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It was a dumb mistake. I grabbed the biggest package of coffee filters — a pack of 1,000 — only to discover much later that I'd picked up the wrong size for my coffeemaker.

Coffee filters are not expensive, which is probably the reason I didn't bother returning them to the store. I suppose I should have tried, but I didn't. Instead, I began finding ways to use those filters for other things than making coffee.

What I discovered is that the basket-style filters are super useful. It took a few years, but I used up the wrong-size stack of filters, and not to filter coffee! They became such a handy item that I bought the same size again, but this time from the dollar store. Most recently, I found 150 filters there for $1.

Here are some of the things I can do with a coffee filter:

1. Prevent splatters: Don't you hate that mess inside the microwave? Prevent it by covering the bowl, plate or food item with a coffee filter turned upside down to create a little canopy. It works really well because the filter is highly absorbent but doesn't fly off when the food pops and splatters.

2. Quick sparkle: Use a coffee filter instead of paper towels to clean and polish a mirror, window, glass tabletop or chrome. There's no lint, and it's super absorbent.

3. China protectant: Be kind to your fine dinnerware or other types of dishes by placing a filter between each plate and bowl to prevent the pieces from sliding around and causing damage.

4. Protect cast iron: Once I clean, dry and re-oil my cast iron skillet, I put a flattened-out filter in the bottom to prevent rust by absorbing any moisture that might remain.

5. Absorb grease: When frying bacon, French fries or any other thing that gets fried in oil, I place a couple of filters on a plate instead of paper towels to drain said items.

6. Bouquet garni: I learned this by watching the Food Channel. Place herbs and spices in the center of a coffee filter, and then close it up like a little pouch and tie with a piece of string. Drop this in the soup or stew, and allow it to simmer for hours as needed. Remove the little tied-up pouch before serving.

7. Spoon rest: Lay the spoon, spatula or other implement you're cooking with on a coffee filter. It will soak up the drips but not leave bits of paper on the item when you pick it up later, as paper towels often do.

8. Cradle ornaments: Use a coffee filter to individually wrap special Christmas ornaments or other precious decor items. This prevents ornaments from rubbing against one another and makes it easier to nestle them for compact storage.

9. Strainer: A coffee filter will strain soup, wine that has bits of cork in it, tea or any other liquid you wish to become clear. Place the filter over a receptacle, and secure it with a rubber band. Pour the item to be strained through the filter.

10. Seed sprouter: Want to get seedlings started in time for spring? Grab a filter, and dampen it with water. Lay the seeds to be sprouted on the filter, and fold it over so the seeds are covered. Place it inside a small zip-type baggie, and leave it be until the seeds sprout and are ready for planting.

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