Learn how the popular pain reliever can remove stains, jumpstart your car battery, and help hide a hickey.
Maggie Young 1 / 10
It’s common knowledge that a daily aspirin can help lower your chance for heart disease, stroke, and heart attack if you’re prone to cardiovascular issues.
Now we can chalk up another benefit: An aspirin a day can help prevent the onset of colorectal cancer in at-risk people, according to a broad recommendation issued Monday by the United States Preventive Services Task Force.
The recommendation is not without some resistance, though. The task force, appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services, has received more than a little flack, The New York Timesreports. Critics fear that healthy men and women pursue the regimen run health risks consistent with daily aspirin use, such as stomach and brain bleeds and hemorrhagic strokes. Others claim there are better (safer) alternatives, like cholesterol-and-blood-pressure-lowering drugs to reduce cardiovascular risks or colonoscopy screenings to identify pre-cancerous polyps. But the task force says that for vulnerable adults ages 50 to 69, the benefits outweigh the risks.
In one review, high-risk men and women—defined as someone who has a 10 percent (or greater) risk of having a heart attack in the next 10 years—who took aspirin to prevent their first heart attack exhibited 22 percent fewer heart attacks and their overall death rate was cut by six percent. In another analysis on colorectal cancer in at-risk patients, daily aspirin use over the span of five to 10 years cut deaths by 33 percent and reduced the incidence of colon cancer by 40 percent.
People in their 50s are thought to benefit the most, whereas the recommendation is weaker for adults ages 60-69 because of the increase risk of internal bleeding. In fact, a third analysis found daily aspirin increased stomach bleeds by two-thirds. Needless to say, experts have some reservations and want more research conducted. And while this information may not be particularly useful or applicable to you (there isn't any recommendation for young people to use aspirin for preventative cancer measures), there are several ways you could be using aspirin in your everyday life—and it's not just for aches and pains. The headache reliever’s got some great household uses, like helping to remove soap scum and patch up drywall; some personal hygiene applications, like combatting acne and dandruff; and of course heart health-boosting potential. Ready to put the all-purpose pill to the test? Start here.
If your t-shirts have a shelf life (well, drawer life) of three weeks before your sweat stains render them un-wearable, try this hack. Mix a couple crushed, uncoated aspirin with warm water, and add the mixture to the stains. Let it sit for a few hours and then throw the clothing in the washing machine as usual.Marina Gafanovich, M.D., says that aspirin can effectively remove stains, especially the yellowish underarm ones. “Allowing clothing to soak in water with aspirin can help to release stains before they are washed the conventional way,” says she says.
There is nothing attractive about dandruff on your shirt, but luckily aspirin can take care of the pesky flakes. The salicylic acid in aspirin is actually what is used in medicated shampoos that are specifically created to control dandruff. Gafanovich recommends simply adding aspirin to your shampoo. “It exfoliates the scalp, removing the dead skin layers that are responsible for dandruff,” she says. Crush two uncoated aspirins into a powder and combine them with a tablespoon of shampoo.
Aspirin can zap the inflamed areas within a few minutes. Simply crush aspirin and water into a paste and spread it over the ingrown hair or pimple. Leave it on for a few minutes and then wash the paste off with warm water. The salicylic acid in aspirin helps clear out anything that’s trapped in the hair follicle or pore.
You may not need to spend extra money on cleaning supplies if you’ve got some aspirin in the medicine cabinet. “It works on any surface with the same exfoliating properties, removing soap scum, or other contaminants from your bathroom or counter surfaces,” says Gafanovich. Dissolve two uncoated aspirin pills in warm water and use the paste to cut down on counter grime.
You don’t have to make a separate trip to the store for home repair supplies when you’ve got aspirin on hand. It can be used to patch up holes in a drywall because when aspirin is wetted and then dried, it becomes like an adhesive. Mix crushed aspirin with water and use the paste as needed.
If you had a little too much fun the night before and notice some redness on your neck the next day, aspirin can calm the irritation before your coworkers take note. Let one or two uncoated aspirin pills dissolve in a half-cup of water and apply the paste to the area. “Adding some aspirin as a mask to your skin will increase the blood flow on the skin’s surface, which can help to hide a hickey quickly,” says Gafanovich.
The constant itching of an insect bite can go from irritating to unbearable within a few minutes. To relieve the irritation, you can use aspirin to decrease the pain. Just grab one plain aspirin pill, wet it, and rub it on the bite for instant relief.
Don’t worry—aspirin pills have got some manly uses, like starting up a car with a dead battery. That being said, it might be a good idea to stash a bottle of aspirin in your car, just in case it runs out of juice. If you’re stranded without power, you can drop two aspirin pills into the battery cells to jumpstart the charging. The sulfuric acid in the battery mixes with acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) to create one charge. It will be enough to rev up your engine and get you to the nearest gas station.
If you have any of the major risk factors for heart disease, taking aspirin on a regular basis might help keep your ticker in good health, but it’s still not a pill to take lightly. Major risk factors that could potentially warrant aspirin use would include increasing age (65 or older), heart disease in the family, or a personal history of heart problems such as a heart attack or stroke. “A heart attack is an acute blockage of a blood vessel that usually comes about due to a platelet plug,” says Ric Saguil, MD, FAAFP. “Aspirin helps prevent these types of inflammatory responses (platelet plugs), and thins the blood.” Consult with your doctor to make sure that aspirin would be the right choice for you as there can be serious side effects such as gut bleeding. The risks can potentially outweigh the benefits, so it’s important to have a full evaluation before popping the pill. If you have an ulcer, kidney disease history, bleeding problems, aspirin sensitivity, asthma, or a past of hemorrhagic strokes, you definitely should not take aspirin.