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Don’t toss those milk jugs just yet

By on June 7, 2008

photo by Paul Mayne
milk jug

Channel your inner MacGyver. Why throw out common household items if they can be reused? Recycling is wonderful. Maybe you recycle what you can and then move on. But if you can reuse your ordinary stuff, that’s even better. Finding a second use for items such as milk jugs is simple. That’s why I’m here. And you thought they were only good for watering plants, and as bird feeders, seed starters and funnels.

HOLIDAY OR PARTY LIGHTS:
Save a few or save a lot of jugs and fill them with sand to weigh them down. Using a string of 25 multicolor C9 lights, insert every other bulb on the string into the top opening of each jug. Or use low-wattage strings of lights (smaller bulbs), slit the side of each jug and insert approximately 30 lights per jug. Thread lights through the slit on each jug. It makes festive party lights. You can use a black permanent marker and acrylic paints to draw faces on the milk jugs, too. If you don’t want to use electric lights, insert a votive candle into your jug, which should be partially filled with sand.

YARN HOLDER: Cut off the top of a jug to the point where a skein or ball of yarn can fit through. Place the yarn inside. Pull the end of the yarn through the handle. When you’re working with the yarn, it won’t get tangled. If you have a cat, this holder is kitty-proof.

PLASTIC BAG HOLDER: Haven’t converted to cloth bags yet? Cut a hole or slit the side of a plastic milk jug and store your plastic grocery bags.

DRYER-LINT HOLDER: Place a jug with a hole cut out of the side in the laundry room. Each time you empty your lint trap, place the dryer lint into your plastic jug.

BEACH TOYS: Cut a jug in half. One side is a scoop, and the other side is a bucket or sand mold. It can work for snow, too.

OUTDOOR HAND-WASHING: Poke a small hole in the bottom of a jug. Block the hole with a golf tee. Fill with water and hang the jug in a handy spot. Remove the golf tee to release a stream of water. You can attach soap to the handle of the jug by placing it in a spare nylon and tying on the nylon. It’s great for a quick wash-up if the kids have been playing in the sandbox.

SEPARATOR: Cut out a few circles or squares from jugs, and use them as meat-patty dividers when making burgers to store in the freezer.

BATHROOM USE: Use a plastic jug with a section cut out to hold your toilet brush or plunger.

HOT WATER: In the summer, fill a few and let them heat up outside in the sun. You can use the water to hand-wash dishes.

KITCHEN ORGANIZERS: Cut the tops of jugs until you’re left with a shallow container. It can be used on pantry and refrigerator shelves to organize. You can fill a jug with rice or popcorn for easy dispensing. A spare jug makes a shatterproof change jar, too.

How do you reuse plastic milk jugs?

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About Sara Noel

Sara Noel owns Castalia Coffee Roasting Company, Follow me on Twitter

26 Comments

  1. Jesse

    6/14/2008 at 2:43 am

    It’s always hard for me to decide which is best. recycling, or re-using. Recycling requires energy, to melt materials (and lose part of it in the process) into liquid to molt into new material. And re-using stops you from purchasing new materials to solve your problems. I do have trouble deciding which is best! Because I think, well, would it be better if this was melted down in it’s pure form, before I mess it up into something un-metlable (as in the example of childrens recycled craft books, where they take pure materials that COULD be melted and glue crap all over them making them UNrecycleable)

    I guess it’s best to re-use as long as you can, and THEN recycle. Just keep in mind, that you don’t alter the item so much that it then becomes “unrecycleable”

    GREAT site, and GREAT ideas! but I don’t drink enough milk, I have to buy the small paper carton! hehe

  2. Uncle B

    6/14/2008 at 1:32 pm

    Here in Canada, we get our milk in one liter bags! Plastic bags, the toughest little bags you ever saw. I use them for sorting nails and other small hardware. My wife uses them for freezer bags. We love them. To get the milk from them, we put them in pouring containers, bag and all and snip the tip of one corner of the bag. Neat eh! Uses less plastic in the first place, and transports very compact and in a smaller space than jugs or cartons. Practical eh!

  3. Sara Noel

    6/14/2008 at 1:43 pm

    Uncle B, My husband is from Quebec, so I’ve seen them. :)
    Here’s a thread on my forums that talks about reusing milk in liter bags.
    http://www.frugalvillage.com/forums/showthread.php?t=102170
    Thanks for visiting. :)

  4. Alexandra

    6/14/2008 at 7:25 pm

    I cut off the top of the gallon milk containers, poked holes in the bottom for drainage, and used them for seed starters. They work well at retaining moisture and protecting the young plants for critters.

  5. Kristin

    6/16/2008 at 12:48 am

    I am totally confused about the dryer lint holder. Is dryer lint recyclable? Is it supposed to be used for something else? It must have some sort of use for it to be saved.

    Thanks :)

  6. Sara Noel

    6/16/2008 at 1:37 am

    It can be a handy temporary storage until you toss it, or yes, you can reuse it. It can go into your compost bin.

    (From a previous column I wrote) Dryer lint firestarters: I stuff my dryer lint into an empty toilet-paper cardboard tube. I melt my leftover candle wax and pour it into both ends to cover where the lint is exposed. I let it harden and then use it whenever I start a fire in my fireplace or when camping. — Debbie, e-mail
    Note from Sara: Store them in a plastic ice-cream tub.

    Pet nesting material, lint clay and crafts http://www.planetpals.com/dryer_lint_crafts.html

  7. Kristin

    6/20/2008 at 8:44 pm

    Thank you :) It makes much more sense now.

    Kristin

  8. Michelle

    9/13/2008 at 7:52 am

    I like the idea of using it for dryer lint. Better containment than using a trash bag/bin.

    I don’t know why I never thought of using them for change jars either.

    My favorite is the outdoor hand washing idea–very creative!

  9. LC

    9/20/2008 at 12:12 am

    Use them for Halloween Candy Containers. You can cut a hole in the top side of the milk container big enough to stick candy in. Have your child decorate the outside of the container and you can use it to go Trick or Treating with!

    I’ve used them for Easter Baskets and I have cut and curled green construction paper for the bottom of the basket and cut a big hole in the side of the container and stuffed it with all kinds of treats. I decorated the outside with stickers and a big bow and they looked great!

    Use it for Christmas baskets where you can stuff all kinds of trinkets and candy. Again decorate the outside with stickers and put a Christmas bow around the top of the spout. They look great!

  10. Sara Noel

    9/20/2008 at 12:46 am

    LC,
    I remember making an Easter bunny with one when I was a kid. I like the Christmas basket idea. I think I could cut a door flap on the side, so it still closes and hide treats inside. Then cover the door with a bow. My kids couldn’t see through it to know what is inside.

    Thanks for visiting. :)

  11. Emily

    10/27/2008 at 8:26 pm

    Jesse: In Nova Scotia, Canada, we have a pretty intense recycling system. It doesn’t matter how chopped up a milk jug is; if it’s clean, it goes in the recycling. So you can re-use AND recycle!

    I love the dishwater heat-up idea! Great for saving energy (and money).

  12. Pingback: Homemaking Links & Introducing 3 Moms Thursday {Thirteen} | Happy to be at Home

  13. Kit

    1/13/2009 at 8:45 pm

    I don’t use them at all !
    I use bulk powdered milk.
    We mix and use it in a Tupperware from the 70′s that’s still in great shape.

  14. mary

    2/19/2009 at 6:47 pm

    I cut the jugs into pieces, various sizes. I then punch a hole, insert a baling wire hook. I write on them with perminant ink and use them in the bars and hen house. I identify dove matings, identify particular birds in a cage. I will paint a name on the piece and attach it to a stake identifying plants in the garden. The marker will fade but I always carry a perminant marker in the pocket of my gardening/ barn apron. Sometimes I will staple a card to one piece hanging on a place for more information. I also carry 4 jugs full of water in those fabric shopping bags to the further hen house. I think I am currently using OPB (Oregon version of NPR) bags. I also carry water to my fish tanks in the jugs. We are on a well so I can just use the water untreated. Tools in my apron: stapler, heavy sissors, baling wire, pliers, marker,and cards. Plastic milk jugs, either full of water or empty, near at hand. I do not store water in the plastic, it is for immediate use.

  15. Chris

    2/22/2009 at 3:25 am

    My Aunt that lives in Montana hooked one up to catch a oil leak on her tractor. Recycle that oil too.
    (I even have a picture of that)

  16. Meredith

    4/6/2009 at 12:57 pm

    What a great way to use these jugs. I consider it the best form of recycling to use something rather than tossing it in a hole in the ground.

  17. Amy Noble

    4/10/2009 at 12:13 pm

    Thanks for the great ideas! My six year old daughter is a Daisy Girl Scout and we are working on earning one of our patches for recycling and reusing. I think we’re going to go with two of your ideas…the seed starter (then she can help me plant the flowers in the flower garden) and a place to save our change…hopefully we will be going to Disney in October. She will feel like she contributed to our trip.

    Thanks!
    Amy Noble
    Bowling Green, Ky

  18. sarah

    5/4/2009 at 3:51 pm

    i am doing a project on 101 ways to use a milk jug. these are some really great ideas. thanks so much for your help!

  19. Mare

    5/27/2009 at 6:46 pm

    I like the idea of using milk cartons to make row identifiers in the garden. I’m going to try that. Thank you for the great idea!

    If you have a small greenhouse, you can fill several milk jugs with water and let them heat in the sun, and at night time put the jugs in the greenhouse and they will provide some extra warmth overnight. Larger greenhouses require 5 gallon buckets or even barrels. I also read that you can cool a chicken coop in the summer by placing a jug of ice (frozen in the milk jug of course) inside the coop.

  20. Dawn

    7/3/2009 at 8:35 am

    I save them few things, we use them to fill up with water and freeze so we always have ice water during summer months, cut the tops off poke few wholes in the bottom great way to start seeds, fill with water poke few wholes on bottom and put in veggie garden and you have slow water dispenser for garden, on the half gallon’s we cut the tops off and store crayon’s in them, there are a lot of uses.

  21. Lory

    10/12/2009 at 7:04 pm

    I reuse my milk jugs or laundry detergent containers as a clothes pin holder that hangs right on the clothes line. I cut about a 1 inch slice out of the handle towards the bottom (to hook over the clothesline). Then I cut out an opening on the front side, about half-way up and to just under the lid opening. I’ve had the same pin holder for over 10 years!

  22. Rhiana from A Frugal Life

    11/23/2009 at 7:43 pm

    These comments are so interesting! I didn’t know about the milk in one liter bags. I wish they did that here.
    .-= Rhiana from A Frugal Life´s last blog ..Blog Giveaway: The Couponizer =-.

  23. sue

    12/2/2009 at 12:18 am

    I store my bulk grains and staples(popcorn,sugar,cornmeal,barley,etc.)very easy to fill and pour out.
    Another good use is like an OLLA.Poke holes on all sides,bury in my garden and raised beds with just the neck poking out,plant veggies and flowers around jugs and fill with water,waters only the roots.
    Another use is fill jug 3/4 with water ,freeze.In summer,put in rabbit hutch when hot out to keep rabbits cool.They will lay between two frozen jugs and stay cool.
    Sue

  24. Nickie

    2/14/2010 at 7:56 pm

    We use our milk jugs for scoops, cut out the top area around the handle and there you go.Works for getting birdseed ,dogfood and catfood out of the coolers(where we store food so rodents cant get in,and uses the space when we dont need. We also use them for ice blocks, keep the blocks in the jug and far less mess(no watered down cheese)Our Girl Scout troop loved the outside hand cleaner( we use nylon to hold the soap so it doesnt drop).

  25. kevin

    3/3/2010 at 1:25 pm

    dryer lint makes a good fire starter

  26. Wannabe

    5/1/2010 at 11:18 am

    Those plastic coffee jugs work well also.

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