12 Workshop Supplies You Should Always Buy at the Dollar Store
The DIY attitude embraces affordability and accessibility for everyone, no matter how tight your budget. Sometimes that means stepping outside the box in procuring your materials from someplace unexpected—like the dollar store! The trick is to identify the materials and tools that don’t require the highest quality. While a precision tool or exotic hardwood may require an investment, you don’t need to go high-end with every purchase. Many workshop items are essentially interchangeable, and can be picked up at a discounted price. Here are 12 items to stock your workshop that are readily available at the dollar store.
Photo: Courtesy of Harbor Freight
Chip brushes are intended to be used once and thrown away. Often sold at dollar stores under the label “craft brushes” these disposable items are ideal for applying stains, epoxies, or other applications where cleaning the brush would be difficult to impossible after you’re done. Chip brushes sold at the dollar store are just as good as the ones you can pick up at a big box store, but are often half the price. (Another good location to shop for this item is craft stores such as Michael’s or JoAnn’s Fabrics.) One and done applicators like this are the perfect item when you want to take on a project such as aging the appearance of wood.
Whether sold as tongue depressors, Popsicle sticks, or craft sticks, these versatile tools don’t need to be pricey to be useful. Pick up large quantities at the dollar store and keep them in your workshop for everything from mixing epoxy and spreading glue to serving as an improvised shim. Here’s a more in-depth examination of why we love these dollar store wonders.
Dixie Cups are a wonder to have in a workshop. From mixing up small batches of materials to holding screws and fasteners to keeping screws and fasteners separated and organized, these waxed-paper cups can handle it all. But the actual Dixie brand can be rough on the budget! Dollar stores often have an off brand paper cup that will do the job just as well and at a reduced price.
As a bonus tip, consider slipping a paper cup over your drill bit the next time you’re working on a ceiling in order to avoid drywall dust falling in your face. (And that’s just one of the many incredible drill hacks from this Family Handyman article.)
Glue Gun & Sticks
Although a glue gun will usually cost more than a buck, most dollar stores stock this incredibly useful device, along with a variety of glue sticks. Focused on the craft industry, the dollar store glue gun usually doesn’t have as many options or the more rugged build of a high-end glue gun, but you can buy five of the dollar store variety for the price of a pro-grade glue gun. Which is good, because once you start realizing just how versatile a glue gun is, you’ll probably want to have more than one around your workshop. Check out 19 of our favorite hot glue hacks here!
Reader Kate Gallivan inspired this idea. Dollar store tablecloths function as a drop cloth that’s resilient to spills and offers enough padding to be gentle on finished surfaces. Stock up on these inexpensive cloths and you’ll never be forced to worry about damaging your wood floor, table or carpet again. Check out the original tip for more reasons why this dollar store gem is a great addition to your workshop.
Another dollar store surface saver is wrapping paper. Best picked up after the holiday season, on clearance, wrapping paper admittedly won’t protect the surface from a hard fall, but it will make your cleanups easier, and it comes in rolls that are the perfect length to cover most tabletops. The treated surface of the wrapping paper isn’t as resilient as a tablecloth, but it’s a quick and easy way to add some protection for your work area. If you do buy wrapping paper in bulk, here is a fantastic custom storage solution made from a concrete form.
Dollar store sponges can be used for everything from upgrading flower pots to making a DIY ice pack. Depending on your local store’s inventory, you may find cleaning sponges, dish sponges or finer-pore “car wash” sponges. The latter is terrific for smoothing out grout on tile projects. If you’ve ever had to mop up a mess, or dapple texture on a painted wall, you’ll know you can never have too many sponges on hand.
Dollar stores always have school supplies and many of those supplies can be put to work in your shop or garage!
Stock up on cheap notebooks and you’ll always have a place to jot down measurements and sketch out concepts before starting a big project. These notebooks are also great ways to build “look books” that collect different styles and types of projects that will provide inspiration and instruction.
While you’re grabbing a notebook, pick up an accordion file from the dollar store as well. It’s a great way to organize your sandpaper sheets!
Bins and plastic storage containers of all sizes are readily available at dollar stores, and those bins provide simple storage and organization for your workshop. Whether you need large bins or want to repurpose food storage containers for smaller items, the dollar store is the best way to get the most bang for your buck.
The pricier food storage containers found in grocery stores and other retailers may last longer in the dishwasher or microwave, but if you’re just using them to store utility knives and leftover screws, why spend the extra money? Combine dollar store storage bins with a label system, and you can turn your workshop into a finely tuned storage machine.
Does your eyesight need a helping hand? If so, you know how expensive new glasses can be. Unfortunately, it’s easy to damage your glasses in a workshop environment, and the dusty air can be a pain if you wear contact lenses. Rather than risk your expensive designer frames, stock your workshop with multiple pairs of dollar store reading glasses. You’ll always have a pair at hand, and you won’t worry if you scratch a lens or snap a frame.
Remember that reading glasses are not a substitute for safety glasses, though. And, here’s a tip for keeping glasses safe in your shop!
Mops, Brooms, and Buckets
Cleaning your workshop can be tough on your supplies. The nature of DIY projects means that you’ll be cleaning up wood, metal and other debris that will eventually wear out any mop or broom. Keep this expense to a minimum by picking up replacements at the dollar store.
Notice that while we called out mops, brooms and buckets, we didn’t mention the actual cleaning products! While some dollar store cleaners are fine, some users have reported that dollar store bargain cleaning products aren’t as effective as they should be. Stick to brooms and buckets and you’ll be better off.
And of course, the battle to keep your workshop clean is never ending. Here’s a great list of tips if you want to get a leg up on combating workshop dust and debris.
Chances are you’ve heard the tip about wiping down your woodworking tools and equipment with paste or wax to keep friction to a minimum and prevent rust. That’s great advice, but if you want a faster technique that’s easy on the wallet, consider picking up wax paper the next time you’re in the dollar store. Peel off a sheet when you’re cleaning up your shop, and wipe down any surfaces that you’d normally treat with a wax paste. The wax paper will transfer some of its coating to your equipment’s surface, and you don’t need to go through the full cycle of waxing and wiping. You’ll need to treat you equipment a little more often, but when you’re getting the wax paper at a bargain, you’ll hardly mind! If you like that tip, here are 31 other affordable workshop updates that you’ll love!