25 Things to Do With Reusable Water Bottles

by Julie Rains on 18 April 2012 18 comments

While putting away dishes, cups, and other kitchen items, I noticed that I was accumulating water bottles. Some have been purchased outright, a couple were gifts, and some were acquired as a result of participating in athletic events. My family’s collection includes:

  • Plastic sports water bottles
  • Camping water bottles acquired for a backpacking trip
  • Stainless steel water bottles

Most are used on hiking and camping trips or for bike rides and spin classes. The more we have, the more we use them, and the more I have considered additional purposes. Here are a few ideas for using your water bottles. (See also: The Best Eco-Friendly Water Bottles)

1. Measure Liquid

Our camping bottles have printed measurements indicating ounces and millimeters. Use these to measure water, broth, milk, or other liquids when cooking.

2. Make Tea

You can make a cool glass of tea by placing a tea bag in a water bottle, adding filtered water or tap water, and waiting about 30 minutes. During this time, the tea should steep naturally. Add some sweetener and/or ice for iced tea. For flavored tea, add a splash of fruit drink or a bit of powdered drink mix.

3. Carry Dry Food Mixes

Campers can fill up extra water bottles with dry goods that require only water (carried in a separate container). On a camping trip with another family, a friend made pancakes using a dry mix he prepared for the trip. His pancake mix would fit well in a water bottle. At the campsite, add water to the mix, shake, and pour in 1/4 cup increments on a hot skillet to prepare. Similarly, bring potato soup mix and add boiling water to make hot soup.

4. Mix Up a Drink Without a Spoon or Stirrer

If you are mixing a drink (I’m thinking of a sports-type drink, but other types of drinks could work as well), use a water bottle alone instead of a glass with a stirrer or iced tea spoon. Pour water in the bottle, add the right portion of the powdered drink mix, close the lid securely, and shake.

5. Split a Drink

On a somewhat regular basis, I would like to share a drink — but not germs — with someone. Having a water bottle at hand makes it easy to split a cold drink, like a soda, tea, or even bottled water. Buy your drink, pour a portion in the water bottle (being careful not to touch the drink lid to the bottle opening), and give the other person the remainder in the original container. This approach saves some money and cuts down on waste.

6. Refill Water Bowls for Your Pets

Designate a water bottle for your cat or dog, label the bottle with a permanent marker, and use it to fill your pet’s water bowl.

7. Water Plants

Just as Paul suggested as a new purpose of used detergent bottles, a water bottle can be useful for transporting water from the kitchen sink or spigot to your plants, inside and outside the house. For a smaller version of the drip irrigation method, fill a sports bottle (with a pull top) and turn upside down to water your plants.

8. Hold Fresh-Cut Flowers or Greenery

It's quirky but functional — your water bottle can serve as a vase when transporting fresh-cut flowers or as a centerpiece on your dining room table. Fill the bottom of the bottle with water and add the flowers.

9. Hold Household Stuff

Clear bottles with wide mouths are especially useful as holders of certain household items, like paper clips, nuts and bolts, or pens and pencils. If you are fond of a commemorative water bottle, then repurposing will let you keep it without it gathering dust or clogging up your kitchen cabinet.

10. Hold Coin Change

Toss coin change in a water bottle and keep the bottle in one of your cup holders in your car or on your dresser in your dorm room. This way, you’ll have quick access to spare change. Or you can easily take a filled-up bottle to your bank or credit union and trade for cash.

11. Clean Wounds

On a few occasions, I have reached for an extra water bottle to clean a wound after a minor accident. Though not sterile, the water was clean enough as it came from a reliable source (my home's water supply) and had been placed in an uncontaminated bottle.

The water can help wash out debris such as small stones or dirt until you have time to get sterile water, antibiotic cream, and bandages.

12. Substitute for a Sippy Cup

You could use a water bottle to serve a similar purpose as a kid’s sippy cup — give your kids something to drink without fear that they’ll accidentally spill the entire contents on the dining room table or living room floor within a few seconds. These wouldn’t work well for younger kids, but for those who have mostly graduated to regular cups, having a water bottle available to help avoid drink-related catastrophes could be handy at times.

13. Freeze Liquids

Just as you might freeze small quantities of soup stock in ice cube trays, use your water bottle to contain leftover liquid for future use.

14. Help Keep Other Stuff Cold

A frozen water bottle can serve as an ice pack when placed in a cooler with food and drinks.

15. Play

Squeezable water bottles can be filled and used as a substitute for toy water guns.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

16. Give as a Hostess Gift

One of the reasons I noticed that my kitchen cabinets were overflowing with water bottles was because I received one as a hostess gift. To jazz up the present, fill with drink mix packets.

17. Help the Homeless

My oldest son volunteers some with the homeless, and I accompanied him to a “block party” that involved a free cookout with drinks, haircuts, and fellowship. Not knowing quite what to do while he talked sports with the guests, I decided to serve drinks and discovered that many of the homeless could benefit from having an extra cup or water bottle.

Having something to contain a drink enables them to use public facilities (like the water fountain at the public library) more readily, rather than having to buy a bottle of water or soda whenever they were thirsty.  

18. Have a Cheap Drink at School or the Office

It’s taken a while, but I have finally got my kids (now teenagers) to see the value in filling water bottles and taking those to school rather than buying water there. Fortunately, they shun sodas and most sweetened drinks. But for a while, they bought water in the cafeteria or from the drink machines for afterschool sessions. Now, they take the water bottles.

Likewise, my husband takes water bottles to his office.

19. Stay Safe When Working Out of Your Element

You already know that you should stay hydrated on outdoor adventures but may not think of needing enough water during special work-related events. Carrying your own water can be useful when you are working at a busy trade show or helping customers in an outdoor setting all day, especially if you are accustomed to a predictable, climate-controlled work environment.

20. Make Money

Decorate the bottles (extra ones you've acquired, rather than used ones) and sell on Etsy or another craftsy retail outlet.

21. Serve as a Lantern

Replace your standard lid with a solar powered LED cap, and your water bottle can serve as a lantern. The cap isn’t cheap (I found one for $19.99 from ThinkGeek) but could be useful when camping in the wilderness.

22. Carry Snacks

Fill the bottle with snacks, like pretzels or nuts. Carrying these items in a bottle should keep them dry plus make it easy to carry on your bike, haul in your car, or tote in a bag.

23. Carry Gear

If you happen to have outdoor apparel that is compactable, put it in a water bottle to make it easy to carry. Likewise, carry small-but-important items like first aid supplies in a bottle rather than letting them roll around loose in your luggage or tote bag.

24. Cut Cookie Dough or Biscuit Dough

Either the water bottle lid or the top of the water bottle could be used to cut out cookies or biscuits, according to a commenter on Fat Cyclist's uses for water bottles article. Dust the lid or top with flour before using, just as you would with traditional types of cutters.

25. Make a Toy Hovercraft

Use a sports water bottle lid (described as a "pull-top water bottle cap" in the comments section of the alternative uses of water bottles article) along with a blank CD and balloon to make a hovercraft.

Watch video

Do you have any clever and practical uses for reusable water bottles? Share them in the comments.

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Guest's picture
Jon

Some great creative ideas here. Found a couple I'll have to try on camping trips.

Julie Rains's picture

Great! When I started looking to find ideas to supplement what I was already doing, I realized how handy packing stuff in a bottle could be -- contents could be kept dry (and easy to find) plus there'd have an extra bottle around if needed. Hope these help on your next trip.

Guest's picture
Monica

I use a sports bottle we got for free from an event as a syrup container. I make fresh homemade syrup and store it there, the pop cap is perfect for pouring!

Julie Rains's picture

That sounds yummy! I've never made homemade syrup before but could see how the sports-top bottle could be great for getting just enough but not too much syrup on pancakes, waffles, etc.

Meg Favreau's picture

As a former New Englander, I tend to hold pure maple syrup as the one and only true pancake topping. But I'm interested in this homemade syrup -- what do you make it out of? Can you link to a recipe?

Guest's picture
MakeMineCadburys

I have olive oil in one of my extra pop-top style reusable bottles. I keep it next to the stove so when I need to oil a pan, I can give it a squirt!

Julie Rains's picture

That's a great way to prevent pouring too much oil in the pan. Thanks for sharing!

Meg Favreau's picture

I went on a week-long winter hike in high school, and the adults leading the trip would always boil a pot of water before bedtime. We'd fill up our water bottles with the hot water, seal them up tight, and put them at our feet in our sleeping bags to help warm up.

Julie Rains's picture

I read about people heating the bottles but wasn't sure if that would work and, if it did work, what the bottles could be useful for. Now I know -- to keep feet warm when camping! As someone who has cold feet despite wearing wool socks and using a 15-degree rated sleeping bag, that sounds like a wonderful idea.

Guest's picture

Tons of great ideas! I love the flower vase idea. I don't own a vase, and on the rare occasion I get flowers I don't have something tall enough to putt them in. I resort to using a big glass juice pitcher! next time I'll use one of my water bottles - the stainless steel one wouldn't look half bad!

Guest's picture
Guest

Camping out in the desert I've used my Nalgene water bottle as a hot water bottle on a cold night. I filled the bottle with boiling water and took it to bed with me. It helped me keep warm for several hours in my sleeping bag.

Guest's picture
Guest

Some of those ideas were a tad obvious like the first aid application to quickly rinse a wound and to use as an ice pack, but im really glad i read the whole thing though as many of those ideas are absolutely brilliant! You may have saved my plants actually since im going out of town for a couple days and couldn't find a housekeeper! The hovercraft idea is really fascinating and i enjoy building stuff like that...ill have to think about how i can improve it though.

Julie Rains's picture

I am not sure if I would have thought to carry a first aid kit in a water bottle but I am glad there are people who are more clever than me! It seems like a great way to keep stuff dry and easy to reach, esp. for someone who is not particularly neat (like me).

Hope the watering technique works well for you, and helps to save money.

Guest's picture
Kashif

At home, we use reusable water bottles to put water plants and re-grow spring onions. The kids love that.

Guest's picture
Carl Lassegue

Very creative ideas. I'm going to make myself sweet tea later this afternoon :)

Guest's picture
Amanda

I have some old Nalgene bottles that supposedly have bad plastic as part of them, so they're not supposed to be used with human consumption. Instead, I filled them with sand and use them as weights for working out.

Julie Rains's picture

Great idea. I could see people using those for workouts as well as weights to secure other things outside like a tarp or blanket during a picnic.

Guest's picture
Paul

Here's one I saw on TV: use an empty bottle (they were using the 2L Coke plastic Coke bottle) to easily separate the yoke from the egg white by squeezing the bottle a bit then placing it over the yoke and releasing the squeeze, the yoke gets sucked up and is ready to be placed elsewhere. Genius!