50 Ingenious Ways to Upcycle Old Tools and Household Stuff
Stop throwing away so much stuff; get creative like these experienced homeowners and and find new uses instead.
Don’t throw away a garden rake just because the handle is broken. Helen Patzlaff of Alexandria, South Dakota says, “It can be used as a convenient rack to hold small tools such as hammers, screwdrivers and wrenches. Just attach the rake section to the wall with the tines out and hang the tools between the tines.” These are the 10 things you must know about recycling stuff.
If your area gets snow and ice in the winter, remember this tip from Avis Reese of Hallock, Minnesota. “Carry a few rough, sandy roofing shingles in the trunk of your car. If your car gets stuck, place the shingles beneath your tires to help you get going.”
Brush off dust
Change your vacuum filter less often. June Ward of Peru, Indiana, says, “Use a discarded soft toothbrush to clean the filter on a handheld vacuum to make the filter last longer.”
Reuse an Umbrella
When an umbrella is worn out, don’t throw it away. Shirley Patrick of North Cape May, New Jersey, says, “Remove the ribs and use them as garden stakes. They’re wonderful supports for flowers, as they’re strong yet can hardly be seen.” Here’s an umbrella you should definitely know about.
Don’t throw away old bushel baskets. Bill Vanscoy, Nemaha, Iowa says, “They make great-space saving containers to grow potatoes. Simply cut out the bottoms of the baskets and set over the potatoes. Place sand and compost on top of the plants every few weeks until the baskets are full. You’ll be amazed at the growth of your potatoes using this method.”
Helper on wheels
Need a hand moving heavy stuff? Maureen Beaver of Sparta, Wisconsin, says, “A child’s wagon can be a mini-moving van around the house. It’s great for moving baskets of clothes, heavy boxes and even small pieces of furniture.”
Wash on the go
This tip is helpful for travelers. Clair Thelen of Fowler, Michigan, says, “A plastic pail with a locking lid can make a portable washing machine for road trips. Half-fill the pail with hot soapy water, place the clothing inside and lock the lid. Wedge the pail in the corner of your trunk or camper. Your vehicle will take care of the agitation. When you stop for the day, rinse and dry the clothes.”
Give your home an artistic touch. Mrs. H.J. Braddock, Syracuse, Kansas, says, “I use an old paint brush sprayed with furniture polish to dust model cars, picture frames, and hard to get at nooks and crannies.”
When your rubber gloves get a hole in them, don’t throw them away. Mrs. Harvey Darnall, Harrisburg, Nebraska, says, “Cut ½-inch bands across the cuffs and palms to use for large rubber bands. And slip the finger portions over mop and broom handles to avoid scratches and marks on walls and woodwork.”
Save dryer sheets
Don’t throw away dryer sheets after the laundry comes out of the dryer. Karol Mesna, Nampa, Idaho, says, “They’re good for brushing off lint, dust and hair from almost anything.”
Help keep your house clean with this tip. Linda Melton of Stockton, Kansas, says, “Don’t discard empty feed or seed bags. They make fine winter floor mats in your mudroom, for catching whatever sticks to the bottom of boots.”
When your socks get worn out, save them to protect your hardwood floors. Julie Klee of Streator, Illinois, says, “Put old socks on the legs of your furniture to prevent floor scratches when moving furniture.”
Fast bird feeder filler
To make quick work of filling bird feeders in chilly weather, Diane Johnson of Hutchingson, Minnesota, says, “I pour birdseed into an empty 3-pound coffee can. Then I cap the can with the plastic lid, from which I’ve cut out a small triangle shaped notch for a no-mess spout.”
Turn hangers into hooks. Kathy Primeau of Curtiss, Wisconsin, says, “An old metal clothes hanger makes a nice hook for hanging suet bags or birdseed balls. Just straighten the hanger and bend each end for hanging. They also work well for hanging flowering baskets in the summer.”
Fill salt shakers
To make a quick funnel for filling salt and pepper shakers, Della Whitesell of El Dorado Springs, Missouri, says, “Just use a clean envelope and cut off a small corner of it.”
Edith Lundquist of Wollaston, Massachusetts, says, “Mustard and ketchup squeeze bottles, emptied and thoroughly washed, are great for decorating cakes and cookies. Fill them with frosting and you can write or make designs with no mess.”
Brace tomato cages
If you want to keep tomato plants standing tall in strong winds, Margaret Shauers of Great Bend, Kansas, says, “Brace tomato cages with an old mop or broom handle.”
Helpful gift wrap
Theone Neel of Bastian, Virginia, says, “When I’m invited to a bridal shower, I wrap the gift in a towel, and use a dishcloth as a ‘bow.’ Instead of just throwing away gift wrap, the bride receives something useful.”
Flower pot liner
When gardening, Teresa Hinson of Mt. Pleasant, North Carolina, says, “Instead of using gravel, line the bottom of a flowerpot with an old sponge. It will absorb water better and keep dirt from sifting out.”
Keep bread bags
If you don’t have a pair of rubber gloves handy, Virginia Kiser of Piedmont, Missouri, suggests slipping plastic bread wrappers onto your hands. Don’t know what to do with old cables and cords? This will help you.
Martha Goessling of Red Bud, Illinois, says, “Use an old sturdy dinner fork for weeding the flower bed. The tines get under weed roots better than most tools. Also, use a grapefruit knife to cut dandelions out of your lawn.”
A mailbox holds more than just mail. Frances Hooper of Normangee, Texas, says, “I take an old mailbox to my garden in summer for storing gloves and small tools. It keeps the items handy and out of the weather.”
Mildred Toomey of Moorhead, Minnesota, says, “Use old rubber car floor mats as gardening knee pads. They never get wet and they save wear and tear on your knees and your pants.”
Go to gloves
This tip helps if you lose your gloves. Sharon Sellig of St. Paul, Minnesota, says, “Toss two old socks in the truck of your car. They don’t take up much room, but they’re sure great when you need to brush snow of your windows, change a tire or whatever.”
Easy garment bags
Protect your clothes in the closet. Mrs. Doyle Ryan of Brooklyn, Iowa, says, “Use discarded curtains and zippers to make no–cost garment bags.” Check out 18 more strange things you didn’t know you could recycle.
Rolls of tape can be very frustrating. Becky Valdez of Vernal, Utah, says, “Try sticking a plastic bread tie on the end of a roll of tape before storing it. That should provide the handle you need so you never lose the end!”
Fill the kiddy pool
If your child’s plastic wading pool has a hole in it, don’t throw it away. Ginny Long of Daytona Beach, Florida, says, “Tie a rope on it and use it as a sled or a wheelbarrow to carry yard waste like grass clippings, leaves, pine needles or branches. You can pull or drag large amounts without much effort because it glides along the grass.”
If your tools aren’t cutting anymore, Sharon Jacobson of Lincoln, Nebraska, says, “You can sharpen a dull knife by rubbing it on the bottom of a red clay flowerpot.”
Repurpose a purse
Elva Pate of Williamston, North Carolina, says, “Make an attractive doorstop easily if you have an old purse made of beautiful fabric that you no longer use. Cut and sew the material to fit over a brick.”
Treat vegetable transplants to a little light reading. Mildred Sherrer of Bay City, Texas, says, “Dig the hole just a bit bigger than needed and line it with newspaper. It will absorb and hold more water for the plant’s roots and will add nutrients as it decomposes.”
List and coupon keeper
Save that junk mail! Beth Ball of Jacksonville, Florida, says, “I recycle envelopes that have come in the mail and are ready to be thrown away. I often write my grocery list on the back, then insert coupons for the store inside the envelope to double its usefulness. This makes shopping trips more organized.” You should also stop throwing away your old shower liners and do this with them instead.
Water the garden
Becky Elliot of White Cloud, Michigan, says, “We fill 2-liter soft drink bottles with water and place them upside-down in the soil next to our melon and squash plants. This helps them through the hot weather.”
No more litter
Keep your property tidy. Cornelius Hogenbirk, Waretown, New Jersey, says, “An old broom handle with a nail inserted in the bottom end is a perfect litter picker. File the nail head to a point. This helps me keep my beds and borders clean of windblown leaves and trash. It also saves my back.”
Extend the growing season. When frost threatens, Marlin Zimmerman of Thorp, Wisconsin, insulates his flowers and unripe vegetables with old sheets and tablecloths.
If you save lots of seeds for your vegetable and flower gardens, Monica Bengston of Independence, Iowa, says, “Store them in old pill bottles after the seeds are completely dry.”
Discourage cabbage moths
Don’t throw old sheer curtains away. Lizzie Ann Schwartz of Mt. Perry, Ohio, says, “They are perfect for covering cabbage plants to keep destructive moths from laying eggs there. The curtains are also a good cover for lettuce in hot weather.”
Grass go away
If you plan to start a new garden bed in fall, Barb Wagner, Willmar, Minnesota, says, “Cover the area with old carpet in summer. By autumn, the grass will be dead, and the soil will be moist and ready to till.”
Barbara Carpenter of Oakboro, North Carolina says, “When your children outgrow their sandbox, don’t discard it. Fill it with soil and plant their first vegetable or flower garden.” Next, check out 100 more things you shouldn’t throw out—and how to reuse them at home.
Ripen melons faster
Save your tuna cans and use them in the garden. Sue Gronholz of Columbus, Wisconsin, says, “Place unripe melons on small tin cans turned upside down—empty tuna cans work great. This keeps them off the cool ground and the metal soaks up the sun’s heat. I believe it helps the melons ripen faster and taste sweeter.”
Pull weeds with tongs
Mrs. Richard Nelson of Albion, Nebraska, says, “I have a spreading cactus with long, sharp spines. After a rain or watering, I use kitchen tongs to reach in and pull out any weeds that have germinated.”
From toddler to trellis
Some older cribs are unsafe for infants because the rails are too far apart, and this is a good way to recycle them. Nancy Reece, Mount Laurel, New Jersey, says, “I use the side rails from a discarded crib as a trellis for my climbing rose.”