Practical tips for reusing common household items

October 20, 2015

Before you toss that empty carton, jar, or can use your imagination and think how you can re-use it! Here are a few practical tips for reusing common household items.

Practical tips for reusing common household items

Cartons, jars and cans

  • Use an egg carton with drainage holes cut in the bottom for seed propagation. Once the seedlings are big enough, plant the carton or each detached 'egg cup' directly in the ground. The carton will protect the seedling, then biodegrade and disappear.
  • Wash plastic juice containers thoroughly and use them to freeze soups and sauces, or fill with water and freeze to make freezer packs.
  • Use old juice and dairy cartons as peel-away moulds for home-made soap and candles.
  • Save glass jars and bottles for preserving, jam making and pickling.
  • Refill pretty or unusually shaped glass bottles with home-made herb oil or vinegar for gifts.
  • Keep airtight glass jars for storing herbs, rice or lentils. These foods benefit from being stored this way and the glass allows you to see at a glance what's inside.
  • Use regular glass jars for holding salad dressings and leftover sauce. It's easier to clean these liquids out of glass than out of plastic.
  • Cut off the bottom half of a plastic soft drink bottle to make a handy funnel for the garage or the kitchen.
  • Wash out old herb and spice jars and use them for holding small items such as elastic bands, safety pins, paper clips, a little sewing kit, or nails and screws.
  • Use small cans to make attractive candle holders for the garden or a city balcony.

Clothes and fabrics

Clothes, bedding, towels, fabrics and curtains that have seen better days can still be put to good use or given a new lease on life.

  • Save old shirts to wear for gardening or painting.
  • Socks that are past darning come in handy as polishing cloths, padding for the ends of ladders and cobweb dusters (fitted over brooms).
  • Turn odd socks into hand puppets to amuse young children: just sew on buttons and fabric scraps.
  • Cut the legs of well-worn trousers to make gardening shorts.
  • Remove the wires from an old electric blanket and use the blanket as an underlay on your bed.
  • Sheets that are beyond saving and faded curtains make good drop cloths for painting.
  • Sew discarded curtains into bags for storing good coats, suits and dresses.
  • Use scraps of fabrics for quilting – baby blankets, pot holders or bags.

How to make party lights with cans

What you will need

  • clean tin cans (no labels)
  • paper and pencil
  • adhesive tape
  • hammer and nail
  • vice grips
  • wire, 0.9 mm (optional)


  1. Hammer down any sharp edges, then fill the can with water. Place the can in the freezer until frozen solid. (The ice will keep the tin from collapsing when you hammer into it.)
  2. Cut a piece of paper to fit around your can and draw a design of holes on it. Tape the paper around the frozen can.
  3. Place the can in your vice to hold it, then hammer the nail through the design to transfer the pattern to the can.
  4. If you're going to want to hang the can up, make two extra holes in the top for attaching a wire handle.
  5. Allow the ice to melt, and dry the can. Place a candle or tea-light inside.

To reuse rather than throw out more common household items (from cans to socks to blankets), give some of these tips a try.

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