37 Brilliant Ways to Reuse an Empty Milk Jug


I like to make stuff.

Alas, I have a zero dollar budget for craft supplies. But who needs money when you've got a recycling bin full of possibilities? Before you throw out another plastic milk jug, consider the crafty potential. (See also: 18 Awesome, Practically Free Upcycled Craft Projects)

Toys and the Like

Like that old saying goes: If you chop your own wood, you warm yourself twice. Now apply that maxim to toys (and other stuff.)

1. Dutch treat

Can a Netherlander please explain why pink milk jugs exist for any reason other than as the raw material for these cute piggy banks?

2. Button Spinners

These mesmerizing party favors can be whipped up in a flash using supplies from the junk drawer.

3. Beach Shovel

Make a speedy vacation toy that you won't have to bring home. This is a great community sandbox tool. It's no big deal if you forget it at the playground. When it breaks, you can recycle it without guilt.

4. Toy Scoop

As a beekeeper, I actually use this scoop design to pick up bees. The thin edge of the milk jug allows me to pick up piles of bees without squishing anyone. But this scoop is also a great cleanup tool for Lego blocks. Yeah, it's a glorified dustpan. But crafters take note: The edge of the dustpan will let you clean up the finest of powders.

5. Word Whale

Cute-ify your toy scoop with a sharpie and some creative cutting to make this super-functional tub toy. Christian mommy bloggers use this DIY toy to tell the story of Jonah and the whale, but extra credit goes to the mom who figured out how to turn the milk jug caps into floating vocabulary cards for kids.

6. Water Balloon Jug Toss

Weaponize your Word Whale by turning it into a water balloon launcher.

7. Snowflake Ornaments

All you need to make these Martha Stewart-worthy winter decorations is an X-ACTO knife, scissors, a cookie cutter, a hole punch, and a washable marker.

8. Butterflies

All the fun of the classic vintage toy without the toxic fumes! Milk jugs are translucent enough that you can trace pictures through it, so you can use clip art, comic books, or any small illustration as the basis for these art pieces. Use a thin black Sharpie pen to trace the outlines and color in the image with colored permanent markers. Although the instructions for this project were written for small children, the butterflies are so pretty that even teenagers and adults will want to get in on the coloring action. Warning: this is addictive.

9. Hanging Mobile

Wondering what to do with your growing squadron of no shrink Shrinky-Dink Butterflies? Turn them into a mobile for the newest baby you know.

10. Bunting

Do you want to hoard your handmade ornaments and butterflies all to yourself? Display your collected works as a bunting.

11. Stencils

Are you a ninja with scissors? Upcycle the leftovers from your upcycled project into another tool. Use the plastic outline leftovers from your snowflakes, butterflies, etc. to make your own stencils.

12. Reading Igloo

Go big or go home! This playhouse is perfect for kids and adults.

13. Halloween Skeleton

Win the neighborhood pumpkin-carving contest without even touching squash. Mr. Bottle Bones is made entirely of recycled milk jugs.

14. El Esqueleto

Since I live in a Latino neighborhood, instead of Mr. Bottle Bones, I am making Señor Botella de Huesos for Dia de los Muertos.

15. Dinosaur Skull

Why limit yourself to human skeletons? Faux dinosaur taxidermy will improve any décor. Trust me on this.

16. Space Cadet

Milk jug astronaut helmet? $0. Hilarious photographs of your children looking ridiculous? Priceless.

17. Roman Helmet

"I'm Spartacus!" "No, I'm Spartacus!" Fortunately, there are enough milk jugs in the recycling bin that you can all be Spartacus.

18. Lion Mask

Mix and match your new lion mask with your roman helmet for gladiator larping.

19. Cone of Shame

My vet charges $10 for those stupid, plastic Elizabethan collars aka lampshades. Make your own shaming tool for your pet out of a plastic jug for free.

20. Carnival Masks

Carnivale, Mardi Gras, Halloween. This classic mask design also works for Stanley Kubrick-themed costume parties.

21. Easter Gear

Skip buying plastic boxes at the dime store, and upcycle your own Easter accessories. I mean, how cute are these Easter bunny egg holders?

22. Gift Box

Although this design is billed as a sandwich keeper, this simple folded box would make a cute and reusable alternative to a gift bag.

Lighting Design

The Internet is full of shockingly beautiful and elegant lamp shades made from recycled milk jugs.

23. Faux Capiz Shell Chandelier

Hide the ugly lighting in your rental apartment with this chic and cheap hack.

24. Jellyfish Chandelier

Use this artist's seriously gorgeous work as inspiration.

25. IQ Lamp

Don't worry. You don't need brains, just good hand-eye coordination, to make this incredible fixture.

26. Flower Party Lights

If you can make a bunting, you can make these glamorous mini shades for your twinkle lights.

27. Ambient Lamp

It's not cute, just incredibly clever. Turn a headlamp and a milk jug full of water into a camping lantern.

28. Lotus Votive Holders

Everyone looks more attractive in the dark. Unplug yourself from modern life for one weekend and enjoy the candlelight.

House and Garden Tools

Although plastic milk jugs are great for arts and crafts, I personally prefer to hack milk jugs to create lightweight, recyclable tools.

29. Watering Can

Yeah, I know. This is so obvious. I use my old milk jugs to collect, store, and dispense worm tea with no spillage.

30. Ollas

Ollas are an ancient below-ground watering system. Traditional Ollas are made from clay, but modern life gives me no time and milk jugs. I use what I've got.

31. Garden Cloches

Cloches are miniature greenhouses, traditionally made from glass. But a plastic milk jug cloche works just the same.

32. Plant Labels

Why pay for plastic plant stakes or garden tags when you can make your own? I use a box cutter and a metal ruler to cut the flat sides of the jugs into thin strips. Pro tip: it's easier to write with a permanent marker on the textured side of the plastic.

33. Measuring Scoops

Yes, this is the practical version of the Word Whale. Avoid cross-contamination by using these home made measuring cups to measure out stinky stuff like fertilizer or paint.

34. Portable Storage for the Garage

A variation on those measuring scoops also make handy organizers for hardware and other small things that get lost in the garage.

35. Vertical Garden

If you have a thin balcony or porch railing, you won't even need to build the trellis to use this sleek, space-saving garden hack. For safety and picking ease, just face these hanging planters toward the inside of your balcony, please.

36. Upside Down Tomato Planters

As seen on TV… but a lot cheaper. Grow tomatoes upside down inside hanging milk jug planters.

37. Beaded Curtain

Don't forget to save those milk jug lids to upcycle into that beaded curtain your yard always needed.

What's your favorite milk jug hack? Please share your DIY genius.

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