17 Ways to Use Old Newspaper

Photo: Elvert Barnes

What should you do with the newspaper you’ve just read?

Recycle it, of course — but recycling doesn’t always mean tossing it into a bin so it can be reincarnated.

Before you send the funny pages — and every other section — to that big paper pile in the sky, consider using it for something else, like wrapping gifts, washing windows, preventing garden weeds, making origami sculptures, and so much more. (See also: 30 Uses for the Humble Cardboard Box)

1. Cleaning Windows

This seems totally counterintuitive, but a friend of mine recently told me that using newspaper to clean windows works better than a cloth in preventing streaks. Weird, right? Wouldn’t all that newsprint transfer to the glass? It certainly does on my hands. It seems, however, that the newspaper-window-washing Internet population agrees with my friend. For even better results, use a vinegar-and-water solution instead of a chemical cleaner like Windex.

2. Gift Wrap

In a pinch, newspaper works well for wrapping gifts. Most folks generally choose the comics because of the color and humor, but if the gift recipient is in, say, finance, why not use the business or money sections instead? The wrap will seem more thoughtful that way. If you’re super crafty, you can even make a newspaper bow to top it all off.

3. Book Covers

When I was a kid, my parents wouldn’t spring for store-bought book covers when newspaper worked just as well. I probably hated it back then, but now it seems kind of cool. To tell the books apart once they’re covered, use a section of the newspaper that represents each book. For instance, if you’re covering a science textbook, pick the tech section of the paper. Follow these easy instructions to make a newspaper book cover.

4. Disposable Table Cloths

When I’m from (Hello, Baltimore!), it’s a summertime ritual to buy (or catch) a bushel of crabs, steam them up, and dump the red devils on a newspaper-lined patio or porch table. If you’ve ever picked and eaten crabs before, you know how messy they can be (which is why I don’t do it; sorry, Baltimore). The newspaper serves a dual purpose for messy outdoor eating: a) it keeps your table clean, and b) it makes clean up a breeze because all you have to do is fold up the paper starting from the edges and dump it in the trash.

5. Packing Supplies

Bubble wrap and other paper packing supplies are expensive. Honestly, I don’t know why people purchase these things when there are probably plenty of materials lying around their own homes that will suffice in sending the package safely. Newspaper is lighter than bubble wrap too, which will reduce the shipping fees. To pack a box with loose or fragile contents, first wrap the items individually (if they’re breakable, then stuff the open space with crumpled up paper. Just make sure that everything is tight so there’s no opportunity for movement during transit.

6. Weed Blocker

Another tip from a friend that I had never heard of — if you have a garden and weeds are a problem, cover the bed with newspaper and water it to the saturation point. Once that’s done, cover the paper with organic matter, like compost or mulch. Eventually, the newspaper will smother the problematic weeds, and the organic matter will help your garden flourish.

7. Origami Sculptures

Who knew that there were so many ways to fold newspaper into useful things? My search revealed a star bracelet, a hat, boats, baskets, boxes — the list goes on. My favorite, however, was this newspaper pot for seedlings with step-by-step video instructions.

8. Paper Mache

We know what paper mache is, but do your kids? It seems like this craft activity, which uses newspaper, glue, flour, and water, is becoming a dying art. That’s a shame, because it’s so easy and fun! The sky really is the limit with paper mache, too; whatever you can think of, you can make. Like these paper-mache masks. Great for Halloween!

9. Current Event Collages

I made one of these many years ago, and the final product still hangs on the wall in my home. It couldn’t have been simpler. I saved the front pages of my favorite sections of USA Today over the course of a few weeks (you can use whatever newspaper you’d like; I just preferred the colors of USA Today), bought a 4-foot-by-2-foot canvas, arranged and lightly glued the sections on the canvas, then brushed on several coats of Modge Podge. Easy as that. The newsprint didn’t budge — and now I have a perfectly preserved time capsule/art piece to admire for years to come.

10. Picture Frames

Picture frames with pictures make excellent gifts — even more so if the picture frame is a handmade. To create a picture frame out of newspaper, all you’ll need to two sheets of paper (or the front and back pages of the newspaper), scissors, a ruler, tape, clear plastic from packaging, your favorite photo, and these 10-step frame instructions.

11. Fire Starter

By no means is this intended for you to start fires wherever you’d like. That’s called arson — and it’s illegal. If you’re going camping or starting a fire in a fireplace, however, it’s always good to have some newspaper on hand to give the fire an extra boost in case you can’t find kindling or the wood is a little damp.

12. Sell It On eBay

If you have a paper from a notable date in history, i.e. the election of President Obama, etc., put it up for sale. You’ll be surprised how many people collect historical editions of print publications and how much they’ll pay for it. You’ll get the highest bid when you list the paper while there’s still demand for it, but don’t discount its popularity many years down the road. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Hasn’t Hoarders taught you anything?

13. Shape Keeper

Ensure that your shoes and bags keep their shape by stuffing them with crumpled newspaper after each use.

14. Pantry Liner

Place newspaper under pantry items like potatoes and onions to keep the moisture — and bugs — away. Newspaper can be used to line other shelves in your pantry as well; if you spill something, just remove the paper and toss it out or recycle it.

15. Gift Basket Stuffing

Newspaper shreds are an excellent alternative to the very non-eco-friendly “grass” with which we line our Easter baskets. The shreds can be used as filling for other baskets as well. For example, if you’re gifting a food-themed basket, fill the bottom with strips from the circulars or cooking section.

16. Ripen Fruits

This wouldn’t work in my house since fruits tend to go bad before we eat them (we’re carb-aholics), but if you want to speed up the ripening process, simply wrap individual pieces in newspaper so you can eat them sooner.

17. Damage Protection

Don’t take any chances when using stain-prone products like paint or shoe polish. Put the paper down before you start your project to protect your goods. You’ll totally hate yourself when you make a mess that could have been prevented.

There are dozens more ways to recycle and reuse old newspaper. Let us know how your newspaper pulls double duty in the comments section below.

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Before you recycle your newspaper, here are some thrifty ways to upcycle newspaper! From wrapping gifts, washing windows, preventing garden weeds, making origami sculptures, here are some tips for you. | #lifehacks #newspaper #upcycle

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Guest's picture

It's great for drying out wet shoes. Sometimes I go for long runs and get caught in the rain. A few hours of newspaper stuffed inside (might have to change it once or twice depending on the wetness) and dry as a bone. Great list!

Guest's picture

Ah... you have cleaning windows... but you should try newspaper for cleaning mirrors, too. It works beautifully - I never do it any other way :)

Guest's picture

I use newspaper in my cat box instead of litter.

Guest's picture

You can line your trash cans with it instead of using plastic garbage bags. I also run newspapers through my paper shredder and use it for packing material. There is also a craft called "Krimp Art" that employs newspapers wrapped around and then slid down the outside of a tube to create the base units for making all sorts of creative things including flowers, critters and more. Lastly, how about a newspaper "treasure hunt" for kids on a rainy day. Give them a pair of blunt end scissors and a list of things to look for and cut out such as the color red, a person smiling, a square, the letter E, a date, etc. etc.

Mikey Rox's picture

Thanks for the comment, Linda. I love the newspaper treasure hunt idea! I don't have any kids yet, but I'm definitely storing this one in my memory bank for the future.

Guest's picture

I fold newspaper into quick origami bags (takes about 10 seconds per bag), and then use them for scooping kitty litter. One or two sections is plenty for the whole week!

Guest's picture

Newspaper is very absorbant - so use it first when mopping up spills rather than paper towels. It is also a good insulator & I have read about people putting under their carpets in the winter - or under their mattresses - to keep out the chill. (Could also be used to help out blankets??) Oh, & if you ever have to use a running toilet (African for pooping in a plastic bag) - use newspaper at the bottom to absorb you-know-what...And what about those newspaper trees they used to make when we were kids? Use to swat flies & other insects, too - & line the bottom of your garbage pails with it! & you could make temporary insoles for your shoes using newspaper - the heavier ad sections could also make good covers for small paperback books.

Mikey Rox's picture

Excellent suggestions, Pam. Thanks for contributing!

Guest's picture

Shred it and use it in the compost bin. If you're trying to be 100% organic, this may not work for you, but I figure 96% organic is just fine for my garden!

Guest's picture

I'm going to put it inside the bottom of my cabinets after reading this. I never thought to sell it on EBAY. Very interesting. I remember people puttin git in their shoes to absorb bacteria and odor. I especially like #6. I have used it as a weed barrier before I lay down mulch in my garden. It works well. It's also great at the bottom of the garbage for odor and easy clean up.

Guest's picture
Jennifer Dantuma

In addition to using newspaper as a fire starter, I save my empty toilet paper rolls and tightly roll up sections of newspaper large enough to fit inside and burn it as a fire log. Can use in a fire pit also.

Guest's picture

Great for putting into plastic food containers when they may get smelly. Just crumple in and leave for a while and the smell goes away......

Guest's picture

In India, we have been lining our bookshelves, kitchen cabinets, cupboards, wardrobes, and shoe racks with newspapers forever. For those who make their own clothes or are into making stuffed toys, newspapers are also very useful to make the patterns.

Guest's picture

St. Vincent De Paul thrift stores in my area are always looking for newspaper.
They use the paper to wrap fragile items, such as glassware or casserole dishes.

I save mine in paper grocery sacks (I have a closet full of paper bags left over from the days before we used cloth grocery totes), and take them to St. Vincent De Paul when I have a few bags.

They also are looking for clean plastic grocery bags. Many of their customers don't have cars, and carry their purchases home on the bus, so the grocery bags with handles are best.

I really like supporting this charity in particular because profits from St. Vincent stores go to purchase food for food pantries in the community.