It’s strong, it’s stretchy, it’s lightweight. Sometimes, after a dentist’s visit, it’s even free—and it can do a lot more than prevent cavities and halitosis. Turns out, dental floss isn’t just for removing plaque, spinach, and those blasted popcorn kernels. With many unique uses, from gardening and sewing to fishing and leaky faucets, it’s the ace in the hole you didn’t know you needed around your house.
First introduced in 1815 by Dr. Levi Spear Parmly, a New Orleans dentist who encouraged his patients to floss with a waxed silken thread after each visit, modern floss was patented by Johnson & Johnson in 1898. In the 1940s, when the price of silk soared during World War II, it was replaced by nylon, a more durable material less resistant to shredding. The presence of nylon is what makes dental floss not only a pillar of oral care, but a handy tool with myriad practical applications we bet you’ve never thought of. Behold, some of dental floss’s lesser known, but no less amazing uses.