Ten Uses for Office Supplies In a Pinch

other uses for office supplies2016 Update: We still stand by these tips for other uses for office supplies, and links have been updated below — you can also check out our newer discussion on ways to repurpose office supplies here.

Have you found any good ways to use office supplies for other uses? It’s like reader J is reading my mind…

How about a story on re-purposing office supplies for fashion/lifestyle uses when you’re in a pinch? For example, using binder clips while commuting to fold up pants that were hemmed for high heels, using scotch tape instead of a band-aid to prevent blisters when shoes start to rub, notebook paper as blotting papers, etc.

Somehow this came up at a recent bridal shower I attended, and my friends and I had a great time trying to think of other uses for office supplies.  Thanks to my friends N and G for helping me brainstorm!  (Pictured:  Coloured Paperclips, originally uploaded to Flickr by Dysanovic.) Here are our MacGyver-ish suggestions…

  1. Use a Fed Ex mailing label as a lint brush. Just peel off the backing, and start sticking it on your clothes.
  2. Use White Out to touch up your French manicure, if needed.
  3. Use a black Sharpie to hide shoe scuffs, or even small tears in leather — it’ll work until you get to the cobbler to get the problem fixed.
  4. In a pinch, use binder clips to hem your pants. It won’t be pretty, but it’s better than nothing on a rainy day.
  5. Use a pen or pencil to put your hair in a bun — it’s kinder to your hair than a rubberband. (We like Twist Me Pretty’s‘s video tutorial of how to do it — if you’ve found anything better, please let us know!)
  6. Use packing tape if your shirt is gaping and you don’t have Hollywood tape — just fold it double.
  7. Use a piece of folded-up paper if you have something stuck between your teeth and no floss — for some reason Post-It notes work really well.
  8. Use a paperclip to make your bra a racerback — handy in a pinch if you’re going from desk to dinner and your going-out outfit needs a racerback bra.
  9. As reader J suggests, use notepaper if you don’t have any blotting papers.
  10. As reader J suggests, use Scotch tape in place of a Band-aid if your shoes are starting to create blisters.

Bonus tip for men: Use paper clips in place of collar stays.

Readers,what are your favorite “in a pinch” uses for office supplies?

office supplies other uses


  1. I’m five months pregnant and still barely showing. My pants still fit, except for in the waistband. Rather than buy a bunch of new suits — I just use a paperclip that’s run through the buttonhole of the pants and connected to the button to extend my waistband the extra two inches I need. When I wear a longer shirt – no one is the wiser!

    • divaliscious11 :

      I did that with a rubberband until 7 months in my first pregnancy. Loop band throught button hole, then over button!

    • Wow! I’m five months pregant and my belly is huge! Very jealous!

      • divaliscious11 :

        Worked only with first…second pregnancy and that was my 4rth month trick…

  2. I’m not sure toilet seat covers count as “office supplies,” but my office has these actually make the best blotting papers.

    • insert “and they”

    • I second this. Toilet seat covers are way better than notebook paper for blotting. Much more coverage as well (for someone like me who oozes oil all the time).

      • I agree!! Sometimes I even take a few of the “center section” pieces with me if I’m going to be out for the night. They don’t remove your makeup, just remove the oil.

    • I full agree!

    • I’ll 4th that! They’re the best in a pinch… and available almost everywhere.

  3. Post-it flags make the best in a pinch floss substitutes b/c they are plasticy rather than papery.

    • Thanks for mentioning that. I was definitely just imagining getting a papercut on my gums. Ouch.

      • This may be TMI but I have fairly long hair. In a pinch, I pull out a strand to use as floss. It works for me, and has been a life saver when I’m out somewhere random with no other options.

        • I totally do the hair-as-floss trick, too.

          • might I recommend putting a small travel-size floss in your purse? It is the size of two quarters stuck together and will prevent you from having to put your hair in your mouth – something my mother drilled into me from very young. Hair picks up all kinds of germs, contaminants, etc and is pretty darn filthy.

          • @lawyer — the whole point (for me) is that this is what I would do in a situation where I didn’t have floss in my purse or elsewhere. A sewing kit is better than stapling your pant seams together, but the whole point is “what can you do when a normal solution is just not in the cards?”
            For what its worth, I wash my hair every morning; it’s always pulled back in a bun for work ,so if I pull a hair out on occasion, it’s not likely it has had a chance to get dirty; & at any rate, I think a small amount of germs is likelybetter for your overall health in the long term anyway.
            I know it’s not a perfect solution but it works in a pinch & it’s better than walking around with spinach in your teeth :)

        • Oh, wow. I totally thought I was the only person who did that.

        • I’ll do that in a pinch too, but sometimes the hair breaks, worsening the problem. I might have to switch to post-it flags.

        • Me too, but I’ll be switching to flags from now on!

          • Johanna_D :

            Be careful not to overuse post-it flags for your teeth. I used to do this with straws (made of plastic) when I was kid and now I have gaps in between my teeth.

        • It is a little TMI, but I will totally be trying that if I’m sans post-it (or floss).

    • I take one of my earrings out and use that (depending on how thick the post is).

    • So I’m not embarrassed of the fact that I use scotch tape as a lint brush, but I was totally embarrassed that I floss with post-its … until I saw this post. So good to hear that flags are even better!

  4. Rubber bands also work at a pants extender during pregnancy. Loop one end of the rubber band on the button, loop in through the button hole and connect the other end back on the button.

  5. White-out will substitute for clear nail polish at stopping runs in a real pinch. There’s the obvious color issue, but that’s not a problem if you’re lucky enough to have the run begin in a shoe or under your skirt. It’s also not as strong as nail polish, but it will usually hold through the end of the day.

  6. Elizabeth :

    I had a button pop off of a sweater during work and I used a paper clip to loop through the button hole and back through where the old button was. It worked until I could get home and sew the button back on.

  7. I use the clear packing tape instead of scotch tape for blisters. It sticks better, covers the area better, and provides more slip for you shoe. I actually even prefer it to bandaids, which always seem to rub off in my shoes.

    It is not an office supply, but I always keep a small bottle of lotion in my purse and (when I had a job–I am now back in law school) in my desk drawer. This can be used for any number of purposes including removing ink from your hands, smoothing hair frizz (not idea, but in a pinch), and freshening up shoes that are in need of a polish (again, not ideal but it works if you notice just before an important meeting that you accidentally neglected your shoes, this works to make it through the day and then you can take them home to polish that night).

    • Chicago S :

      Lotion also works well to tame static cling with skirts or pants, just put it on your hands then rub your hands on your nylons/legs/socks.

    • It is all about masking tape. Take this from a former ballet dancer. I have spent way too much time thinking about preventing blisters. When dancing, I find that waterproof sports tape works best (it has enough stick so it doesn’t come off when your feet sweat, and the waterproofing prevents it from causing you to stick to everything including making toes uncomfortable stick together when the tape is wrapped around a toe, it also bends enough to comfortably fit the foot). In an office I would pick masking tape since the qualities are most similar and it is easy to tear. If the area is slightly bigger use two overlapping pieces. Masking tape has the added benefit (if you have light skin) of not standing out too much color wise if it accidently peeks out from your shoe. I don’t think scotch tape would stick, nor shaped to the foot, and packing tape is just difficult to manipulate. As for bandaids they are only good once a blister has already formed, and you have a spot to delicate to put tape directly on. Upon removal the skin in a blister will stick to tape and get peeled off. In this situation I use a bandaid, but since they fall off, I secure them with tape. My best advice is to tape up the foot as soon as you feel that blister forming, instead of after.

    • Johanna_D :

      I had never thought of using tape to prevent blisters! such a good idea, especially for people like me who are allergic to the latex in band aids and about 90% of the brands out there have latex. I have found that the non-latex brands are usually of lesser quality and come off my skin much faster than the latex ones. I’ll try it out!

  8. I have a rubber band in my hair right now (too short for a pencil/pen) and also frequently use binder clips to pin back my bangs or clip pants that come unhemmed. I’ve also scotch-taped a hem that came out of one of my suit jackets.

  9. Anonymous Today :

    I’ve found that packing tape works better than FedEx labels if you need a lint roller. I’ve also used the black Sharpie from time-to-time and it seems to work pretty well. As has been mentioned by other Corporettes on previous threads, I’ve used staples to fix a fallen hem on pants and they weren’t too noticeable.

    • Chicago K :

      I used some scotch tape to hold the hem on my skirt the other day. Worked great too!

  10. I’ve used a stapler to hem pants legs when absolutely necessary – to avoid being more obvious than necessary, staple the “teeth” part on the outside and the “bar” part on the inside of your pants.

  11. OMG, tip #7. I’d be so terrified of a possible papercut. Yikes.

  12. I use binder clips for a lot… smaller ones for the bag of cereal/chips in the drawer, as subsitute hair clips, bigger ones to keep the electronics cord jungle at bay,

    Presentation paper – you know the giant pads that you use in meetings? – can be used for last minute wrapping paper (decorate w/ sharpie markers).

    Replace a lost zipper pull with a paperclip (bonus if the color matches)

  13. I was a law clerk in an all-male (with the exception of the admin assistant) general counsel’s office one summer, and my bra strap BROKE. At about 10am. Couldn’t be tied, I didn’t have a sweater, NOT good.

    The admin asst in her creative genius handed me one of those teeny tiny binder clips to help me “keep it together” (literally and figuratively!), and it held the rest of the day! New ones work better because they have more tensile strength. :)

    As a summer associate (who constantly spilled on herself AND forgets a tide to go pen), I learned that using a padfolio to block the stain from view worked remarkably well (and I just looked well prepared to take notes at a moment’s notice!). This works for chilly offices and unexpected “show through” moments too.

    Also, traditional pencil erasers work pretty well for getting minor scuffs out of patent or light colored leather!

    • Ha, I used the notepad trick today to hide the front of my dress, which was wrinkling horribly from sitting. I really need to learn the right fabrics to buy to avoid this, but so far every skirt and dress I own does this. This one is just worse–it’s cotton and most of my others are wool, so I guess there’s my first lesson. The commercials lie about the look of cotton.

  14. I once had the inner seam of a pair of pants come undone from below my knee to about an inch below the crotch. I’m still not sure how that happened. I closed my office door, turned the pants inside out, and stapled the entire seam back together. They held together well enough to make it through the day.

  15. I keep a travel-sized hairspray in my office, and use it for all sorts of reasons – it covers funny smells in the office, it works in a pinch if you’ve got a stubborn wrinkle in your shirt (spray the wrinkle and hold it flat until the hairspray dries), obviously it fixes hair frizz, smelly shoes, and I’ve had some success using it to stop a run in my nylons.

    • hairspray (followed by a little water) can also get ink out of a shirt in a pinch

      • Thank you FEF! That was why I originally brought the hairspray to work, and then I found a bunch of other uses but could never remember the original purpose.

    • I have also been told (never tried this) that hair spraying a sweater can help solve shedding problems.

  16. I read this in one of my mother’s magazines years and years ago (not sure why it stuck in my head): if you lose an earring back, break the eraser off of a pencil and stick it on the tip of the post.

    I managed to knock out my earring (from my best pair) while nervously fiddling with my hair at my internship before heading to a really, really important clerkship callback interview, and couldn’t find the back. I was able to use the eraser, it worked fine, no one could tell, and I got the clerkship!

  17. tinylawyer :

    Corner of a business card (from the giant stack you have in your desk and never use) works great to get an emergency piece of food out of your teeth.

    • North Shore :

      Ha. I changed my phone number 6 years ago and never bothered to order new cards. Mine are also so old they don’t have my e-mail address on them. I just hand-write the information on the card in those (rare) circumstances where I need to use one.

  18. Anonymous :

    I’ve had success using those glue sticks that are meant to seal envelopes to stop pantyhose runs in a pinch – works better in non-visible places like above the skirt hem or in the shoe, but because they dry clear it’s not too noticeable even in other parts of the leg.

  19. I was worried about a pair of seersucker pants when it was pouring outside at the end of work and I knew I’d have to walk through big puddles. One of the admin assistants picked up the stapler and stapled in a 6″ cuff that kept the pants nice and dry as I walked to my car and the holes rubbed right out when I removed the staples.

  20. I always used to put my hair up in pencils (I always need to use two of them to get it to really stick) when I got sick of having it down, and I always wondered about the propriety in an office setting. Glad I’m not the only one who does it. :-) (I don’t anymore merely because I got sick of pencils snapping so I bought a couple of hairsticks to keep at my desk. Not the most fashionable perhaps, but keeps my hair off my neck and out of the way on days where I can’t tolerate having it down better than any other quick fix I’ve found.)

    • I found working in a mostly male office that this was fascinating enough for guys to comment on. Not necessarily the attention you watch to attract from your male collegues.

      • Well, that was the other reason I bought hairsticks – I didn’t want to look like I was trying to be quirky or something. (Though I’m not sure exactly what sort of attention you meant.)

    • I do it too with pens and pencils and just saw some hair sticks for sale in the UK last week. I hadn’t seen them before for sale.

      • a what sort of comments did you get that you considered unwanted attention? The only comments I have had have been wonder at how I performed such a magic trick!!!!

  21. Another Sarah :

    At my all-girls Catholic high school, we would staple our uniform skirts if the hem came un-done. It was pretty convenient as our teacher’s desks was about the height of where our skirts sat. As others said, if you staple them so the solid bar is on the inside, it shouldn’t show much.

    Then again, I’ve never really tried this with anything other than gray plaid indestructible wool…soo if you have a really nice black skirt, this may not work very well… :-)

    • We did this at my Catholic HS to shorten our skirts. On a surprise uniform check day, we would just take the staples out :)

  22. Furniture polish can make a good emergency substitute for shoe polish but you do need to be cautious that you don’t damage good quality leather.

  23. Just thought of this one the other day – use those plastic name tag sleeves you wear at luncheons/conferences as a sheath for your transit pass. If it’s the clip or pin kind you can attach it to your purse lining. Here in San Francisco, if your transit pass gets bent or too close to your cell phone (supposedly) it stops working. It’s happened to me two months in a row now and it’s really inconvenient. Hopefully the “sleeve” trick will work!

  24. when stapling hems of dark skirts, I’ve found it helpful to use a sharpie to help hide the staple. If you open the stapler and color the top or sides (depending on which way you staple–bar side out or bar side in) with a black sharpie. Newer sharpie works better, it’s more black than purple in color. When you staple the hem, staples are black, not silver. When I was a teacher I had sharpies and staples whenever I needed them, and ran into a clothes emergency or two…

  25. Regular packing tape works for lint just as well as FedEx labels.

  26. Makeup Junkie :

    I keep a travel pack of baby wipes around. Baby wipes are absolutely ace at removing stains from clothes, plus if you’re working late you might want to take off your makeup, clean your pits and bits, etc. Handiest item in my desk drawer.

    • If you don’t like the smell of baby wipes (like me) the cottonelle wipes are the bee’s knees!

    • Anonymous :

      Be careful though, I ruined a silk shirt by using baby wipes. They discolored the fabric.

  27. I didn’t have a pocket mirror to see if I had food stuck in my teeth, so I took a close-up picture of myself smiling wide with my Blackberry and saved myself a trip to the restroom. I still think they should have a mirror app for mobile devices.

    • Johanna_D :

      Now that’s a good idea. I hate getting up and walking all the way to the restroom (after eating) just to check that I don’t have a piece of spinach in between my teeth…

  28. along with using scotch tape to remove lint, i use it to get rid of any flaky, dry skin. even if i moisturize 3x a day, the a/c in my office makes my skin incredibly dry and flaky. just take a peice of tape, smooth it over your skin and peel it off (be sure to close your office door though or hide in the bathroom because it looks really odd).

  29. I have “fixed”/fashioned broken straps on my shoes with binder clips before. It passes better if you have pants on instead of skirts.

    Also, the bathroom at my office is out of the office, but on the same floor (like a 2 minute walk away from my desk) so I keep wet naps at my desk to quickly clean my hands when I get back from court or finish eating, etc.

  30. I use marker on my shoes all the time! I even do it at home with non-neutral shoes until i make it to the cobbler; I only can find black or brown polish in the stores!

  31. Removing coffee from a light colored piece of clothing when you’re in the office and have no access to soap:

    Take one paper towel and soak it with water. Keep several dry paper towels handy. Place the wet paper towel UNDER your shirt, directly under the spill, so that you soak the stain from the inside of your shirt outward. Place the dry paper towel on the outside of your shirt, on top of the stain. The dry paper towel will “wick” the stain up and out of the shirt, and the water in the bottom paper towel helps this process along. Continue changing the dry paper towels until the stain has been pulled out of the shirt.

  32. I have used many of these tips! To add: scotch tape can peel off a chipped manicure (on natural nails). Just smooth a piece over the nail, making sure it adhere securely where the chip starts, and peel. I’d much rather take off a chipped dark manicure this way than sit around with it all day (picking at it and making it worse!).

  33. pennsygirl :

    But, but, pet hair is an accessory ;D

  34. What great tips! Getting back to binder clips, I have used a small binder clip to hold business cards in my purse. It actually becomes a conversation piece and a funny way to break the ice as you pull your cards out.

  35. Use binder clip to keep toothpaste tube rolled up tight.
    Wrap rubber bands around the tips of pliers to make them grippy (I needed grippy to pull up an off the track car window).
    Use pencil, press lightly, when you need the color ‘grey’. Press hard for the color ‘black’.
    Use the side of the lead in a sharpened pencil for relief rubbings of credit card so you can have all the info without writing it all down. Place plain white paper over credit card, rub lightly, see all the info come through.
    File folders as a hand held rain bonnet. Not as floppy as newspaper.
    Trash bag liners and rubber bands as galoshes.
    Rubber bands to hold up stretched out sox.
    Binder clips as chip clips.