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Uh, oh. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that plastic milk jugs deposited in landfills will never degrade. Yet each
year, millions of plastic milk jugs are thrown away. In fact, milk jugs (and water bottles) represent one of the largest volume of plastic that end up in landfills and make up the
corner-stone of almost all plastic recycling efforts. Fortunately, many people accept the challenge to re-use household items.
Reusing plastic milk jugs is no exception. Along with the
plastic milk jug cloche (below) which protects seedlings and bedding plants,
here are 34 more uses for your home, garden, yard, garage and boat. And,
if you know of another way to use them, don't be shy! Email me your idea.
Plastic milk jugs, minus their bottoms, make excellent cloches by protecting tender plants against frost, heavy rain, scorching sun and so on. To keep it from blowing away, poke a hole at the top of the handle and thread a piece of heavy wire so it reaches down into the soil. Photo by Marion Owen
the yard and garden
Cut a hole in two or three sides of the jug. The holes should be 2 or
4 inches in diameter, depending on the type of birds you want to attract.
For perches, make smaller holes below the feeding holes. Push wooden dowel
rods through the holes so they poke through the opposite side. Fill the
feeder with seed and hang it in a nearby tree. You may want to poke a
few small holes in the bottom for rainwater drainage.
Easier bird feeder
Cut a strip out of the side opposite the handle. Fill with birdseed and hang in a tree or set on a stump or protected spot. Protect young seedlings Place a plastic milk jug, minus its bottom, over a seedling. To keep the cloche (sounds like gauche) cover in place, poke a hole on the top of the handle and run a 14 to 16-inch piece of coat hanger or wire through the hole and down into the soil.
Tea for two?
Put diluted PlanTea concentrate, liquid fish fertilizer or compost tea in a plastic milk jug. Use the fortified water within a few days, giving the containers a shake each day. Water seedlings, annuals, perennials and shrubs.
Going to a plant sale?
Take a few 4-inch tall bottoms from plastic milk cartons with you to haul away plants.
Seed starting container
Cut 3 inches off the bottom of a milk
jug. Poke a few small holes in the bottom for drainage. Fill with seed-starting
mix or potting soil and sow with seeds. For complete, easy to follow seed-starting
tips, see my Seeding is Believing article.
Plant propagator: Start new plants successfully!
From Lynn Proctor, of Petersburg, Florida: I use both 1/2 and 1 gallon cartons as planters for propagation with cuttings. Leaving the handle intact, cut down through the threaded top beside the handle to just below the curve, go all the way around to where you are on the other side of the handle, cut up to the top of the handle, completely removing the screw top and leaving the handle intact. Poke a few small holes in the bottom.
Fill the container 2/3 to full with planting medium, depending on your use. This provides a top hole big enough to put in some cuttings, small plants or seeds. Since the hole is relatively small, the planter holds its moisture well. It is protected somewhat from insects, and the carton can be cut off for transplanting. It is easy to carry and move around. You can see root growth progress through the plastic. If you have some green algae growth on the inside of the plastic by the soil, it won't hurt anything. You can paint the carton if you want, or put contact paper on it to the soil level. I just use it the way it is and have had great success.
Mark it or lose it
Cut the sides into long strips or triangles and mark with a waterproof "Sharpie" pen for plant markers.
Make a watering
can or sprinkler
Turn your plastic milk jugs into a sprinkler, funnel or watering can with
a few, simple attachments onto the threaded opening. I discovered these
great gadgets about 10 years ago and now offer them through this site. They are a great problem solver. You can find them and buy them on my online store.
Make a scoop by cutting the bottom (and part of the handle side) off. Replace the screw-top and use it to scoop up dry potting soil, vermiculite, grass seed and so on.
Cut the bottoms off 2 or 3 inches from the base and use it for toad and bird watering holes. Did I already say it also makes a great watering bowl for your dog when going on a hike or trip? Speaking of water...
Swimming "floaters" for kids
This one was sent in by Ruth: When my kids were young we didn't have a lot of money. When we went to the pool swimming we used milk jugs for floaters. Tie a sting to each handle. You may use one or two on each side. Place them near under arm and tie string around the child. Now he can float. May want to super glue the lids on.
Have a blessed day, Ruth
You can also have your child simply hold a plastic jug in each hand (lids are screwed on to make an airtight seal, right?). This is a great way for them to practice their kicking and swimming. Remember: Always keep an eye on your children in the water.
Cut the bottoms off 2 or 3 inches from the base. Sink the base into the
soil so the top rim is level with the soil. Fill (bait) with beer (this
Bud's for you) or your own sugar-water-yeast solution (a pinch of yeast
is all you need).
Make a Wall-o-Water
Fill jugs with water and arrange them in a ring around plants. Cover the
ring at night to preserve heat absorbed during the day. When the danger
of frost and cold has passed, use the warmed water to water your plants.
For warmer water, paint the containers black before filling them. This
is a good way to regulate heat in cold frames and greenhouses.
Use water-filled jugs as weights to secure floating row covers, plastic,
tarps, netting or frost covers over beds.
Around the house
Cut the bottoms off and use them as plant saucers.
on the line?
Here's a handy way to hold the clothespins. Cut a hole in a plastic milk
jug in the side opposite the handle. Then cut through the handle about a
half-inch from the bottom of the handle to make a "hook" for hanging it
on the clothes line. Fill the jug with pins and use the handle to hang it
on the line.
Light your way
Make luminaries by cutting off the top of a milk jug, filling the bottom
with 2 or 3 inches of sand, then placing a votive candle in the sand. Line
a walkway or garden path with the lights.
Cut the tops off several plastic milk jugs and use the bases to keep fruit,
cheese, sandwiches, napkins, and spreads separate--and dry--in your cooler
or picnic basket.
Organize your fridge
Cut the tops off several plastic milk jugs and use the bases to conveniently store grapes, kiwis, pear tomatoes, cheese, lunch meats and other small items in the fridge. Make shorter containers for the storage drawers and trays.
Cut the bottom from a plastic milk jug and use as a funnel for liquids, powdered dry goods, flour and more. It couldn't be easier.
Make a funnel (as above) and line it with a jelly bag or damp piece of muslim. Secure the jelly bag at the top with clips or clothespins if necessary. Pour fruit juice into the funnel and let it drip.
Organize your life!
From a 1/2 to 1-gallon container, cut a hole out of the top corner opposite the handle. Use the easy-access container to sort and store everything from golf balls and dog biscuits; to nails and rubber bands. This same design makes a great container for cleaning paint brushes or as a berry picker (see below).
Organize your car and mini-van
Sent by a reader: Again, from a 1/2 to 1-gallon container, cut a hole out of the top corner opposite the handle. Use the container to as a small garbage can to collect bits of trash that otherwise find their way under seats and on the floor of your car. Got kids? Well, then you can appreciate this one!
Keep your tire chairs clean and ready for use
Hi Marion, I stumbled onto your site and read the milk carton uses with interest. I cut an opening opposite the handle and store tire chains, to keep in the car trunk in the winter. They get wet and rusty and this is a perfect solution. -- From Gaye, in California
Store uncooked rice and other small grains, nuts, popcorn and seeds in a
1/2 or 1-gallon milk carton and it will be easier to measure out. Be sure
to thoroughly clean the carton first.
Tired of flimsy plastic bags? Use a 1-2 or 1-gallon plastic milk jug for
storing everything from coffee beans, sugar, lentils, split peas and jelly
Poor man's blender
Add yogurt, soy milk, fruit juice, nutritional powders, crushed berries
or jam to a 1/2 to 1-gallon plastic milk. Replace the lid and shake like
crazy. Store extra in the fridge.
A gallon milk jug can also be turned into a dustpan. Set the jug, handle
side up, on a table and cut the top off at an angle, leaving the bottom
as a flat dustpan.
Where to put the
toilet bowl brush?
Cut a hole out from the top corner opposite the handle. Voila, problem solved.
Here's a great way to scoop up kitty litter (new or used) de-icer, etc.
Make a scoop by cutting the bottom (and part of the handle side) off. Replace
the screw-top and scoop away.
Toys, berry-picking, giant igloos...
Cut a hole out of the top corner opposite the handle to use for a berry
picker. Slip your belt through the handle to free up your hands for picking.
Collect enough milk jugs and you can make a giant igloo--a favorite project for schools, churches and day care centers. The main trick is connecting them together. Here's a suggestion from Terri Kaszynski, a
Brownie Troup leader in
Oconto, Wisconsin: We used 5 packages of glue stick and hot-glued them together. Of course this took adult supervision but it worked like a charm. We anchored them to a large piece of (round) cardboard. We did have to cheat little with 1/2 gallon jugs between some of the gallon ones. It's a great craft to do late in the fall of the year and have it standing by for when it does actually snow!
Let's play ball!
Here's one to use at school for field day and just for play, sent in by M. Lundin of Orlando, Florida. You can use 1/2 gallon or gallon jugs work; even large detergent jugs, etc. INSTRUCTIONS:
Cut off the bottom of the jug along the line (that's about 1.5 inches around the bottom of most milk jugs.) Decorate the jug with peel n' stick stickers or markers, or whatever! Using old tennis balls, you now have a ball catcher game for yard or beach. The larger jugs make it easier for younger kids to catch the ball. Smaller jugs are more challenging!
Milk jug Jack-O-Lantern
This Jack-O-Lantern is easy for kids to make, plus, it's weather proof!
Draw Jack-O-Lantern facial features onto the milk jug. Cut out the eyes,
nose and mouth shapes. Paint the jug with orange acrylic paint. It might
take a couple coats for a nice thick finish. Once the paint has dried,
draw details with a black, permanent marker or black acrylic paint. For
the inner glow, insert a small flashlight to the inside of the jug lid
or in a hole cut below the handle and tape it into place.
Reader David Scammon sent us this tip:
"Empty milk jugs with the lid attached make great floaters to
drop in the lake for fishing. Tie fishing line, with hook and
bait, to the jug handle, toss in the lake and check later. This
allowing fishing at all levels of the lake." (Email
A penny saved...
Make a simple piggy bank by cutting a slit near the top of a 1/2 or 1-gallon
(if you're really ambitious) plastic milk jug. Glue or tape the lid closed,
if desired. Paint the jug or attach a bow on the handle for a personalized
Bail that boat!
Make a bailer for your boat by cutting the bottom (and part of the handle
Plastic milk jugs can also be made into Easter baskets, used for making
wine, or stacked into an igloo (minus the chill!).
Hopefully I've inspired you to use your imagination to
create new ways to use old stuff. Remember, And hey, if you know of another
way to use them, don't by shy! Email me your thoughts so I can add them to the list.
Happy gardening and recycling--everywhere!