Ripe for Reuse
With a little creative repurposing, you can breathe new life into many common household items—including those destined for the trash heap.
These clever recycling tips, as seen in TOH magazine’s 10 Uses column, are good for the planet and your wallet, too.
Store Bungee Cords Tangle-Free
Staple each end of a 3-by-12-inch strip of hardware cloth to a 3-by-3-inch piece of scrap wood. Affix the hanger to the garage wall; hook one end of each cord in the mesh.
See more ideas in 10 Uses for Hardware Cloth
Use Sash Chains to Steady Billowing Curtains
Slide lengths into the bottom hems of the panels to keep them from blowing around.
See more ideas in 10 Uses for Sash Chains.
Use Paint Stirrers to Raise a Planter
Cut notches into stir sticks every 1½ inches and assemble them as shown. Place the grid under a pot to prevent deck stains and rot.
See more ideas in 10 Uses for Paint Stirrers.
Use Wine Bottles to Create a Festive Light Display
Feed a 50-light string (get the kind with just one plug) into a hole drilled in a bottle’s side. We used a ¾-inch tile bit, then enlarged and smoothed the hole with a conical grinding stone.
Find more ideas in 10 Uses for Empty Wine Bottles.
Use Weatherstripping to Make a DIY Squeegee
Fashion an instant squeegee by affixing a length of self-adhesive D-profile rubber tube insulation along the edge of a paint scraper.
See more ideas in 10 Uses for Weatherstripping.
Use a Toothpick to Free Up a Nozzle
Use a toothpick to pierce the clogged opening of a glue bottle.
See the nine other Uses for Toothpicks
Use Sandpaper to Encourage Seeds to Sprout Faster
Gently dull the surface of hard-coated seeds, such as peas, cilantro, and lupines, with very-fine-grit paper. This scarification helps seeds absorb water and lures them out of dormancy.
Find more ideas in 10 Uses for Sandpaper.
Use Mini-Blind Slats to Cut in Cleanly
Use a slat to mask off molding when brushing on paint along the outer edges of walls.
See more in 10 Uses for Mini Blinds.
Use Charcoal to Keep Air Fresh
Place charcoal, in open bowls or perforated plastic bags, in your fridge or drawers to banish odors.
See the nine other Uses for Charcoal.
Use Yogurt Cups to Catch Paint Drips
Cut a hole in a lid large enough for a paintbrush handle. Slip the handle through the opening, and paint mess-free.
See the nine other Uses for Yogurt Cups.
Use Vinegar to Revive Old Paintbrushes
Soak gunked-up nylon brushes in hot vinegar for up to 30 minutes to remove paint and soften the bristles. Afterward, wash them in hot, soapy water, brushing off paint as needed, then rinse and let dry—good as new.
See the nine other Uses for Vinegar.
Use Foam Packing Peanuts to Lighten Up Heavy Planters
Pour peanuts into a large pot and add soil to boost drainage and make it easier to move.
See the nine other Uses for Foam Packing Peanuts.
Use Aluminum Foil to Sharpen Scissors
Fold a sheet of foil several times and cut through it with a pair of dull scissors to sharpen the blades.
See the nine other Uses for Aluminum Foil.
Use Gift Cards to Get Rid of Air Bubbles
Rub the edge of a card along a freshly wallpapered surface—especially in corners and around tight spots near windows and doors—to help the paper lie smoothly.
See the nine other Uses for Gift Cards.
Use Car Wax to Give Faucets a Shine
Rub car wax onto kitchen and bathroom metal fixtures to keep them shiny and spot-free.
See the nine other Uses for Car Wax
Use Plastic Plant Pots to Organize Hardware
Use seedling trays in drawers or on your workbench to sort and store nuts, bolts, nails, and odds and ends.
See the nine other Uses for Plastic Planting Pots.
Use Shellac to Restore Old Hardware
After removing dirt and paint drips from hinges, knobs, and pulls, seal the pieces with clear shellac—it will keep brasses from tarnishing too.
See the nine other Uses for Shellac.
Use Carpet Scraps to Move Heavy Furniture
You’ve seen the infomercials for those furniture sliders, right? Well now you can make your own! Slide pieces of carpet pile-side down under-neath the legs of a bureau, bed, or dresser, then push it across the floor—much easier than lifting.
See the nine other Uses for Carpet Scraps.
Use Sponges to Keep Water-Loving Plants Moist
Place a sponge in the bottom of a planter before adding soil, to keep water in reserve.
See the nine other Uses for Sponges.
Use Coffee Filters to Keep Windows Clear
Spray panes with glass cleaner, then wipe away with a doubled-up coffee filter. No lint, no streaks.
See the nine other Uses for Coffee Filters.
Use Vinyl Mini Blinds to Make Tape Easier to Peel
Use a piece of a slat, trimmed to the width of the roll, as a tab so that the tape end is easier to find and pull.
See the nine other Uses for Vinyl Mini Blinds
Use Wood Flooring Scraps to Create a Cleat
To hang a heavy object, cut two pieces of flooring to a length just shorter than the width of the object. Screw one piece, groove-side down, to the back of the object. Fasten the second length, tongue-side up, to the wall, making sure to hit at least two studs. Lower the object onto the piece mounted to the wall, resting the groove on the tongue.
See the nine other Uses for Wood Flooring Scraps
Use Car Wax to Unstick Hinges
Use car wax to lubricate the hinges of garden shears and scissors.
See the nine other Uses for Car Wax.
Use Sand to Give Your Paint Some Grip
In a bucket, combine 2 cups of paint with ¾ cup of sand. Use the mixture to coat stair treads; let dry, then top them with a coat of regular paint.
See the nine other Uses for Sand.
Use Plastic Bags to Apply Waxes and Creams
Use a bag as a mitt to spread furniture wax or polish. Then buff to a shiny finish using a soft, dry cloth.
See the nine other Uses for Plastic Bags.
Use Chopsticks to Label Your Plants
Create markers by stapling a plant’s seed packet to a chopstick and placing it inside the pot or bed.
See the nine other Uses for Chopsticks.
Use Copper Pipe to Hold a Roll of Toilet Paper
Copper gleams as a support for toilet paper. TOH technical editor Mark Powers made the one above out of tubing and various fittings. To keep its sheen, spray it with lacquer.
See the nine other Uses for Copper Pipe.
Use a Plastic Milk Jug to Scoop Nails
You’ve dumped a coffee can full of fasteners onto your workbench in search of an elusive 10d; now clean up the mess with a milk-jug scoop. Make one by slicing a liter jug diagonally from the base of the handle to the opposing bottom corner.
See the nine other Uses for Milk Jugs.
Keep Containers from Rolling
Cut several pieces of bead to the length of caulk tubes, wine bottles, or other round items that are stored horizontally and can roll out of place easily. Slide the pieces of bead between the tubes or bottles to hold them steady.
See more ideas in 10 Uses for Drywall Corner Bead
Use Dental Floss to Hang Picture Frames
This Old House general contractor Tom Silva likes to hang pictures with it instead of braided wire, which can mar wall paint.
See the nine other Uses for Dental Floss.
Use Old Magazines to Keep Glass Paint-Free
Who needs tape? Before painting window muntins, wet the edges of magazine pages and press them onto the panes, edges against the muntins. After painting, the paper peels off easily.
See the nine other Uses for Old Magazines.
Use an Old Fork to Clean a Paintbrush
Can’t find your metal brush comb? Forks are just as good at getting between the bristles and whisking out every last drop.
See the nine other Uses for Old Flatware.
Use Mayonnaise to Erase Crayon from Walls
Coat doodles on surfaces covered with scrubbable paint. After a few minutes, wipe off the mayo and crayon marks with a damp cloth.
See the nine other Uses for Mayonnaise.
Use Coffee Grounds to Fortify Plants
Give seedlings a nitrogen boost by stirring grounds into soil or a watering can.
See the nine other Uses for Coffee Grounds.
Use Vodka to Stop Odors
Boots smelling ripe? Spritz the insides with diluted vodka; let dry. No more odor.
See the nine other Uses for Vodka.
Use a Window Screen to Sift Unmixed Grout
Use a piece of screen as a sieve to uncake powdered grout and remove any lumps before mixing with water.
See the nine other Uses for Window Screens.
Use Lattice to Store Garden Tools
Screw a rectangular piece of lattice onto two 2x4s and attach to the back of a shed door. Use zip ties as loops for hanging rakes, shovels, and other garden gear.
See the nine other Uses for Lattice
When it’s time to plant spring-blooming bulbs, like tulips and daffodils, map a landscaping plan using tees in different hues to represent the mix of colors and varieties in your garden.
See more in 10 Uses for Golf Tees
Use Pennies to Space Tile
When setting tile, place pennies on end between the corners of each piece for spacers that are easy to remove.
See the nine other Uses for Coins.
Use Vinyl Tiles to Pad Your Clamps
Use tile scraps as barriers to keep metal clamp feet from denting your wood-working project.
See the nine other Uses for Vinyl Tiles.
Use a Carpet Scrap to Keep Your Sink Scratch-free
Place a piece of carpet pile-side up in the basin when working on the faucet so that your tools don’t damage the bowl.
See the nine other Uses for Carpet Scraps
Use Wax Paper to Free a Stuck Zipper
Help the zipper on your tool bag slide along its track more easily by lightly running over the teeth with wax paper.
See the nine other Uses for Wax Paper
Use a Brick to Secure a Downspout
If a section of downspout has come unattached near the ground, reinsert it, then lay a brick on each side to stabilize it until you can screw it back in place.
See the other nine Uses for Bricks
Use Pipe Insulation to Sheathe a Saw
Slide a length of insulation over the blade of a handsaw to protect the teeth—and your fingers—when it’s stored.
See the nine other Uses for Pipe Insulation