I first discovered coconut oil several years ago when a health-focused grocery store opened in my neighborhood.
While I originally bought it for cooking, I quickly found many ways I could use it around the house. Now, I use so much that I invest in giant vats from Costco to save money; an 84-ounce tub costs $15.99 and typically lasts four to six months.
If you’re new to coconut oil, you’ll be surprised at just how adaptable this once-unknown ingredient can be.
What Are the Health Benefits of Coconut Oil?
The first use you probably think of for coconut oil is cooking. I most often find Indian recipes that call for this oil, but I’ve used it in a variety of dishes ranging from curries and stir-fries to granola and muffins.
There’s some controversy surrounding the consumption of coconut oil because of its high saturated fat content. According to Harvard Medical School, coconut oil has more saturated fat than butter or lard — about 90%. Saturated fat is known to raise LDL (AKA “bad”) cholesterol levels, so consuming too much coconut oil is inadvisable because it may be harmful to heart health.
However, Harvard Medical School also points out that coconut oil is especially good at increasing the levels of HDL (or “good”) cholesterol — more than any other oil that’s high in saturated fat. It is touted for its anti-inflammatory properties
Although some sources advise against coconut-oil consumption, it remains a staple in cooking, especially refined coconut oil. Healthline reports that the oil’s saturated-fat content makes it more resistant to oxidation, increasing its heat resistance. This makes it well suited for sautéing, baking and similar cooking methods.
Wellness Mama points out a few more of coconut oil’s health benefits. It has antimicrobial properties that can be beneficial for gut health and is a rich source of lauric acid (second only to breast milk). Additionally, coconut oil contains processed fats called medium-chain triglycerides, which can help boost your immune system and could even improve your brain function.
In general, unrefined coconut oil is better for the skin and hair.
Types of Coconut Oil
Just like you see with olive oil, there are several classifications listed on the labels of coconut oil. The following are the most common that the coconut oil industry uses in labeling. You will also find organic coconut oil and expeller-pressed coconut oil which uses a high pressure and high heat extraction process.
Refined Coconut Oil
Refined coconut oil has gone through a heating process to remove particles and to make the oil more consistent in makeup. When it is cold, it becomes solid and is white. It has a higher burning or smoke point than unrefined coconut oil which makes it good for cooking. Some versions of this type of coconut oil are hydrogenated to make it have a longer shelf life though it is considered less healthy because of increased trans fats and saturated fats.
Unrefined Coconut Oil
Sometimes called raw coconut oil, unrefined coconut oil is made from raw, fresh coconut. Liquid is extracted from the coconut meat and then heated. The oil that results is separated from the watery coconut milk. Another method is called “quick drying” and involves drying the coconut meat quickly and then extracting the oil. It retains more flavor than the refined version because it is unheated. It is clear when it solidifies.
Virgin Coconut Oil
This is the least processed form of coconut oil and has the most coconut flavor. It also has the shortest shelf life but retains its antioxidant properties. It is good for both cooking and beauty treatments but be aware of the smell. When the smell is unpleasant, it’s past its prime. Unlike olive oil, there is no extra-virgin coconut oil.
25 Uses for Coconut Oil
Here are just some of the ways you can use coconut oil in the bathroom, kitchen and beyond.
1. Hair Conditioner
Allure lists numerous beauty uses for coconut oil, including as a deep-conditioning hair mask. I’ve found that it’s better to coat my dry hair from mid-length to the ends and cover it with a shower cap for 30 minutes to an hour before shampooing it out in the shower. This ensures that I get the moisturizing benefits of the oil without the lasting greasiness that can occur if it’s used after shampooing.
2. De-Frizz Hair
Coconut oil is also great for taming frizz and flyaways throughout the day. Keep a small pot on your desk or in your car — just remember that it’ll become liquid in high temperatures, so make sure you store it upright so it won’t leak.
3. Makeup Remover
Keep a small jar of coconut oil in your bathroom to use to remove my eye makeup. It’s strong enough to remove eyeliner and mascara, yet gentle enough to use on the delicate skin around the eyes.
4. Body Moisturizer
After getting out of the shower, I lather myself with coconut oil in place of store-bought lotion. I feel better about putting something natural on my body rather than a product filled with suspicious-sounding ingredients.
5. Lip Balm
Coconut oil can also be used as a lip balm. I put some on my lips before bed every night to help moisturize them overnight, and have found that my lips are much less dry in the mornings than they were before I started this routine.
6. Clean Makeup Brushes
Just like it can remove makeup from your face, coconut oil can help remove makeup from your brushes. Apply the oil to your makeup brushes and work it in to remove excess makeup. When you’re done, wash the brushes with soap and water to get rid of the oil, and let air dry.
7. Diaper Rash Cream
When my son was a baby, he had sensitive skin and was prone to diaper rash. Rather than using zinc oxide or petroleum-based products, I applied coconut oil when changing his diapers. Healthline says that while there’s no research on the effects of coconut oil on diaper rash, the oil can help with inflammation, itching, redness and irritation while creating a barrier to help prevent future bouts of diaper rash.
8. Eczema Relief
Coconut oil provides help for those dealing with eczema by hydrating the skin and reducing inflammation and pain. The oil could interfere with medication you are already using so let your dermatologist know that you would like to try this natural remedy.
9. Soothe Bug Bite Itching
Coconut oil can help relieve the annoying itching associated with mosquito and other bug bites. Rub a little oil directly onto the bite and let it sink in and work its magic.
10. DIY Toothpaste
To make a natural toothpaste from coconut oil, Today recommends mixing 4 tablespoons of coconut oil with 2 tablespoons of baking soda and 3 to 4 drops of flavor extract (like peppermint). Use it on your toothbrush as normal to clean your teeth morning and night.
11. Remove Gum From Hair
If you have kids, you have probably experienced the pain of having to remove gum from hair. Luckily, coconut oil can help. Simply apply the oil directly to the gum, let it sit for a minute or two, and then slowly slide the gum out. Depending on how stuck the gum is, you may need to make a couple of attempts to completely remove it.
12. Polish Furniture
To make a natural furniture polish, mix 1 tablespoon of coconut oil with a little lemon juice. Rub directly onto the furniture, working it into the wood, and then wipe off with a clean cloth.
13. Moisturize Leather
Coconut oil can make old leather look new, and can help prevent new leather from aging prematurely. Simply apply coconut oil directly to your leather clothing, shoes or furniture, let it sit for a few minutes, and then wipe off the excess oil.
14. Remove Dead Bugs From Your Car
There are a lot of good things about the summer, but having your car covered with dead bugs after a drive on the highway isn’t one of them. Remove dead bugs from your car grille or hood by applying coconut oil and letting it sit on your car and penetrate the dead bugs. After a few minutes, wipe it off with a clean microfiber cloth, being careful not to scratch the paint.
15. Fix Squeaky Hinges
WD-40 is the usual savior for squeaky hinges, but if you don’t have any lying around you can lubricate them with coconut oil. Just apply a small amount directly to the hinge and the annoying squeak should disappear.
16. Remove Sticker Residue
Stickers are fun, but leave behind a gross residue that’s hard to remove. To get rid of it once and for all, apply coconut oil to the sticky residue, let it soak in for a few minutes, and then wipe with a cloth or paper towel.
17. Stain Remover
Make a stain remover from one part coconut oil and one part baking soda. You can use this to get rid of stains on carpet and upholstery by applying it and leaving it for about five minutes before wiping it away. For stubborn stains, you may need to repeat this process several times.
18. Get Rid of Crayon Marks From Walls
Another fun part of living with kids is when they decide to create artwork on your living room walls. Luckily, coconut oil can remove crayon marks quickly and easily. Just rub it on the affected area and wipe away with a cloth; the crayon mark should come right off with the oil.
19. Remove Scuff Marks From Floors
You can easily remove scuff marks from tile or vinyl floor using coconut oil and a cloth. You’ll want to make sure you remove the oil completely from the floor, though, or you may slip in it and fall.
20. Sanitize Cutting Boards
Rub coconut oil into a wooden coconut board to condition and sanitize it. The oil’s antimicrobial properties should get rid of all unwanted bacteria.
21. Prevent Tupperware Stains
Are many of your plastic storage containers stained thanks to leftover chili or pasta sauce? To prevent tomato- or tumeric-based dishes from leaving permanent stains, wipe the inside of the plastic container with coconut oil before decanting your leftovers into it. The coconut oil creates a protective layer that should keep the stains away.
22. Grease Baking Dishes
Butter or spray oil are great for greasing pans to prevent sticking, and coconut oil is right up there with them. Grease any dish or tin with coconut oil before baking to ensure your finished dish slides out easily with no sticking.
23. Relieve Sore Throats
Dr. Axe recommends replacing throat lozenges with coconut oil when sickness strikes. Just ½ to 1 teaspoon can help relieve pain and coughing. This is a great reason to keep a jar on hand, especially in the winter when the common cold comes around often.
24. Clean Pets’ Teeth
Coconut oil is beneficial to humans, but your four-legged buddies can also benefit from it. Keep your dog’s smile bright and healthy by brushing its teeth with coconut oil. Dogs tend to love the taste, and the oil’s antimicrobial properties encourage better dental health.
25. Prevent Kitty Hairballs
Swanson Vitamins says you can decrease your cat’s hairballs and encourage a healthier coat by applying ½ a teaspoon of coconut oil to your kitty’s paw.
Whether you stick to using it for cooking or go wild and use it for anything and everything, coconut oil can be a great replacement to expensive products in your kitchen, bathroom and cleaning supplies cabinet. Look into buying it in bulk, to extend your savings even further.
Ohio-based Catherine Hiles is a British writer and editor living and working in the U.S. She has a degree in communications from the University of Chester in the U.K. and writes about finance, cars, pet ownership and parenting.