Well-known products with entirely different uses today than their original intended use

Coca-Cola was originally intended not as a refreshing soft drink, but as a patent medicine, touted to cure everything from indigestion to impotence.

Listerine, before its very successful marketing as a halitosis-fighting mouthwash, was originally intended as a surgical antiseptic. It has also been marketed as a floor cleaner, a cure for gonorrhea, and for women, a contraceptive and more…

And I’m old enough to remember when Q-Tips were explicitly marketed to clean out ear wax. I can’t find it on YouTube, but I distinctly remember as a very young kid seeing a commercial where little Johnny was outside playing, his mom was calling him to come home, and he could not hear her. Cut to future scene in which Johnny’s mom calls him in and he immediately comes running because his mom has roto-rooted the wax out of his ears with a handy Q-Tip.

WD-40 was originally intended as a drying agent. The “WD” stands for “water displacement.” Now, of course, most people use it as a lubricant (although it’s not a particularly good one).

Good one. That’s one of my bits of trivia I like to spring on people annoyingly. “Betcha don’t know what the ‘WD’ in ‘WD-40’ stands for”.

Viagra originally entered clinical trials to study its effectiveness in treating hypertension and angina, but scientists found that it was more effective at, uh, giving male patients boners instead, so nowadays it’s marketed for treating erectile dysfunction.

Rogaine has an even more tortuous history. It was originally developed as a treatment for ulcers, was found to be ineffective for that purpose, but then scientists found it was effective at treating high blood pressure, so the FDA approved it for that purpose. It soon became clear that Rogaine had the side effect of unexpected hair growth, and after more studies the FDA eventually approved it for treating male baldness. Interestingly, before it was approved for treating hair loss, doctors were already prescribing Rogaine (then known under the trade name “Loniten”) off-label to their balding patients.

I grew up in the 1970s and remember when 81mg aspirin was sold for use by small children and babies. (One brand was St Joseph’s Children’s Aspirin.) And then doctors learned about Reye Syndrome. Today, 81mg aspirin is still sold, but for adults with heart conditions.

Avon Skin So Soft was intended as a bath oil, but nowadays it’s often used as an insect repellent.

SSS is useless as an insect repellent but that doesn’t stop people from buying it for that purpose. Avon added some actual (but still mostly useless) insect repelling ingredients to some versions of SSS in response.

That’s the one I came in here to mention!

Vicks Vaporub is widely used for foot ailments, such as toenail fungus and athlete’s foot.

Play-Doh was originally a product for cleaning wallpaper.

An Avon representative I knew many years ago gave me a long, much-photocopied list of even more uses for SSS. Apparently it is a miraculous substance that can do anything (the only one I remember is “removing sticker residue”).

We studied skin so soft in marketing class. It appears that sales were ‘normal’ then shot up. Avon didn’t understand why and went to where it was being sold to ask consumers. They found their product jumped from mainly housewives to their outdoors orientated husbands who were using it as an insect repellent. After find it out they researched the process to actually market it as an insect repellent and after the saw what was required, they decided to just continue to sell it as a skin lotion and let that other use continue to spread word of mouth.

Several years later they did come up with insect repellent label version, but at first they would not even hint at it as they didn’t want to be accused of making any false or unproven claims.

Rubber cement thinner is commonly used to remove labels and sticky residue.

Cell phones were originally marketed as a way to make … phone calls.

Wait, you can use them for that?

Apple cider vinegar, a vinegar made from cidered apples, can be used for anything from recipes to insect traps to wart removal to polishing spacecraft windshields

The original purpose of Roundup weed killer was to remove scale from boiler tubes.

Vaseline. The discoverer thought it healed burns and cuts. Even ate it as a health food.

Lysol was originally a contraceptive douche.

Speaking of that, it was a long time before Rubber was thought any more useful than as a pencil eraser.

As @echoreply describes in post #18, it’s Lysol, not Listerine, that was a douche/birth control. It’s even in the title of your link: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/lysols-vintage-ads-subtly-pushed-women-to-use-its-disinfectant-as-birth-control-218734/