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10 ways to reuse common household items

Rather than toss things like paper towel rolls, dish soap bottles and plastic shopping bags, repurpose them. Here's how.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 20, 2011 8:19AM

This post comes from Janey Osterlind at partner blog Wise Bread.


If you're anything like me, you're throwing out too much with the trash. Even though I recycle, I often think that I could surely be doing more to cut down on waste. With a little creative thinking, I've come up with a list of 10 household items I could be saving rather than tossing out.


Here they are, along with some of the ways they can be reused. (See also: "Garbage into gold: Great ways to recycle old containers.")


Dish soap bottles. Use an old, thoroughly cleaned dish soap bottle (or any squeeze bottle) to dole out a perfect amount of pancake batter onto a hot griddle. You can also use a squeeze bottle as a convenient way to fill an iron with water or water out-of-the-way plants.


Egg cartons. Used egg cartons (preferably well-cleaned Styrofoam ones) are excellent for freezing individual portions of all kinds of things -- cookie dough batter, meatballs, homemade herb-butter patties. You could also use the cartons as convenient Jell-O molds for fun treats. They're also a great way to start seedlings for your garden. And if you have enough, use the cartons to store golf balls or organize change, which is especially convenient for garage and bake sales.


Floor tiles. Make a beautiful piece of mosaic art. Gather up unused remnant tiles (or ask for some from your local home-improvement store), break carefully into pieces in a cloth bag, and arrange in a pattern on any solid surface. Adhere with floor-tile adhesive, and use a putty knife to push grout into the cracks after the adhesive dries. Wipe excess grout away with a damp cloth before it sets. You can also make a mosaic table or use large tiles to make an old tabletop new. Smaller tiles can be used for trivets.


Old socks. Use the lone socks that the sock gnome left behind to keep small toys organized or to keep odds and ends like screws and paper clips in one convenient location. You could also put old socks over your shoes when doing something messy (like painting), or when your shoes are a wreck but you need to run inside for a minute. Feel free to hand them out to maintenance men and repairmen who tromp through your house, too.


Try using others as dog or cat toys -- put a tennis ball in one for the dog, or catnip in the cat's, and sew closed. (See also: "10 DIY dog toys you can make for pennies.")


Old T-shirts. When your husband's fraternity T-shirts have more holes in them than the family colander, it's time to retire the man-jersey. Pay homage to his favorite tees by sewing them into a pillow (for the man-cave), or just throw them into the dog's crate. Better yet, use those babies for cleaning rags or to wrap breakables when moving. Your husband will appreciate his old shirts being given new life. Maybe. Post continues after video.

Paper towel rolls. Keep your plastic bags contained by stuffing them in an empty paper towel roll. And while you're at it, keep extension cords untangled by rolling them up and putting them through a paper towel roll. You can also organize hair bands and hair clips, roll your linens around paper towel rolls to keep them crease-free, or make boot trees so your over-the-knee boots won't get unsightly creases in them after spending the summer slouched over in the back of your closet.


Plastic shopping bags. You already know how to keep plastic shopping bags contained in an empty paper towel roll. Now put the bags to use by lining bathroom waste cans with them. If you collect enough, plastic bags make excellent packing material in place of those awful packing peanuts. They're also great for keeping flour and sugar from spilling all over your pantry shelves.


Shoe boxes. Being a small-time shoe diva myself, I've collected more than my fair share of empty shoe boxes over the years. I put the boxes to good use by making them into storage bins for my closet. Rather than spend a fortune on matching boxes, I've wrapped them all in similar wrapping paper and printed off labels for easy identification. I also use empty shoe boxes as dresser-drawer organizers.


You might also want to use your empty shoe boxes for, well, shoe storage. Take pictures of your inventory and tape them to the outside of the boxes to quickly spot the pair you're looking for in the closet.


Shower curtains. I know this is a surprise, but I have somehow accumulated a number of old shower curtains over the years. I plan on using some as tablecloths for an outdoor gathering, while others I'll use as drop cloths the next time I paint the walls.


Another will be reused as a windshield cover to prevent frost buildup. Simply cut the shower curtain to the size of your windshield and hem in magnets to keep the cover in place. The magnets should stick to your car's metal windshield frame (see this windshield cover for an idea of how it should work). (See also: "3 cheap and easy formulas for homemade windshield de-icer.")


Wine corks. Don't just toss all the wine corks you've accumulated over the years. Make a floating keychain to keep track of your keys the next time you set sail, or use others to safely store knives in a drawer. Use some to make a stylish wreath for your front door. You could also make an actual cork board to hold messages and important pieces of paper. (See also: "25 things to do with used corks.")


What about you? Are there any household items that you reuse in a creative way, or do you have another use for one of these items? Share your thoughts in the comments.


More on Wise Bread and MSN Money:

Jul 23, 2011 3:21PM
How about keeping three things out of the trash and provide something useful! Save your dryer lint, cardboard egg cartons and old candles. Stuff the lint into the egg pockets and once they're nice and full, take all those old broken candles and melt them down, then pour over the lint. Let them cool and harden. The next time you want an indoor or outdoor fire starter, break the egg carton apart, set in your fireplace or camp fire and light. The entire thing will be consumed by your fire and leave no trace. They're a lot lighter and easier to pack on your camping trip and work just as great in a fireplace.
Jul 23, 2011 5:20PM
I hope a hoarder doesn't read this article.
Jul 23, 2011 4:43PM

Being a kindergarten teacher, here are some good teacher uses:

1. I use the toilet paper rolls to make butterfly cocoons. Let students paint them brown, dry and use tissue paper and a popsicle stick to make a butterfly and voila! Stuff the butterfly into the "cocoon" and you have part of your life cycle. I have also used TP rolls for little trees for Arbor Day. I paint them brown, ball up newspaper into "leaves", and paint green. Push into the brown TP roll and voila!

2. I use egg cartons to make caterpillars. Using the dozen pack, I cut in half the LONG WAY (six and six), paint, let dry, add little legs, googley eyes, and there is a caterpillar.

3. I use tissue boxes as my Valentine's Day card holders. I have my assistant cover boxes in pink and blue paper (pink for girls and blue for boys) and have students color and decorate any way they want. On Valentine's Day, they pass out cards and place in their friends box. It saves from my desk being piled up in case students are absent.

4. If you can save enough, I use the small round quick oatmeal containers as Abraham Lincoln hats. Cover with black paper. Cut a plate the size of the oatmeal container, paint black and slide into oatmeal container. My students love that one!!!

As you can see I am a teacher and I love to be creative!! Thanks for reading!

Jul 23, 2011 3:26PM
I already do a lot of that lol. I save my bags from the grocery store and line my bathroom garbage with it and other small trash bins around the house. Use toilet rolls/paper towel rolls and give them to my hamsters/mice. I always use shoe boxes, especially my 3 year olds since they're so small, to put odds and ends in like screws and other small things. Old t-shirts I usually use as rags to clean with. Keep egg cartons sometimes, it's especially good when you know someone who has chickens, you can give the cartons to them and they really appreciate it. And I've reused spray bottles like windex bottles and wash them out and fill it 2/3 of the way and put a teaspoon or two of bleach and use it to clean the bathroom.
Jul 23, 2011 7:58PM
I use gallon milk bottles for storing plastic bags.  I cut an opening near the top to stuff the bags in.  They hold a lot of bags.  I cut a hole in the top of an empty bleach bottle to hold my clothes pins for outside use.  You can slit the handle near the bottom and it will hang on your clothes line.  Drain holes can be punched in the bottom if you leave it outside all summer.  I use an old sock over a rubber glove on my hand to do staining.  It works great and no mess or clean up.  My hand stays clean too.  I use cheap (on sale) shampoo in my liquid soap bottles to refill them.  Much cheaper than buying new bottles of liquid soap and saves the environment too.  I reuse my soap chips in the shower by putting them in a mesh bag.  Good way to use up the small pieces of soap and not waste product.  I will try some of the other idea's too.  Always trying to re-use and save money.
Jul 23, 2011 4:47PM
Anyone with a baby in a highchair?  Put old shower curtains or plastic tablecloths under the chair while baby learns to eat by him/herself.  Saves having to clean food from the floors.  Works for the 'kids table' at family gatherings too. 
I made several trash cans sized specificly for plastic grocery store bags and also use them for litter box scoopings and other pet cleanup.  I use old sox as clean and polish rags as well as old tee shirts.  Old tee shirts cut into 1 inch wide strips also make good plant ties I use them to tie up my tomatoe plants.  I also keep some plastic grocery bags in our vehicles for trash bags especially when on trips.  Old jeans can be cut up and sewn into throws for the car seat very useful if you need to take the dog to the vet or if the kids get sweaty and dirty at the park.  I also reuse old jeans to cover the scratching posts for our cats they seem to prefer the denim to the carpet that ordinarily comes on them.  Just use an Arrow type stapler or carpet tacks to hold the dinim in place.
Jul 23, 2011 4:16PM

Good article.

No vitriol or politics.  Just ideas and solutions.


Don't like it, don't do it.


Old plastic shower curtains are also good when you move heavy objects like furniture - easier to slide than to carry.  In the meantime, use them to keep dust off of stuff you store in your garage.


Old plastic bags are also useful for people who own dogs to clean up after them.


Reduce, reuse, recycle is simple and easy, and has nothing to do with your politics and opinions on global warming.


However, without a funnel, getting thick pancake batter into an old soap dispenser must be quite a trick.

Jul 23, 2011 9:55PM
Plastic bags are used by the public library for the people checking out several books at once.
They are always looking for more bags.

Jul 20, 2011 10:55PM

If you take vitamins like me, and you've got a lot of different vitamin bottle caps. Instead of just throwing away the empties, take one of the newfangled "pop-top" caps (like on "Nature-Made" vitamins sold at Walmart), take one regular old screw on cap (same diameter caps), and at least one circumfrence of scotch tape; voila- a free little pill holder. I've made many for family members, using different color caps, so we don't get ours mixed up. Re-Use is the ultimate in recycling!

Jul 23, 2011 5:01PM

There are so many ways to reuse items instead of simply tossing them in the trash. The important thing is to have a mindset to do it. To add input to this discussion we add large pieces of high density styrafoam included in many packages to our large outdoor annual plant containers to lower their weight and to save on uneeded potting soil.

Jul 24, 2011 1:17AM

Now I know how to get on the next season of "Hoarders"!!!!

Jul 23, 2011 4:07PM

I save my cheap flannel backed tablecloths to use as drop cloths over carpet. They do not slip out of place and nothing leaks through. You can use them over and over

Jul 23, 2011 9:20PM

I too liked Timothy's (Timothy 514) comment; however, it is slightly off-topic...considering the article for discussion didn't mention any "Green" or other buzzwords. "10 ways to reuse common household items", does mention saving money - another sort of green!

In particlular: I find it difficult buying any products which are specifically designed to be thrown away! Garbage bags, sandwich bags, Alkaline (dry cell) batteries, disposable razors....etc. On occasion, I do make an exception to the rule.

So, I will go one step further and say (type)  that reusing and recycling is nothing more than a lifestyle which has always been available, and which some of us have never forgotten.

Jul 24, 2011 12:23AM
I save the plastic bottles from my prescription meds.  Before use I carefully remove the label and only save the very clean ones.  They come in all sizes and are great for storing small things like screws, nuts, washers, nails of different sizes and other small parts and items.  I keep a box of empty med (Rx) bottles in the garage for just such a use.  We use them too for putting small items, like jewelry, we sell on eBay.  Find something creepy on your pet and the vet wants to see it?  Here again is where these med bottles come in handy, especially with their tight fitting caps.

Considering that millions of these Rx bottles are dispensed yearly by our pharmacies, you would think they would offer to take the empties back for cleaning and reuse.  What a waste, not to mention most of these empty Rx bottles are going into landfills.

Jul 23, 2011 4:44PM
We use our old plastic grocery bags to put dirty diapers in.  When its full, tie it up and use another.  They also make great food waste bags for the small food waste garbage container.  If you change your own oil, you can also use 2 of them inside each other for the oil filter.  Loosen the filter a bit, then wrap the bags around it and take it the rest of the way off.  The oil goes in the bags instead of on you and the ground.
Jul 23, 2011 10:40PM

"I  too liked Timothy's (Timothy 514) comment; however, it is slightly off-topic...considering the article for discussion didn't mention any "Green" or other buzzwords."


While the term "green" isn't used in the article the tone of the article is about being green by re-using and recycling for other purposes items that have fulfilled their original intent. 


We have a quantity of old glass mayonnaise jars that were re-used by others for canning (NOT recommended because they are not designed for repeated heating-cooling cycles like regular canning jars and are prone to breaking).  We use them for short term storage in the fridge and for dry storage of such things as dried herbs.

Aug 8, 2011 12:05PM

I save too.  I keep water from A/C unit.  Keep bucket under them and use for your plants every evening.  I use juice containers to fill them back up.  I cut a hole in front of them and use them over and over again.  Also save all yor junj mail.  Use the envelopes,   paper for notes, list , computor etc.  Get alot free paper.   Saves trees.  If you get up early go out side wipe  your car off with drew.  Save more water keep s you in good shape haa.   Pem

Jul 23, 2011 7:43PM
AMEN to Timothy514. Perfect response. I guess ya had to be there to understand the 'Wasteful old days'.

Has anyone driven past their local landfill lately?

'Nuf said.

Jul 24, 2011 12:18AM
Don't break your arm patting yourself on the back Timothy. It's your generation that got us in this ecological mess.
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