18 Smart Ways to Reuse Your Empty Glass Bottles

I was in a secondhand store recently and saw a beautiful corked bottle on the shelf for sale. It wasn't until I had it in my hand, reading the $3 price tag, that I recognized it as identical to the empty tequila bottle I'd tossed into the recycling earlier.

Maybe you're embarrassed (like me) by the loud jingling sound when you push your bins to the curb, or you'd rather spend your money on a fine vintage than on home decor (like me); either way, turning empty bottles into art, light fixtures, and useful household objects is a smart move. Here are some ideas.

Without a Glass Cutter

If you don't own a glass cutter or any other fancy tools, you can still get artsy with intact empties. For all these ideas, start by soaking the bottle in warm soapy water to get the label off. If there is any residue left after the soak, a solvent such as lighter fluid can get it off.

1. Bird Feeder

All you need to make an inverted wine bottle into a bird feeder is one plank of wood and some basic woodworking tools.

2. Candy Jar

Fill a clean, dry bottle with candy as an alternative to a treat bowl on your desk — or use mini bottles for candy-filled adult party favors. To dress it up, add a stripe of chalkboard paint, where you can write the name of the gift recipient or party guest, or the type of candy.

3. Yard Torch

Anyone can stick a candle in an empty wine bottle, but with a few dollars' worth of supplies from the hardware store, you can turn your empties into torches that could stylishly illuminate your whole backyard. Just fill the bottle with marbles and fuel, stick a tiki wick through a metal coupler, and light it up.

4. Table Card Holder

At a rustic-style wedding, a wine bottle with a cork in the top could handily hold a table number. Slice the cork halfway down from the top, and place the card in the resulting slot.

5. Vase

While an unadorned empty bottle can hold flowers as is, you can also dress it up by painting the surface, swirling paint inside for a Venetian glass effect, or spraying it with adhesive and wrapping with a pretty ribbon.

6. Candelabra

Line up half a dozen identical empties (hello, six-pack discount) and put candles in the tops to make a casual candelabra. For more polish, spray the bottles with metallic paint. Or spring for one of these candelabra bottle toppers to hold all your candles in a single bottle. You could attach your bottle candelabras to a sconce to make them into permanent wall decor.

7. Rolling Pin

Keep a clean empty in the kitchen for this purpose.

8. Boot Holder

Have tall leather or vinyl boots that flop over on the closet floor and get unsightly creases? Put some pebbles in the bottom of empty bottles, and stand them up inside the boots to make them stand at attention.

9. Vessel for a Gift

A pretty, very clean bottle can be repurposed to hold so many homemade goodies: infused oils, homemade infused vodka, bubble bath — the options are endless. If the gift will take a long time to use, securely attach a fancy drawer pull to the cork to make the bottle easy to unstop.

10. Garden Edger

Bury your bottles upside down to demarcate the borders of your garden. This idea is probably best used in a yard not frequented by children who could break a bottle and get hurt.

11. Slow-Drip Irrigator

Drill a small hole through the cork, fill the bottle with water, replace cork, and place upside down in the planter.

12. Leveling Tool

When hanging framed pictures on the wall, use a bottle to make sure it's exactly straight. Fill the bottle with water even with the top of the label and hold it so that it's bottom is perfectly aligned with the frame's top. Adjust until the water in the bottle is level.

13. Bottle Tree

Popular in the American South and linked to folk beliefs about trapping bad spirits in the glass, trees festooned with colored bottles can be a beautiful landscaping feature, especially in winter. There are many spectacular ways to arrange bottles on real trees or frames specially built for the purpose. Blue is the most popular color for these, so bring on the Bombay Sapphire gin, Skyy vodka, and Blue Nun wine.

With a Glass Cutter

Glass cutting tools run from about $5 to $30 (not as fancy as I thought!). They can come in the form of a simple hand tool, or in the form of a drill bit. What they do is score the glass so that you can break it off along the score line. To break it, you need to alternately heat and cool the glass a few times. Or, you can knock the portion of the bottle below the score line off using a hammer. Then you need to sand the sharp edge. Using this technique, you can remove the bottom or top from a bottle, opening up more ways to reuse it.

14. Hanging Planter

Remove the bottom, then fill with plants wrapped in moss for a cool upside-down, sun-catching planter.

15. Drinking Glasses

You'll see a lot of online tutorials on turning empty wine bottles into drinking glasses. While this is possible, keep in mind that the freshly cut edge of a bottle will be extremely sharp, and may not cut cleanly, depending on your method and skill. You'll need to do a lot of grinding and sanding to get the edge smooth enough to raise to your lips.

16. Bottle Chandelier

There are many, many possible designs for chandeliers made of wine bottles online. What most designs have in common is that you cut your bottle open, string a light inside it, and attach it to a wood or metal holder to suspend from the ceiling. What with the glass cutting, the wood or metal working, and some minor electrical work, it's a bit of a project. But the results can be stunning, and would be great decor for a rec room, man cave, or deck.

With a Drill

Using a tile and glass bit, you can drill a hole in a glass bottle with a little practice and care.

17. Lantern

Drill a hole into the back of a wine bottle and thread through a string of small LED lights to make a beautiful lantern. This technique could also be used when making a chandelier.

18. Party Lights

Drill a hole in the bottom or side of a bottle, then shove in a string of holiday lights. You could also push the lights in the top of the bottle, but it wouldn't look as elegant.

Any clever re-uses for glass bottles we've missed? Please share in comments!

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