50 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.

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garden rake tool storage
Family Handyman

Tool Rack

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.

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Easy-on-the-hands bucket handles
Family Handyman

Yard Trash Cans

Maureen Boe of Polk County, Wisconsin, says, “I painted and decorated two empty 5-gallon paint cans and placed them in the yard for the kids to dispose of their trash. It certainly keeps the yard tidy!”

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Get Unstuck

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.”

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old toothbrush

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.”

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shutterstock_573187501 umbrella rain raining weather
Niyom Napalai/Shutterstock

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.

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Danny Smythe/shutterstock

Plant Potatoes

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.”

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Photo via Amazon.com

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.” 

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plastic water pails 5 gallon bucket
Family Handyman

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.”

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quality paint brushes
Family Handyman

Deep Cleaning

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.”

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Anton Starikov/shutterstock

Rubber Bands

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.”

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Off-Season Sweeper

Brad Wesner of Windsor, Missouri, says, “Get year-round use out of your snow brushes by using them for dusting the house.The handle will let you get to those hard to reach places, and the bristles will get into the cracks.”

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Nathan Antonino/shutterstock

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.”

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Kaentian Street/shutterstock

Mudroom Mats

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.” 

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Clean Cutting Boards

Dorothy Peterson of Tuscon, Arizona, says, “I save the waxed paper that comes inside cereal boxes, then place a strip of it across my chopping block whenever I’m cutting cherries or other red foods. This keeps the chopping block from getting stained.”

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Magdalena photographer/Shutterstock

Scratch Stopper

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.” 

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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.”

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Wire Hangers

Hanger Hooks

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.” 

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Mega Pixel/shutterstock

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.”

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ketchup mustard condiments
Volodymyr Tverdokhlib/Shutterstock

Decorating Bottles

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.”

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Oven Mitts
via amazon.com

Protect Your Fingers

To avoid getting splinters while raking and pruning raspberry bushes, Avis Nelson of Red Wing, Minnesota, says, “Put oven mitts over your gardening gloves for added protection.”

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New Africa/shutterstock

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.”

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: NisanatStudio/Shutterstock

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.”

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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.”

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Ozgur Coskun/shutterstock

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.

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Weeding Time

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.”

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Mailbox Helper

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.”

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Knee Pads

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.”

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light weight performance work socks

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.” 

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Shoe Bags

Keep shoes off of your clean clothes. Mrs. Orlin Petersen of Utica, South Dakota, says, “Quart-sized plastic freezer bags are excellent shoe bags for travel and storage. One bag is the perfect size for the average shoe. The bags are lightweight and transparent.”

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Easy Garment Bags

Protect your clothes in the closet. Mrs. Doyle Ryan of Brooklyn, Iowa, says, “Use discarded curtains and zippers to make nocost garment bags.” Check out 18 more strange things you didn’t know you could recycle.

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Natthapenpis Jindatham/shutterstock

Tape Saver

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!”

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Donald Bowers Photography/shutterstock

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.” 

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Knife Sharpener

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.”

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Anton Starikov/shutterstock

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.”

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Recycle Newspapers

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.” 

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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.

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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.”

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Plastic Grocery Bags
Natalie Board/Shutterstock

Handy Tomato Helper

Water the roots, not the leaves. To protect tomato plants from wind, splashing rain and wilt, Bobbie Jones of Huntington, Texas, says, “Cut 4-to 5-inch holes in the bottoms of plastic grocery sacks and slip them inside the tomato cages.”

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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.”

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Frost Protection

Extend the growing season. When frost threatens, Marlin Zimmerman of Thorp, Wisconsin, insulates his flowers and unripe vegetables with old sheets and tablecloths. 

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Keep Feet Neat

Joe Ricker of Stoughton, Wisconsin, says, “Keep plastic grocery bags inside the back door. That way you can slip them over your shoes if you have to go inside for something while you’re working in the yard. This will keep your floors and carpets mud free.”

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Yuliyan Velchev/shutterstock

Seed Savers

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.”

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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.”

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shutterstock_2477262 paint stir sticks samples
Chad McDermott/Shutterstock

Plant Markers

Rose Whipple, Oneida, New York, says, “Use paint sticks for plant labels. There is plenty of room for writing the plant name with a permanent marker.”

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Jiang Zhongyan/shutterstock

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.”

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Sandbox Saver

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.” 

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Africa Studio/shutterstock

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.”

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Yellow Cat/shutterstock

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.”

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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.”

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Road Trip Ready

Pat Rodeffer of Ferris, Illinois, says, “Whenever our family goes on a car trip, each of the children brings along a covered cake pan to hold crayons, pencils, paper and coloring books. When closed, the lid makes a nice writing surface.”

Originally Published in Country

Lori Vanover
Lori has been a writer and editor for 16 years, fueled by plenty of coffee and chocolate. She hopes to retire someday and become a hot pepper farmer, cake decorator or barbecue pitmaster.