Paint a Room and Wash Your Face: More Uses For Powdered Milk Than You Ever Imagined


“Yick. Why on earth would you drink powdered milk?” I used to think. “It must taste horrid,” I surmised. I never drank that much milk anyway, so the cost savings of having powdered milk on hand didn’t come into the picture either.

However, when I inherited a bread maker and started making my own loaves, I came across powdered milk as a common ingredient.


And so began the wonderful day that powdered milk became a staple in my kitchen.


Although the price of powdered milk has crept up over the years, it is still a frugal way to drink the white stuff. And in addition to the wonderful uses Myscha outlined in her article here, there are so many other interesting things you can do with powdered milk that warrant its place in your cupboard too:



Cream (Or Something Like It)

Whisk equal parts of powdered milk to cold water, and you’ll end up with something creamier than milk. Let’s call it cream. Add a touch of fresh whole milk and you’re closer.


Instant Hot Chocolate

Combine equal parts of powdered milk, cocoa powder, and sugar, and whamo – you have instant hot chocolate on hand, just requiring hot water to serve. Play around with the exact quantities to suit your taste. This is especially handy if you make a batch in advance. Then get creative – add cinnamon, or chili, or nutmeg, and believe it or not a dash of salt brings out the chocolate flavour quite nicely.


Whipped Topping

Nothing beats real whipped cream, I know. But here’s a close second that is relatively guilt-free and made with stuff you already have on hand:

Combine equal parts of ice water and powdered milk, and whip with electric beater for a few minutes, until fluffy. Add a little sugar, a touch of lemon juice, and some vanilla for good measure. Beat until it is thick like whipped topping and spoon onto your dessert. Yum!


Homemade Yoghurt

Although you have to use commercial yoghurt to get this recipe going, it will go a long way.

In a very clean jar, put a quart of prepared milk. Add another ½ a cup of milk powder to thicken up the mixture a bit. Mix in a ¼ cup of commercial yoghurt, ensuring it has active bacterial culture in it. Stir well.

Let the mixture sit in a warm place for about 8 hours, until it is thick and creamy. Once it is the consistency you like, chill it and you’re good to go. Add fresh fruit or jam or vanilla and a touch of sugar or honey for flavour if you wish.


Curds, or Cottage Cheese, or Ricotta

First you make curds. Bring 1 part powdered milk and 2 parts water to a boil. Remove from heat and drizzle in some vinegar (ie: for every cup of water, put a tablespoon of vinegar). Stir lightly and let stand. You will see the milk separate, and you should have a clear liquid and white curds. If the liquid is still milky, add more vinegar, stir, and let sit again. Pour the mixture through a cloth to retain the curds and rinse them in cool water.

For ricotta, simply blend the curds until smooth.

For cottage cheese, add some yoghurt or evaporated milk and stir.



In The Kitchen

Thawing Frozen Fish

If you leave your frozen fish in a dish of milk to thaw, it will absorb the nutrients in the milk and taste as plump and fresh as the day it came out of the sea. Or at least close to it.


Make Sweet Corn Sweeter

Add some powdered milk (a quarter cup) to the water when boiling corn on the cob. You’ll be amazed how sweet and plump the corn will be.


Beautification and Bodily Uses


If you’re in a pinch and have no shaving cream or gel, you can (apparently) use milk as a substitute. Sounds pretty rough to me, but beggars can’t be choosers I guess. Combine powdered milk with enough water to make a thick creamy texture and apply as you would to shave.


Insect Bite Treatment

Make a paste with powdered milk and water (try equal parts powdered milk and water) and a dash of salt. It will take care of the irritants in the bites and bring relief of the itchiness.


Sunburn Relief

A little milk applied to sunburns will soothe your skin and make you feel less toasty for a while. For ease of application, you can use the paste recipe shown above for insect bites.


Skin Moisturizers

For a really dry skin remedy, rub some cold milk on your skin and allow it to absorb the nutrients. Be sure to rinse off afterwards though or you may smell a little sour by the following morning!


Makeup Remover

Shake up some powdered milk and warm water until it has a creamy consistency. Apply with a facecloth or cotton ball, then wipe it off and rinse well with water.


Face Mask

For a home spa facial, use water and powdered milk to make a thick paste and spread it on your face. Relax for 20 minutes until it dries, then rinse thoroughly. It will both clean and moisturize your face wonderfully. Not to mention the fact that you just sat and did nothing for 20 minutes…the relaxation aspect of facials is not to be underestimated.


Milk Bath

Add some powdered milk to your bath and have a nice soak. An ancient technique that is still used in some parts of the world, it is wonderful for moisturizing the skin, and quite a luxurious treat.



Household Uses

Clean dirty hands

Combine some (prepared) milk with a little lemon juice to wash your hands. The lemon will cut through the grease, and the milk will make your hands...well..milky soft.

For extra grimy hands, mix in some rolled oats to make a paste and scrub away.


Silver Polish

Sour your milk by adding some lemon or vinegar. Then, soak your silver in the mixture for about half an hour, wash the silver with soapy water, buff it up, and watch it shine.


Spiff up your Patent Leather

The last pair of patent leather shoes I owned goes a while back now (yikes), but if you’ve got ‘em, now you can clean ‘em. Rub a thin layer of milk on them, let it dry, then polish your duds until they gleam again.


Clean the Plants

Only a very particular (read: anal) clean-freak or maybe a greenhouse gardener might want to test this technique. Clean your plant leaves with a weak mixture of powdered milk and water and a soft cloth. Then again just plain wiping the plants down period will get the dust and dirt off, but if you want to try milk, be my guest. I’m sure your plants will thank you in their quiet subtle way.


Cure Your Cracks

This may be an old wives tale, but if you have a piece of cracked china that you are heartbroken about, it may be worth a shot. Boil it in milk (by simmering on low heat for 45 minutes), and you just may find that the crack goes away (the milk reacting with the kaolin in the china to repair the crack from the inside out).

If anybody has done this successfully, please let us know here. It may save a lot of heartbreak-age with the good china.


Removing Ink Stains From Clothes

Soak the offending garment in milk overnight, then wash it as usual the next day. Damn those leaky pocket protectors.


Paint a Room

No really.

Mix 1 part water to 3 parts powdered milk until you get something around the consistency of paint. Blend in a water-based colour if you don’t want neutral white, and paint your heart out. As with normal paint, let it dry thoroughly between coats (ie: 24 hours).

Of course, given the amount of powdered milk required to actually paint a room, I question the cost effectiveness and practicality of this idea, but if you just need to do a touch-up on a neutral surface, or need to stretch what’s left in your can of paint a little further and aren’t fussed about lightening the tone with the dilution, this could come in handy.


Oh yeah, and you can use powdered milk as just plain milk too!


For those who are worried about their powdered milk turning out watery and lumpy, here are a few techniques for successful milk-making:

  • Only mix the powdered milk with cold water. It tends not to dissolve with warm or hot water.
  • Stir it well, and when you think you’ve stirred it enough, stir it some more. Let it sit for a while, then stir it even more. This helps the protein to mix in properly.
  • For a creamier fuller taste and consistency, make your milk the night before and keep it in the refrigerator. It will come into its own after a night of chilling.
  • If you still can’t stand the taste, try adding a drop or two of vanilla, or a touch of sugar.

And if you are trying to make the full leap from fresh milk to powdered milk, you may want to ease the transition by cutting it with fresh milk. You’ll know you did it right if nobody notices after a process of weaning yourself off the fresh milk.


Disclaimer: As with toothpaste applications , these tips and tricks have not all been tested and should be attempted at the user's risk. Heck - if you plan to paint a room with milk, it's all you! 

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Guest's picture
bob smith
Guest's picture

Two words: Oxidized Cholesterol
Powdered Milk is oxidized cholesterol which is considered as harmful in the body as hydrogenated oils. Google it. I wish it weren't true because, in theory, it's a great idea for a product.

Guest's picture

Amazing the many uses for this product. But would you really want to drink something that can be used for paint??


Guest's picture

I don't drink milk, so I keep a some powdered milk on hand in case I want a little for tea or something. I don't think that's going to kill me with bad cholesterol.

Loved the idea about the fish! I'll have to try that.

Guest's picture

As a promoter of disaster readiness, everybody should keep enough powdered milk in their pantry to replace 100% of their families needs for a -minimum- of 3 days, and ideally 6 weeks to 3 months. This also protects your family from price fluctuations (such as the fuel/corn one we are in right now) or seasonal variations (cows naturally produce more milk in the summer when people tend to cook and drink less, so it's often cheaper).

Unless you go to BJ's and buy in bulk (which I do 1x per year when they send out their free 6-week trial membership coupon), you don't save a lot on powdered milk, but if you bulk up at the warehouse stores, it comes out to around $2.36 per gallon (versus $3.99 for fresh).

We have three young children and use 1.5 gallons per day, so multiply that by your "just in case" cushion. In our case, 3 months cushion = 92 days. 1.5 gal/day x 92 days = 138 gallons. Since powdered milk is usually measured in quarts, multiply 138 x 4 = 552 quarts.

To convert that into how many boxes you need to keep in stock in your "just in case" stash, divide 552 by however many quarts are in the powdered milk package. The big boxes of Carnation have 22 quarts, so 552/22 = 25 boxes of Carnation.

As someone with three young children, our 3-month "disaster stash" is an awful lot of milk powder that will go bad if you don't drink it, so we've gotten creative about using it. On the other hand, the kids turn their nose up to 100% powdered milk for drinking. Here's how we use it and save money:

-Keep a quart made up at all times in the fridge for "cooking milk." Whenever you need a splash of milk in your mashed potatoes, instant pudding, hamburger helper, scrambled eggs or microwave oatmeal, use the cooking milk. You'll never taste the difference.

-Very clean glass jars are better than plastic for making the reconstituted milk last longer in your fridge.

-If you're always trying to up your picky kids protein counts, mix 1.5 packets (instead of 1) in your "cooking milk" quart. It's a sneaky way to slip more protein into their diet.

-Make homemade bread pudding, rice pudding, and custard pie. Yum!!! It's dirt cheap to make and the kids love it.

-Make up your own pancake and cocoa mixes using powdered milk. I simply multiply the recipes in Betty Crocker by 10, stick it all in a big Tupperware canister, then add the egg and oil or hot water at the time of food prep. Not only does this utilize cheaper powdered milk and taste exactly the same as Swiss Miss and Aunt Jemima, but you'll save a bundle over commercial mixes.

-No matter how cold I chill it or how long I try to gradually convert the kids to 100% powdered milk, there is this magical ratio of fresh-to-powdered milk before the kids reject it. I start with 1/5th powdered milk (even Mom can't taste it), and can get to 1/3rd (slight powdered taste, but not obvious) before the kids reject it. If it's in a separate container, the kids reject it, so I pour the 1/3-2/3 ratio milk back into a (sterilized) milk jug and they don't notice.

-Toss a few tablespoons of milk powder into homemade bread mix, meatloaf, meatballs, etc. to give it a mild flavor and boost the protein count.

-Instead of adding expensive cream to fish or clam chowder, make extra fish stock from the fish frame and then slowly dissolve double the amount of milk powder as you would normally use for that amount of water (i.e., if you have a 2-qt. saucepan of stock, mix 4 packets worth of milk powder) to make your chowder. Not only will you save a bundle, but you get healthy protein and no unhealthy fat.

To make sure we're always using the oldest box of powdered milk first, we write the expiration date in big letters with a marker on the side facing outwards on our pantry shelf. Oldest boxes are on the left, new boxes go in on the right, and the entire collection just keeps getting slid to the left as you use it up. That way, your milk powder doesn't expire and go to waste. Our 3-month "just in case" stash lasts about a year, so I figure 25% of our milk consumption is powdered milk and we save $150 per year. Bon appetit!

Guest's picture

I've also heard that keeping the blended milk in a glass container as opposed to a plastic one makes it taste better. I don't know where I read this and have never experimented with it, though.

Guest's picture

Awesome! Never knew milk powder could be used in so many ways. Nora you're just too good!

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Cleaning your plants with milk isn't as anal as it sounds-- the milk makes the leaves shiny (for months!).. if you do this a couple times a year your plants will never look dusty. Seriously, it works better than I ever thought it could!

Guest's picture

One of your tips claims that using powdered milk for hot chocolate - and then at the end of the article, you say the powdered milk should only be mixed with cold water because it tends not to dissolve with warm or hot water.

Which is it> :-)

I was thinking of replacing the yucky coffee mate that I use for my tea at the office with powdered milk. I was doing some web-searching to see if it works well when I found your page. Now I still don't know.

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@me: If you are trying to make milk that you drink on its own (or otherwise use - as in on cereal), then mixing it with cold water is best. Rarely would you drink a glass of boiling hot least it's not my "cup 'o' tea".

But if you are making something that is a hot drink, it will dissolve in boiling water nicely.

It is warm water that is least effective in accomplishing either hot or cold milk drinks.

Guest's picture

Milk Paint - yes, this is what was traditionally used as paint, however you must add lime to it (as in quicklime (limewash) made from limestone, not the fruit) to make it stick and harden. But, DO NOT add this to ordinary paint that you buy in the store (latex / acrylic or oil) as it will destroy it! They are not compatible with either casein (milk) or lime. Milk paint probably will not adhere to acrylic-painted walls without a pre-treatment. But you can try aging an unfinished piece of wood furniture with it. Without the lime though the finish will wash away over time.

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@Nat - Thanks for the advice! It seemed too simple to be able to just slap some milk on the walls....(smiles)

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Bacteria in non fat dry milk are not always killed by
heat treatment. Dry milk infected with staphylococcus
toxins have infected thousands of people with
The Centers for Disease Control
have blamed increases of outbreaks on non-fat dried

As a result of that column, many readers wrote to me,
wanting to know how many live bacterial cells are
permitted in non-fat dried milk by the United States
Department of Agriculture.

The U.S. Standards for Grades of Nonfat Dry Milk
allow 10,000 bacterial cells per gram. Since there
are 454 grams in a pound of dry milk powder, expect
to find no more than 4,540,000 live bacterial cells
in each pound of product.
-- Robert Cohen,

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Wouldn't painting with it attract rodents and unsects?