Last Updated on October 18, 2020
Fear not, you’re not going to see cutesy flowers, beer floats, or kiddie obstacle courses. Pool noodles have way more practical things to offer, whether we’re re-purposing a Star Wars party’s light sabers, scraps from assembling lightweight and challenging shooting targets, or buying fresh.
They’re handy enough, it’s worth keeping an eye out for end-of-summer salvage or even hitting a Dollar Tree to keep a few on hand – and nice and neat, if we can source one of my all-time salvages, the humble and versatile shipping pallet or DVD rack.
While cruising through, keep alternative resources of the same basic type in mind, like conduit insulation. Also keep in mind similar-shape goodies like wrapping paper and paper towel rolls, and items that are nowhere near the same, but can very well perform the same or similar functions, like plastic bottles.
Sometimes there are far less expensive ways to do things, and pool noodles really qualify only if they’re already there looking for a job to do. Sometimes, though, they or a similar chunk or tube of foam really is best.
These guys excel at protecting stuff from crashes and rubs.
In an emergency, some of damages might not be worth fretting – like cord rubbing paint off a car while lashing everything it will hold to the top. While we’re building up to that disaster, though, it doesn’t hurt. And sometimes, that damage is more than cosmetic – like if it’s the cord fraying with every bump and jostle.
Squeeze them between furniture and walls, pad the rockers on a rocking chair that pinches toes or scrapes walls, and keep from dinging doors or bumpers against stuff in the garage. Wad them under sofas to keep pet or kiddie toys from accumulating underneath, or to discourage small animals from getting under there and then higher up into the furniture.
Bumpers are also handy while we’re rearranging houses, or we can attach them to a cart somebody uses indoors to offset physical limitations.
While we’re padding things around the house, consider keeping a split noodle available if you sit on the edge of a tub/shower with a track for a door to bathe kids or animals.
And, #1 Mostest-Importantest Bumper Ever: Ceasing the attacks on toes by vicious bed frames.
(Seriously. You need 12” of a $1 noodle to never do the gasping flamingo getting dressed or making the bed again. That is an incredible return on the investment.)
Another really awesome one is cutting out the shape of your tow hitch to save shins.
While we’re more in the “convenience” vein than grrr-survival stuff, slice another foot or so and then cut a flat side and slit pathway through the length to hold playing cards or tiles from games like Tsuro.
It’s useful for injuries, old age, and little kids (and obnoxious games), and works if you make yourself some cardboard/pasteboard Scrabble or Dominoes while bunkering in somewhere.
People also do versions where they use just a slice, and there’s an alternate where you use old CDs/DVDs and a binder clip, but one of the things I like most about the long holders is that you can play while you eat or shell peas/beans, etc., without constantly picking up and putting down the cards or tiles.
(If there’s not a pool noodle handy, Lego and Lincoln Logs work a treat, or you can split some sticks to tie together.)
On a more practical side, pool noodles also give us a helping hand with paintbrushes.
That quick holder is also handy for preventing contact (cross-pollination) when you’re using paintbrushes to hand-pollinate squashes and melons to protect the seed line, boost harvest, or because they’re indoors or covered in mesh due to pest threats.
Also In The Garden…
Use them as fills and to increase drainage in pots, or to hold reservoir space in sub-irrigated planters. They’re also handy-dandy root pods or floats for rafts in aquaponics or hydroponics systems.
I’m more inclined to use the very many options involving plastic bottles and fast-fill slow-release irrigation in the garden, but we can poke holes in pool noodles (cap the ends) to create sprinklers or, if we can control the water pressure, slow soaker hoses.
The sprinkler adaptation is also plenty handy as an animal or foot wash or cool-down station.
Cut into spirals, they can also help protect our young garden trees (and stakes) from animals and tool bumps/mowers.
In aquaculture or aquaponics – or when fishing – they can be attached to laundry baskets or simple frames covered in netting for breeding seclusion, segregating adults and fingerlings, or purging harvest-able fish, or as a live fish basket to keep everybody fresh until we’re ready to go home.
Speaking of Fishing…
Since pool noodles float, they are absolute winners for anybody on the water. Cut a slice to loop onto key chains or a short segment to balance small flashlights or fillet knives, glasses cases, or anything else valuable.
It’s also fast and easy to attach them to poles themselves. Go as simple or as “pretty” as you like with it.
There are all kinds of ways to make jugs and bobbers or buoys out of them – some of which are adaptable to bottles, but some of which see real benefits using pool noodles.
A few inches of pool noodle can help keep hooks out of trouble and lines from tangling between poles. A few feet, and we can keep whole racks of poles neat and tidy and ready for the next trip.
This video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDlrPFRmFnk showcases a few additional uses for anglers, and highlights some of pool noodles’ specific benefits perfectly. (Yes, it’s the second of a series. No, I did not watch the first; this one had what I was looking for).
Remember to be adaptable – The video above showcases fishing gear, but hollowed out a little more, longer, shorter, or using an alternative like cardboard rolls, the same premises apply to other gear as well, off the water as well as on it.
A little slice with some strategic divots can prop our phones for hands-free DIY follow-along if we find something we like.
Back at Base Camp
Pool noodles are light enough with flexible enough storage options (like padding breakables in a bag or the microwave plate in an RV during travel), they can be toted easily, then unpacked to serve as water catchment “gutters” or to make lines and poles more visible and protect toes from those, too, if they’re as vicious as bed frames.
They can protect us from vicious segments of RV pop-outs, too.
There are limitations, but a pool noodle or three can also make for some handy insulation for hookups if temperature drops unexpectedly or something happens to our kit. (That applies to other outdoor hoses as well.)
Two Wheeling It
While staying in shape, saving fuel, or scouting and practicing for a bugout, throw a pool noodle on your bike – whichever side traffic is going to be passing on.
Drivers won’t be any happier about sharing the road with cyclists, but there’s some compelling anecdotal evidence that they do give riders a bigger berth with that visual reminder sticking out at them, and stay better aware of bike traffic.
The noodle is flexible enough that if it does get bumped, it’s no worse than being passed at 35-80 mph by a truck.
Be smart about it, though, and arrange a cup holder or hook somewhere so you can pull it and brace it for a little while if you’re maneuvering around slower vehicle traffic or alongside pedestrians.
Shorty Adaptable Hose
Not everybody has a faucet that’s convenient for filling buckets. Instead of buying adapters, try a $1-$2 pool noodle. Most have plenty of sealant on the interior to prevent messes.
Do keep a hand on that puppy, though, or use wire tires, a clamp, tape, etc. to keep it in that bucket if you’re going to step away.
(I see people who’ve affixed it to the faucet; that has never actually been my problem.)
They can also work as quickie extensions for pumps and other hoses that don’t quite reach.
Doors Stoppers x2
They’re not great on carpet and heavier draft stoppers are more effective, but for regularly used doors, pool noodles can work really well either in pairs connected by fabric or sliced down the length to clamp around the bottom of a door.
They’re also handy in keeping doors from closing all the way, whether it’s to keep pets from locking themselves in the cool bathroom or basement, or to make it easier to repeatedly open a door while carrying loads in or out.
Wiggle that slice on the side with the hinges instead of the knob to keep a door from shutting at all.
Pool Noodles for the Save
I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest pool noodles can pull of quite as much as shipping pallets, empty bottles, or wire coat hangers, but they can check an awful lot of boxes for us, pre-planned because they’re just that good at something – like padding, floating, or spiral cutting to use as instantly expanding-contracting binders for pipe, stakes, and light handles – or filling a need that crops up because they happen to be available.
As spacers they can help us create stackable grates for drying projects or dehydrating food, or inexpensive light-duty shelving.
Float a small net or a foraging basket, create stall bumpers, or mod a hoe or rake into a squeegee or broom. Pad crutches after an accident, protect windows or siding from shutters that rattle, or silence a bed frame.
The list for how we can use inexpensive pool noodles is pretty expansive way before we get to the many ways people use them for babies or highly questionable uses like padding a porta-potty bucket “seat” or using them instead of hose or ABS/PVC for garden hoops.
Cheap, versatile, easy to source, fairly durable depending on use, and easy to work with for the not-quite-DIY’er. What more could we ask for in a prep?