12 Unconventional Uses For Your Ice Cube Tray

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Silicone and plastic and metal, oh my! Ice cube trays come in all materials, shapes, and sizes, and have traditionally been used for, well, making ice. But, with the advent of refrigerators that came equipped with a built-in ice maker, many of us relegated our old-school ice cube trays to the back of the kitchen cabinets, where they still sit today, waiting for a job.

People still use ice trays to make ice, of course, and that's never been more true than following the recent designer ice trend on TikTok. But, ice cube trays can serve a much larger purpose than just holding frozen water for our next drink. There is a myriad of ways we can put them to use, be it upcycling old trays into junk drawer organizers or bringing in fancy, new-fangled silicone trays for making homemade dish detergent. These 12 unconventional uses for your ice cube trays will inspire you to get creative and take advantage of this versatile kitchen tool.

1. Coffee ice cubes

Iced coffee is a popular way to start the day, especially as the weather warms up. After all, what's better than a cold brew and a caffeine kick? The only downside to iced coffee is that it can get watered down as the ice cubes melt. You can go ahead and add an ice cube tray to the list of items you need for great home-brewed coffee, because we're going to solve your watered-down iced coffee problem with coffee ice cubes.

Making coffee ice cubes is easy. Make your favorite coffee recipe and let it cool until it has reached room temperature. Once cooled, pour the coffee into your ice cube trays and place in the freezer until frozen solid. If you feel so inspired, you can add something sweet, like sugar, stevia, or your favorite creamer, to the coffee before you freeze it.

The next time you have a hankering for an iced coffee, use your frozen coffee cubes and enjoy that rich coffee flavor you love all day long  — even if the ice cubes melt. You can store leftover coffee cubes in a freezer-safe container or ziplock bag for up to a month.

2. Wine cubes for cooking

If you like to enjoy a glass of wine now and then, there's probably been an occasion when you've found yourself with a half-empty (or half-full?) bottle of wine that you don't know what to do with. You might not have plans to finish it, but you probably don't want to waste it. Not to worry, because you can freeze wine for cooking or making sauces, like this tasty three-ingredient white wine pasta sauce.

There is no trick to freezing wine. Pour your leftover wine into an ice cube tray and stick it in the freezer. Once frozen, remove the cubes from the tray and place them in an airtight container or freezer-safe ziplock bag. The next time you want to cook with wine, remove it from the freezer and let it thaw.

Alcohol doesn't freeze at the same temperature, or speed, as water . It will take a little longer for your wine to freeze, and it might not get as hard, as water ice cubes. In turn, it will thaw faster than ice made from water. You'll want to keep that in mind if you need to plan dinner prep around thawing the wine cubes.

It's also important to note that you can't freeze a sparkling wine. Well, you can freeze the wine, but it will lose its "sparkle" – carbonated drinks lose their fizz when frozen. 

3. Spinach for smoothies

How many times have you purchased a bag of spinach with the best of intentions only to let it sit lonely in the fridge and go bad, untouched, before the week is over? You are not alone! And great news — spinach is extremely freezer-friendly, and with just a little extra work, you can avoid tossing that spinach and turn it into a healthy addition to your smoothies.

Smoothies are a great way to get extra fruits and vegetables in your diet, and many different veggies can go into your daily smoothie. Spinach is a favorite because it's loaded with fiber and rich in nutrients. It also maintains a very neutral flavor when mixed with other ingredients, so it won't overpower the taste of your smoothie.

To freeze your spinach in an ice cube tray, purée your clean spinach leaves with a small amount of water and then pour it into your tray. Once frozen, remove the cubes from the tray and seal them in a freezer-safe container so it's not exposed to the air (spinach is easily freezer-burned). Frozen spinach can last up to 14 months depending on your freezer. Toss a few cubes into your smoothie before blending when you want to use frozen spinach cubes.

4. Herb-infused olive oil

If you have leftover herbs you can't use, try freezing them in olive oil to use later for soups, potatoes, or any dish that starts with oil and herbs. This is a fantastic way to preserve seasonal herbs and put them to good use for a future meal, especially if you're a gardener who has experienced a bountiful harvest!

Many gardeners or home cooks will dry the herbs they don't get around to using, and save them for a later date. But, with herbs that are higher in moisture, like chives, freezing in oil can help preserve the flavor. The process is straightforward.

Start with a high-quality extra virgin olive oil (avoid buying second-rate, fraudulent olive oils for the best flavor). Remove stems from your herbs, and mix with about ¼ cup olive oil in your food processor. Pulse to blend. Once blended, pour into your ice cube tray and freeze. Once frozen, move the cubes to a freezer-safe container and store them in the freezer until you're ready to cook something amazing.

If you have herbs with whole leaves that you'd like to keep intact (for example, mint), remove the leaves from the stems and place them in the ice cube trays first. Pour the oil over the leaves and freeze, which will happen around 10 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don't have any olive oil on hand, you can also use melted butter. 

5. Baby food

Baby food is easy to make, and when you make it at home, you have complete control and know exactly what ingredients are going into the food. Ice cube trays, which hold about an ounce per compartment, provide perfectly sized compartments for freezing baby food.

If you're new to the process, there are a few things you need to know when making baby food as there are some extra steps you should take compared to when you're freezing something for an adult. Namely, you're going to want to make sure you are using tools that have been sanitized, and that goes for the ice cube tray you'll be using to store the food. 

Make your baby food by puréeing your preferred fruits and vegetables. Once you have puréed the food, transfer the purée mixture to your ice cube trays within an hour or two of making the food, as bacteria will start to grow on the food after just two hours. Freeze in ice cube trays. Once frozen, remove from the tray and store the cubes in an airtight container until you're ready to feed baby. Be sure to label the food with a date when you freeze it so you'll know when it expires — it's a good idea to use frozen baby food within three months

6. Chocolate treats

Melted chocolate is dreamy at any time of day or night, especially when poured into ice cube trays to make sweet chocolate treats for your family. Let's face it, the best recipes are the easiest ones. Bonus if they don't require any cooking, and this simple chocolate treat is as easy as it gets.

Silicone ice cube trays are best for freezing chocolate. They are easy to clean, and once the chocolate is frozen, it will pop right out of the tray. Plus, you can get the silicone trays in many fun shapes and sizes.

Melt your favorite chocolate using your preferred method. Microwaving is one of the easiest ways, but you can also use the double boiler method. You can even use your air fryer to melt chocolate

Once the chocolate is melted, act fast. As the chocolate hardens, it gets harder to manage. After you pour the chocolate into the ice cube tray sprinkle your favorite mix-ins, like nuts, berries, or dried fruit. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid to avoid freezer burn and freeze. Be sure they are completely frozen before you remove them from the tray, or you'll have a big mess. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer-safe container for quick treats. Depending on the ingredients you use, you can store them in the freezer or keep them at room temperature (if you use fresh berries, keep them frozen).

7. DIY dish detergent

When you make dishwasher detergent you can save money, control the chemicals you're using, and still enjoy sparkling clean dishes. And, ice cube trays provide the perfect size for homemade dish detergent pods.

You can make your dish detergent pods using washing soda, borax, salt, vinegar, and lemon essential oil. These ingredients are easy to find at your local supermarket, inexpensive, and effective. If you can't find washing soda, baking soda will do. If you find yourself with any leftovers when you're done making your dish detergent, you can put it to work cleaning your house.

When it comes time to remove the dried pods from the tray, a silicone version will be the most user-friendly, although you can use any ice cube tray. After you fill your tray with the mixture, you will need to let them air dry in a nice sunny spot for about 24 hours before removing them and putting them to work in your dishwasher. Store them in a jar and keep them away from water until you're ready to use. 

8. Aloe vera cubes

Sunburns are awful, but we can treat them naturally using homemade aloe vera cubes that you can make in ice cube trays. Aloe vera has been proven an effective treatment of first and second-degree burns, and many people already have aloe vera gel in their medicine cabinets. Freezing it is easy: Fill your ice cube tray with Aloe vera gel and stick it in the freezer. Aloe vera gel is already a nice tonic for a sunburn, but the cooling effect that comes from freezing it makes it even more soothing.

You can use store-bought Aloe gel to make your cubes, or you can make your own from scratch with an Aloe vera plant. If you go with store-bought, opt for gels with the highest concentration of Aloe. To make homemade gel, pick up some aloe vera leaves at your grocery store (or, remove the leaves from a homegrown plant). Then, scoop the gel out of the leaves and move it to your ice cube tray. Freeze and keep on hand for the next time you spend too much time in the sun.

9. Jewelry organizer

Use an ice cube tray to organize stray jewelry. The small compartments keep your items separated and tangle-free. Nothing is more frustrating than untangling a collection of necklaces that somehow became intertwined. Ice cube tray compartments are the perfect size for storing earrings, rings, individual necklaces, and even bracelets. Pro tip: Store one necklace per compartment to avoid the dreaded ball of tangled necklaces.

This jewelry storage trick takes only a few minutes to implement, and you'll love how quickly you feel more organized. If you've got limited space, opt for stackable ice cube trays and store them in a cabinet or closet. Alternatively, you can store them in a dresser drawer. You may already have the ice cube trays you need around the house, but if you're buying new ones to store your jewelry, look for multiple trays with different-sized compartments to accommodate everything from your smallest earrings to your chunkiest bracelets. 

10. Craft storage

Ice cube trays are a quick, affordable, and functional storage solution for crafting supplies. While there are tons of beautiful (and expensive) craft storage solutions on the market, ice cube trays do the job just fine, if not better, than more expensive options.

Use an ice cube tray to store buttons, beads, safety pins, and thumbtacks. They are also a useful way to store washi tape collections: Plop a roll of washi in each compartment and you'll be able to easily see what you have next time you're looking for a roll. Some other crafty items to store in your ice cube trays are paper clips, sewing supplies, stickers, and broken crayons.

The trays will keep items separated and easy to access. Their shallow compartments also make it easy to remove the items when you're ready to craft. You can also buy stackable ice trays with lids, making them easy to store while keeping all those little items contained and nicely organized.

11. Seed starters

If you're a gardener, you can upcycle an old ice cube tray into a seed starter. Ice cube trays don't take up much space, are inexpensive, and can be reused again and again to start a new crop. They are also easy to move and transport from place to place.

To use an ice cube tray for your seed starter, start by poking or drilling a small drainage hole in the bottom of each compartment. Fill the compartments with your favorite starting soil mix and seeds. When the seeds have grown and you're ready to transplant them to your garden, gently remove them from the ice cube tray and plant them in their new home.

You may already be familiar with using egg cartons for starting seeds, and this method is very similar. Ice cube trays can last for years, making this a more eco-friendly model for starting seeds than plastic seed starter pots that might only make it through one season.

12. Store nuts and bolts

If you have a collection of random screws, nuts, and bolts in your junk drawer or your garage (or both), clean up the mess once and for all and get organized by storing them in old ice cube trays. If you've recently upgraded to a refrigerator with an ice maker and find your old ice cube trays looking sad and unwanted, they might find a new purpose in your junk drawer.

You can sort screws, nuts, bolts, and other hardware by size or type. Use a tray with a lid to keep them from falling out when you move the tray from job to job. If the tray is going to live in your junk drawer, a lid probably isn't necessary. You might find it quickly becomes a new home for rubber bands, batteries, and assorted odds and ends as you get your garage or junk drawer organized and under control.

Having all your hardware stored in this manner makes it easy to find what you're looking for. Because the trays are pretty shallow, they will fit in most drawers. Often, you can even fit several ice cube trays into the drawers.

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