but soil remains intact.
Kitchen strainer: Use pantyhose instead of cheese cloth for straining foods in the kitchen. Obviously, you'll want to launder them first!
Nature nets: As kids, when we weren't wearing pantyhose over our heads on Halloween as a cat burglar costume cheapskate-style, we loved to make "nature nets" out of them with wire coat hangers to use on our endless butterfly-tadpole-spider-toad hunting expeditions.
Jeff Yeager is the author of The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches and The Cheapskate Next Door. His website is www.UltimateCheapskate.com and you can friend him on Facebook at JeffYeagerUltimateCheapskate or follow him on Twitter.