Extraordinary Uses for Empty Bottles

Recycle as a chew toy If Lassie has been chewing on your slippers instead of fetching them, maybe she’s in

Recycle as a chew toy
If Lassie has been chewing on your slippers instead of fetching them, maybe she’s in need of some chew toys. A no-cost way to amuse your dog is to let her chew on an empty plastic 1-liter soda bottle. Maybe it’s the crunchy sound they make, but dogs love them! Just be sure to remove the label and bottle cap (as well as the loose plastic ring under it). And replace it before it gets too chewed up — broken pieces of plastic are choke hazards.

Make a bag or string dispenser
An empty 2-liter soda bottle makes the perfect container for storing and dispensing plastic grocery bags. Just cut off the bottom and top ends of the bottle, and mount it with screws upside down inside a kitchen cabinet or closet. Put washers under the screw heads to keep them from pulling through the plastic. Fill it with your recycled bags (squeeze the air out of them first) and pull them out as needed. You can make a twine dispenser the same way, using a 1-liter bottle and letting the cord come out the bottom.

Cut out a toy carryall
If you’re fed up with Lego or erector-set pieces underfoot, make a simple carryall to store them in by cutting a large hole in the side of a clean gallon jug with a handle. Cut the hole opposite the handle so you or your youngster can easily carry the container back to the playroom after putting the pieces away. For an easy way to store craft materials, crayons, or small toys, just cut the containers in half and use the bottom part to stash your stuff.

Store your sugar
The next time you bring home a 5-pound (2.2-kilogram) bag of sugar from the supermarket, try pouring it into a clean, dry 1-gallon (3.7-liter) jug with a handle. The sugar is less likely to harden, and the handle makes it much easier to pour it out.

Fashion a funnel
To make a handy, durable funnel, cut a cleaned milk jug, bleach, or liquid detergent container with a handle in half across its midsection. Use the top portion (with the spout and handle) as a funnel for easy pouring of paints, rice, coins, and so on.

Make a scoop or boat bailer
Cut a clean plastic half-gallon (2-liter) jug with a handle diagonally from the bottom so that you have the top three-quarters of the jug intact. You now have a handy scoop that can be used for everything from removing leaves and other debris from your gutters, to cleaning out the litter box and poop-scooping up after your dog. Use it to scoop dog food from the bag, spread sand or ice-melt on walkways in winter, or bail water out of your boat (you might want to keep the cap on for this last application).

Keep the cooler cold
Don’t let your cooler lose its cool while you’re on the road. Fill a few clean plastic jugs with water or juice and keep them in the freezer for use when transporting food in your cooler. This is not only good for keeping food cold; you can actually drink the water or juice as it melts. It’s also not a bad idea to keep a few frozen jugs in your freezer if you have extra space; a full freezer actually uses less energy and can save money on your electric bill. When filling a jug, leave a little room at the top for the water to expand as it freezes.

Use for emergency road kit in winter
Don’t get stuck in your car the next time a surprise winter storm hits. Keep a couple of clean gallon (3.7-liter) jugs with handles filled with sand or kitty litter in the trunk of your car. Then you’ll be prepared to sprinkle the material on the road surface to add traction under your wheels when you need to get moving on a slippery road. The handle makes it easier to pour them.

Feed the birds
Why spend money on a plastic bird feeder when you probably have one in your recycling bin? Take a clean 1/2-gallon (2-liter) juice or milk jug and carve a large hole on its side to remove the handle. (You might even drill a small hole under the large one to insert a sturdy twig or dowel for a perch.) Then poke a hole in the middle of the cap and suspend it from a tree with a piece of strong string or monofilament fishing line. Fill it up to the opening with birdseed, and enjoy the show.

Make a watering can
No watering can? It’s easy to make one from a clean 1-gallon (3.7-liter) juice, milk, or bleach jug with a handle. Drill about a dozen tiny (1/16-inch or 1.5-millimeter is good) holes just below the spout of the jug on the side opposite the handle. Or carefully punch the holes with an ice pick. Fill it with water, screw the cap on, and start sprinkling.

Create a drip irrigator for plants
During dry spells, a good way to get water to the roots of your plants is to place several drip irrigators around your garden. You can make them from clean 1-gallon (3.7-liter) juice or detergent jugs. Cut a large hole in the bottom of a jug, then drill 2-5 tiny (about 1/16-inch or 1.5-millimeter) holes in or around the cap. Bury the capped jugs upside down about three-quarters submerged beneath the soil near the plants you need to water, and fill with water through the hole on top. Refill as often as needed.

Mark your plants
Want an easy way to make ID badges for all the vegetables, herbs, and flowers in your garden? Cut vertical strips from a couple of clear 1-gallon (3.7-liter) water jugs. Make the strips the same width as your seed packets but double their length. Fold each strip over an empty packet to protect it from the elements, and staple it to a strong stick or chopstick.

Secure garden netting
If you find yourself having to constantly re-stake the loose net-ting or plastic lining over your garden bed, place water-filled large plastic jugs around the corners to keep the material in place.

Use as an attachable trash can or harvest basket
Here’s a great tip for weekend gardeners and pros alike: Cut a large hole opposite the handle of a 1/2- or 1-gallon (2-or 3.7-liter) container, and loop the handle through a belt or rope on your waist. Use it to collect the debris — rocks, weeds, broken stems — you encounter as you mow the lawn or stroll through your garden. Use the same design to make an attachable basket for harvesting berries, cherries, and other small fruits or vegetables.

Space seeds in garden
Want an easy way to perfectly space seeds in your garden? Use an empty soda bottle as your guide. Find the distance that the seed company recommends between seeds and then cut off the tapered top of the bottle so its diameter equals that distance. When you start planting, firmly press your bottle, cut edge down, into the soil and place a seed in the center of the circle it makes. Then line up the bottle so that its edge touches the curve of the first impression, and press down again. Plant a seed in the center, and repeat until you’ve filled your rows.

Build a bug trap
Do yellow jackets, wasps, or moths swarm around you every time you set foot in the yard? Use an empty 2-liter soda bottle to make an environment-friendly trap for them. First, dissolve 1/2 cup sugar in 1/2 cup water in the bottle. Then add 1 cup apple cider vinegar and a banana peel (squish it up to fit it through). Screw on the cap and give the mixture a good shake before filling the bottle halfway with cold water. Cut or drill a 3/4-inch (2-centimeter) hole near the top of the bottle, and hang it from a tree branch where the bugs seem especially active. When the trap is full, toss it into the garbage and replace it with a new one.

Isolate weeds when spraying herbicides
When using herbicides to kill weeds in your garden, you have to be careful not to also spray and kill surrounding plants. To isolate the weed you want to kill, cut a 2-liter soda bottle in half and place the top half over the weed you want to spray. Then direct your pump’s spraying wand through the regular opening in the top of the bottle and blast away. After the spray settles down, pick up the bottle and move on to your next target. Always wear goggles and gloves when spraying chemicals in the garden.

Build a paint bucket
Tired of splattering paint all over as you work? Make a neater paint dispenser by cutting a large hole opposite the handle of a clean 1-gallon
(3.7 liter) jug. Pour in the paint so that it’s about an inch below the edge of the hole, and use the edge to remove any excess paint from your brush before you lift your brush. You can also cut jugs in half and use the bottom halves as disposable paint buckets when several people work on the same job.

Store your paints
Why keep leftover house paints in rusted or dented cans when you can keep them clean and fresh in plastic jugs? Use a funnel to pour the paint into a clean, dry milk or water jug, and add a few marbles (they help mix the paint when you shake the container before your next paint job). Label each container with a piece of masking tape, noting the paint manufacturer, color name, and the date.

Use as workshop organizers
Are you always searching for the right nail to use for a particular chore, or for a clothespin, picture hook, or small fastener? Bring some organization to your workshop with a few 1- or 1/2-gallon (3.7- or 2-liter) jugs. Cut out a section near the top of each jug on the side opposite the handle. Then use the containers to store and sort all the small items that seem to “slip through the cracks” of your workbench. The handle makes it easy to carry a jug to your worksite.

Use as a level substitute

Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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