Sugar 101

Sugar Uses

Explore the many uses of sugar that go beyond sweetness and beyond food.

Sugar is a versatile and irreplaceable functional ingredient in food. In addition to providing sweetness, sugar is also used to balance acidity, add bulk or prevent spoilage among other functional properties. But did you know that sugar is also used in the production of medication, to make bioplastics for planes, and can extend the life of your fresh cut flowers? Explore the many uses of sugar that go beyond sweetness and beyond food.



Sugar is used for coating, adding volume or texture, and flavoring medicine. It can also act as a preservative and antioxidant.

Cure hiccups

Eating a spoonful of sugar helps halt hiccups because its graininess slightly irritates the esophagus, causing the phrenic nerves to ‘reset’ themselves and forget all about the hiccups.

Bee stings and bug bites

To soothe painful stings and bites, mix equal parts sugar and water and apply to the area. Leave it on for about 20 minutes.

Mouth burn from spicy or hot foods

Hot coffee? Sizzling hot pizza? The next time you inadvertently burn your tongue (or eat something too spicy) suck on a pinch of sugar or a sugar cube to help quickly relieve the sting.

Soothe a sore throat

Sucking on a lozenge or hard candy increases saliva production, helping keep your throat moist and lubricating the irritation.

Soothe babies

Studies have shown that babies who were given a 1 to 4 sugar/water solution before immunizations handled the pain of the shots better than children who received only water.1

Healing wounds

Many of the same properties that makes sugar an excellent preservative also make sugar effective in wound healing. When sugar is applied to an open wound, it absorbs the wound’s moisture which prevents the growth of bacteria. While there are records that date back to 1700 BCE, recent research has also been conducted in this area.2



Sugar is used in cosmetics for its exfoliating and moisturizing properties. Sugar cane extracts are also used in moisturizers and face masks.

Make lipstick last longer

Sprinkle a little bit of sugar on your lips after applying lipstick, wait a minute, then lick it off. The sugar draws moisture from the lipstick and will extend the color.

Body scrubs

Sugar scrubs are great for exfoliating. Make your own simple body scrub by mixing sugar with oil (coconut oil, almond, jojoba or olive all work well) to create a loose paste. Gently rub on your skin and then rinse off in the shower.

Lip scrubs

Blend a little coconut oil or olive oil with sugar and a drop of peppermint essential oil. Place some of the paste on your lips, massage and lick off.

Home and Garden

Clean your hands

Do you have greasy or dirty hands from cooking, gardening or working on your car? Put about a teaspoon of sugar into the palm of your hand before washing with soap as usual. The sugar helps cut the grease and acts as an abrasive to scrub the mess away.

DIY Stain Remover

Create a paste with water, white vinegar, and sugar to pre-treat stained clothing before washing. Let the paste sit for 10-20 minutes, rinse, then wash your garment in cold water. Before you stick it in the dryer, make sure that the stain is gone. If not, you’ll want to treat and wash in cold again. If you put the stained fabric into the dryer, the heat can set the stain.

Keep baked goods fresh

Add a few sugar cubes to the airtight container holding your baked goods. The sugar will absorb the moisture and keep your bread, cakes, cookies, and biscuits fresher, longer.

Clean your coffee or spice grinder

To clean and eliminate odors…pour 1/4 cup of sugar into your grinder and let it run for a few minutes. It’ll break down and clean out all the excess oils that have built up in the machine over time. Dump out and wipe clean.

Keep cut flowers fresher, longer

Add 3 teaspoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of vinegar per quart of warm water, then add fresh-cut flowers. The sugar feeds the stems and the vinegar restricts the growth of bacteria. Replace the water every other day.

Prevent cheese from molding

To keep your favorite cheese from turning fuzzy, place a sugar cube with the cheese in an airtight container. The sugar will absorb the moisture that can cause molding.

Lighter fluid substitute

Once sugar is exposed to a flame, it decomposes rapidly and releases a fire-friendly chemical that can help ignite that stubborn charcoal. Simply apply a light dusting of sugar to the coals before you light them.

Indoor and outdoor pest solutions

Garden pests: To naturally combat garden pests like nematodes, sprinkle plants and the soil around them with handfuls of sugar. The sugar will feed microorganisms which will increase the organic matter in the soil while making it a hostile environment for nematodes.

Bugs and roaches: Mix equal parts sugar and baking powder and sprinkle the mixture over any place you suspect bugs are hanging out. Sugar attracts the bugs and the baking powder exterminates them.

Wasps: Make a simple syrup by mixing two parts sugar with one-part water and bringing it to a boil. Once it cools, pour the syrup into a jar and set it outside. The sticky mixture will attract the wasps and trap them.

Industrial and Agricultural

Building materials

In addition to bioplastics, sugar cane bagasse is used to make particle board.


Sugar cane is used to make bioplastics used in a wide range of rigid and flexible materials including food and drink packaging, acoustical paneling and airplane parts. A few recent innovations included below.

Legos: Lego started using sugar cane-based polyethylene used in its botanical elements such as trees, bushes and leaves at the Billund, Denmark, production plant in 2018.

Electric car panels: The honeycomb structured core from sugar cane (PLA) is one of the sustainable materials being used in the body panels of circular electric cars being developed in the Netherlands.

Paper products

Sugar cane bagasse is used to make: Office products: copy paper, envelopes, card stock and more Take-out containers: eco-friendly solution to Styrofoam


Sugar cane bagasse is often used to make electricity for the sugar cane mills and refineries. Some factories even supply electricity to nearby towns.

Ingredients for foods and medicines

Sugar molasses is used in the production of ingredients for foods and medicines.

Lysine: An essential amino acid used to make medicine. Lysine is used for preventing and treating cold sores and is also found in supplements.

Lactic acid: Used in prepared foods for preservation and flavor, and also as a curing agent.

Citric acid: Used in prepared foods for preservation and flavor (sour).

Yeast: Used in baking and brewing industries.

Organic compounds

In addition to ethanol, sugar is used to make furfural, an organic compound used in production of various cements, adhesives, coatings, and herbicides.

Cleaning products

Sugar is an ingredient in sugar scrubs for your body and some cleaning products for your home. It is also used to make certain types of detergents.

Livestock feed

Sugar production coproducts and molasses are used as feed supplements for livestock.

Cement and glue

Sugar slows the setting of cement and glue.


Sugar is used to make ethanol (ethyl alcohol).

Beer, wine, distilled spirits: Sugar is involved in the fermentation process that produces ethanol in alcoholic beverages.

Industrial chemical: Ethanol is an industrial chemical used as a solvent, in the synthesis of other organic chemicals and as an additive to automotive gasoline (biofuel).

Textiles and leather

Sugar is used in the textile industry for sizing and finishing fabrics. It is also used in leather tanning.


Sugar is used in the production of biofuels.

Ethanol: Sugar is used to make ethanol, an additive to automotive gasoline.

Acetone-Butanol-Alcohol: Sugar molasses is used in the production of acetone-butanol-alcohol.


  1. Hatfield LA, Chang K, Bittle M, et al. The analgesic properties of intraoral sucrose: an integrative review. Adv Neonatal Care. 2011;11(2):83-92. 
  2. Murandu M, Webber MA, Simms MH, Dealy C. Use of granulated sugar therapy in the management of sloughy or necrotic wounds: a pilot study. J Wound Care. 2011;20(5):206, 208, 210.
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