Are they a commonly recognized pantry staple? No. But are they an incredibly useful kitchen tool? Absolutely.
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Cotton swabs may not be considered an essential item in most home kitchens, but they sure are in mine. Don’t laugh—at least hear me out first.

It started because I was helping a friend cook. He was making waffles, a lot of waffles. Now, I love waffles. But I truly hate waffle irons. Why? Because they are impossible to clean. Before you remind me about the waffle irons with removable plates that can go in the dishwasher, I know they exist and I still don’t believe they get clean. There are too many nooks, crannies, and corners—and too much grease. So, after a particularly messy batch, we agreed that the waffle iron needed to be de-gunked. And his was not a removable-plate waffle iron. So it could not be submerged nor put in the dishwasher. We wiped, we sponged; nothing seemed to help. I took a break to go to the washroom, and there was the solution… on the counter by the sink. When I returned to the kitchen with a handful of Q-tips, my friend's look of confusion soon turned into a huge smile as he saw me Q-tipping my way through all of the angles and corners and dips. It worked. And I have kept Q-tips at the ready in my kitchen ever since.

Now you must realize, I am not a fan of cluttering the kitchen with things that have only one use. To prove worthy of a place in my kitchen, a tool needs to prove its versatility. And the Q-tip is no exception. They have come in remarkably handy in all sorts of situations:

  • After scrubbing BBQ sauce off of my grill pan, there is always some that won’t go away. Q-tips!
  • Can’t get the pureed whatever out from the inside of the food processor blade? Q-tips!
  • Can’t quite get all of the decorative folds of your Bundt pan clean? Q-tips!
  • Did some red wine dry in the bottom of a delicate crystal glass? Yep, Q-tips!The truly gross corners of your sheet pans? You guessed it! Break them on out.
  • The bottom of your food processor bowl? Nothing works like a Q-tip!
  • Does your Brita carafe need some sprucing up? Q-tips are here for you!
  • Accidental flour spill on the computer you used for that online recipe? Grab the Q-tips!

And I imagine that there are a million and one uses I haven't figured out that you’ll tell me about. The point is, any tiny hidden corner you need to clean, give Q-tips a try. You’ll be really happy you did.