A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

30 Household Items You Had No Idea Were Reusable

Save money and reduce your carbon footprint!

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.

1 / 31
Cardboard Box
Pinkybird/Getty Images

Don’t just throw these things away!

Sure, there are plenty of things you know are reusable—grocery tote bags, metal straws, reusable water bottles. But, in addition to products made specifically for that purpose, there are also plenty of other things you probably use all the time that can also be reused. Read on to find out the everyday items you shouldn’t be tossing after one use. Plus, check out these reusable versions of things you use every day.

2 / 31
Directly Above Shot Of Green Tea Cup On Table
Jasmin Awad / EyeEm/Getty Images

Tea bags

One tea bag can make two cups of tea—possibly even three or four. To get the most bang for your brew, continuously steep your tea in a teapot on the stove. If you only drink one cup in the morning, place your used tea bag in the refrigerator and re-purpose it later in the day to relax your eyes. Cool tea bags do wonders for eye puffiness and irritation.

3 / 31
reusable household items cookies

Parchment paper

Got a birthday party coming up? Bake multiple batches of cookies on the same piece of parchment paper. Most brands are oven safe up to 450 degrees—and as long as there’s nothing stuck to the paper that could easily burn, it’s safe to reuse.

4 / 31
reusable household items swiffer duster

Clean Swiffer dusters

The pads that attach to the bottom of your Swiffer don’t have to go in the trash when you finish your chores. Fill your sink with warm water and soap and swish the duster around to ready it for a second use. Roll the pad into a power towel to eliminate any extra moisture. Allow it to air dry. These are some more “disposable” items you need to stop buying.

5 / 31
Cropped photo of finished laundry process. High angle above top view of woman hand take out linen from white washing machine standing inside flat with bright interior
brizmaker/Getty Images

Dryer sheets

Dryer sheets are just as effective when cut in half and can be reused at least once. That’s four loads of laundry for the price of one!

6 / 31
reusable household items coffee filter

Coffee filters

Most coffee filters can be reused at least four or five times before they stop working effectively, according to groundtoground.org. Try one of these extraordinary uses for the coffee grounds (or just discard them), rinse off the filter, allow it to dry, and reuse.

7 / 31
shower curtain
Jonathan Mauer/Getty Images

Shower curtain

Just because it’s plastic doesn’t mean it has to be disposable. Instead of tossing a soap scum–laden curtain, try this. Remove the curtain from its hooks and put it in your washing machine, along with regular detergent and a cup of baking soda. Rehang the shower curtain to dry. The same goes for plastic shower curtain liners.

8 / 31
Towels In Shelf
Jan Kjerrman / EyeEm/Getty Images

Old towels

As your bath towels fade and accumulate holes, don’t immediately throw them in the trash. Cut them up and use them as washable cleaning rags to take care of dirty floors, cars, pets, and more. If you’re feeling creative, you can even turn them into DIY creations like bath mats and soft dog toys. Check out these 13 cleaning hacks you’ll want to steal from professional house cleaners.

9 / 31
Working in the garden, seeding a plant. Soil top view.
Chet_W/Getty Images


Your flowers and vegetables have uses beyond just their harvesting season. Let a few of your plants go to seed (if you don’t harvest them, they will stop growing and eventually produce seeds); you can keep those seeds and use them for next year’s crops. Plus, check out the easiest foods to grow at home.

10 / 31
Empty box from under the eggs

Egg cartons

Egg cartons are designed to keep small, fragile items safe. Who says eggs should be the only things to get that protection? Use empty (and clean!) cartons to store small Christmas ornaments and lightbulbs, or turn them into organizing trays for screws and bolts. Here are more organizing tips you’ll wish you knew all along.

11 / 31
Paper Towel Pyramid
eyebex/Getty Images

Paper rolls

When expert crafters see paper towel or toilet paper rolls, they see endless crafting possibilities. But you don’t need to have an artistic vision to reuse cardboard tubes. Slip them over wrapped cables and extension cords to keep them from tangling. Cut and re-tape tubes over the bottom of hangers to keep pants from creasing. Stuff them with the many plastic bags laying around the house. The options are endless. In fact, here are 18 brilliant uses for cardboard tubes.

12 / 31
Pickled cucumbers in glass jar on a gray wooden table.
Kseniya Ovchinnikova/Getty Images

Pickle jars

Give these a quick wash and you’ll have a reusable glass storage container. Beth Nydick, founder of Blue Barn Kitchen, uses them to “store leftovers, homemade sauces, freezing soups, and dried teas.” They can even be used as a small planter. Find out some more organization secrets professional organizers won’t tell you for free.

13 / 31
kitchen cabinet with mugs and glasses
Os Tartarouchos/Getty Images

Coffee mugs

Lisa Torelli-Sauer, editor at Sensible Digs, upcycles old mugs into small flowerpots. She says, “Old coffee mugs can be painted to perfectly match your home’s decor. Repaint multiple mugs in coordinating colors or paint them in a matching theme. Coffee mugs are an especially good size for small succulents or herbs grown inside.”

14 / 31
Overhead of Plastic Gallon Water Jug
Mint Images/Getty Images

Water jugs

You can use water, milk, or detergent jugs as weights instead of going out to purchase expensive exercise equipment. This brilliant idea for stay-at-home workouts comes from Dr. Karl Smith, Director of Residential Well Living at Cortland Partners.

15 / 31

red, white and blue retro Y-Front underpants on a washing line against a blue sky.
creacart/Getty Images


The author of Gilded Pearls (Vibrant Thoughts, Tips and Tidbits for a Full Life), Carol Gee, recycles old underwear and T-shirts as cleaning rags instead of purchasing towels. They are perfect for dusting, wiping countertops, and even washing your car.

16 / 31
A young man is holding a recyclable plastic food container on a white background
Karl Tapales/Getty Images

Takeaway containers

When you order takeout, you can keep the containers and reuse them for storing your own homemade food or even future takeout orders in order to reduce resources. Adam Lumb of Cashcow suggests, “The first time you try this, make sure to call the restaurant to explain your intention. Keep in mind that they might ask you to arrive a couple of minutes earlier than usual to box your food. Once they get familiar with this request, you can go back to ordering online if you did before—with a note explaining that you will bring your own packaging.” Unlike your collection of takeaway containers, here are some items in your kitchen you need to just throw out.

17 / 31
Close-Up Of Eggshells On Table
Andre Schebaum / EyeEm/Getty Images


The Marketing Director of Toolbox Genomics advises using thoroughly washed and dried eggshells to drop in your morning coffee to reduce the acidity. This will improve the taste and make your morning drink easier on your stomach.

18 / 31
Juicing oranges
Fancy/Veer/Corbis/Getty Images

Citrus rinds

Take the rinds from citrus fruits, such as lemons and oranges, and boil them in hot water on the stove for a fresh-smelling house. Amy Bloomer, founder of Let Your Space Bloom, LLC, says, “I learned this trick from my Great Grandmother who had a lemon tree in her backyard.”

19 / 31
Burning candle in glass jar, succulent and notebook on wooden background, close up
AtlasStudio/Getty Images

Candle jars

Candles come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own recyclable purpose, according to sustainability blogger Kaitlyn Ray. Larger glass containers can be used to store food in bulk, while smaller jars with lids are perfect for coffee, loose tea, and spices. They can also be repurposed as bathroom storage for Q-tips and cotton balls or make for a trendy cocktail glass. On the other hand, check out some of the things you’re keeping that professional organizers wouldn’t.

20 / 31
Litter Box
AnthonyRosenberg/Getty Images

Kitty litter

For all the cat owners who find the copious amounts of kitty litter to be wasteful, an eco-friendly way to make use of the excess product is to use it as a grease absorbent. Doron Wolffberg of We’re All About Cats says, “Plain kitty litter is often used as an absorbent, which works well for cleaning up spilt grease or oil on driveways. It’s great for the garden, too. Next time you find little sink holes in your garden, use a few scoops of kitty litter to even it out; or, if your lawn freezes due to cold winter, cat litter is a great substitute for de-icing salt.”

21 / 31
soft mattress, dust mites on bed, concept : allergy in bed room.
Ratchat/Getty Images


Sleep experts at Bedroom Critic suggest that if you have a little extra time on your hands, taking apart a worn-out mattress has many alternative purposes. The buttons and fabric can be reused for sewing, while the stuffing serves as a sturdy protectant for transporting fragile items. Here are some home-improvement projects just about anyone can do.

22 / 31
Multicolored toothbrushes in a glass cup front view, blue background
Tatiana/Getty Images


Old toothbrushes can be used for cleaning. Will Tottle of Steam Shower Parts suggests using them for hard-to-reach places such as cleaning a shower head, removing grout, or on delicate surfaces. They can also be used to apply hair dye or even as an eyebrow brush.

23 / 31
Cardboard Box
Pinkybird/Getty Images


These cardboard boxes, especially the ones with a flip-up lid, are a convenient way to store craft supplies.

24 / 31
Turkey, Marmaris Area, 2017: View Of New Red Duvet
Kypros/Getty Images

Plastic zippered bags

The giant plastic zippered bags that you immediately throw in the trash when you buy new bedding or pillows are actually great for storage. Natalie Clausen, founder of Full Green Life, suggests storing winter sweaters in them during the warmer months.

25 / 31
A stack of newspapers tied up with string
Halfdark/Getty Images


Recycle newspapers or even old magazines to use as wrapping paper. The paper can also wrap fragile objects when moving to prevent scratches or breakage. Newspapers are also exceptional at absorbing odors. Leave small, balled-up paper in your stinky sneakers for a fresher smell in the morning.

26 / 31
Directly Above Shot Of Broken Plate By Carpet At Home
Tali Aiona / EyeEm/Getty Images

Broken dishes

Channel your inner Pinterest artist and get creative! Broken dishes can be used to add some design to outdoor tables, flower pots, or walkways. You may even be able to repurpose it into some trendy DIY jewelry.

27 / 31
blue tissue box
stuartbur/Getty Images

Tissue boxes

Use empty tissue boxes as a useful space to store plastic bags. This solution is neat and simple, and it will ultimately save you space.

28 / 31
Yellow mustard squeeze bottle container with no label. Breakfast sandwich on background. Food product.
Gingagi/Getty Images

Condiment bottles

Fill old, cleaned-out condiment bottles with pancake batter or icing to create an easy-to-clean breakfast or beautiful cupcake designs.

29 / 31
Senior adult man gets prescription medicines out of cabinet.
fstop123/Getty Images

Prescription bottles

An empty prescription bottle can become a handy, travel-sized first aid kit with enough space for some Band-Aids, gauze pads, and ibuprofen. The small bottle won’t take up too much space in a backpack and you’ll be the hero of the group when someone scrapes their knee or has a blister on their foot.

30 / 31
Directly Above Shot Of Multi Colored Bottle Caps
Jordi Clave / EyeEm/Getty Images

Bottle caps

Fill bottle caps with wax to make tiny candles. These are especially great for large gatherings that call for a couple decorative candles on each table.

31 / 31
Unrecognizable manual worker moving up the ladders at construction site.
skynesher/Getty Images


If your ladder isn’t sturdy enough for you to climb comfortably, use it as a trendy shelving unit. Just lean it against a wall and fill it with books, plants, and photos. Don’t miss these other extraordinary uses for household staples you already own.


Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Emma Taubenfeld
Emma Taubenfeld is a former assistant editor for Reader’s Digest who writes about digital lifestyle topics such as memes, social media captions, pickup lines and cute pets. When she’s not working, you can find Emma reading corny young adult novels, creating carefully curated playlists and figuring out how to spice up boxed mac and cheese.