Uses For Milk Jugs

It seems like every week when I prepare our household trash for pickup the cans are overflowing with boxes and plastic containers such as milk jugs. I’ve never been very good at separating and recycling, so I recently went on a mission to discover ways to reuse milk jugs instead of simply throwing them away.

In a very small way, we are doing our part to reduce waste and find new uses to extend the useful life of everyday products. It is my hope that this post inspires you to look around the house for ways to recycle or reuse items you normally add to the trash collection. Perhaps if we would all make these small environmental contributions we could make a big impact on our planet for future generations. Besides, it is the frugal thing to do!

Uses For Milk Jugs

rain catcherCollect rainwater to irrigate gardens. Rinse empty milk jugs thoroughly and remove the cap. Place milk jug on a paved area on your property to collect rain water and use the water to irrigate gardens and small plants once a week. If you live in a windy area, pour a little tap water in the jug for stability. I like to drive a couple skinny nails through the cap so that I can replace the cap when the jug is full and sprinkle the water out of the jug like a homemade watering can.

Cut milk jug in half and use top as a a funnel for pouring motor oil. Pouring motor oil can be a messy job. Besides the economic impact of missing the oil reservoir in your car, oil spills create a mess under the car and spilled oil can cause an engine to smoke.

Cut off handled section to use as dog food scooper. Like most things we use a lot of over the course of a month we buy dog food in huge bags to get the lowest unit cost possible, and store unused food in a dedicated trash can. When our dedicated scoopers get lost in the shuffle we cut the top off a used milk jug and use it to scoop food in our dog’s bowl.

Make powdered drinks and juices. My wife and I like the sugar-free Great Value brand drink mixes from WalMart, but don’t drink them every day because they contain Aspartame. Depending on what you read this may be bad for us. Regardless, we occasionally use milk jugs to mix up powdered drinks and juices.

paint holderUse as a paint cup for trim work or small paint jobs. Cut jug in half, secure lid, turn upside down and pour in paint. The homemade paint cup is much more ergonomic than holding a nearly full can of paint. When the job is finished you may dispose of the paint cup or rinse it to reuse for another paint job. Considering a simple painter’s trim cup can run nearly $4.00, you will be saving some money and saving yourself from potential shoulder problems down the road.

Use milk jugs to store granulated yard products such as ant killer. Ever opened a small bag of ant killer and ripped the bag? It happens to me all the time. I usually ditch the bags and pour up granulated yard products in a used milk jug. Label the jug with a Sharpie marker and store safely out of reach of kids and pets.

Homemade toilet brush holder. The dilemma of where to store the toilet brush can be solved by cutting a hole in the side opposite a milk jug’s handle. Make the hole large enough for the brush to pass through and let the handle stick out for easy no-mess access.

Store foods. Small grains, such as nuts, popcorn, rice and seeds may be stored in a clean, dry milk jug. Pouring grains from a milk jug makes measuring a breeze thanks to the built-in handle and small pour spout. We used to store rice in large containers, but always made a mess scooping and pouring the rice into a measuring cup.

refrigerator organizerRefrigerator organizer. Cut off tops from used milk jugs and use the remaining base to store small fruits such as grapes, apples, tomatoes and kiwi. Make taller bases for larger fruits and vegetables such as apples and oranges. Cut bases to a shorter height for use in trays and drawers. We use these homemade refrigerator organizers in crisper drawers to store fruits and veggies, and in trays for cheese sticks and other small snacks for the kids.

Portable freezer. Fill a gallon, or half-gallon milk jug about 3/4 full with water and freeze. Place frozen block in a cooler to keep foods cold. As an added bonus, as the ice begins to thaw you will be left with a container of ice cold water to take on the road.

Industrial strength paper weight. A few weeks ago my son pulled up a small strip of laminate flooring – the strip that divides the carpeted floor from the laminate flooring. I glued it back down, but needed something heavy to place along the strip to provide a good seal. I had just the thing – a couple milk jugs filled with water. Place the heavy jugs on top of anything glued to help hold in place until the glue bonds and thoroughly dries. In my example, it is also a good idea to put down some plastic just in case the jug develops a leak. There is nothing worse for wood flooring than standing water.

planterPlant starter containers. Some plant varieties require some extra special attention during the germination period. Milk jug bottoms make excellent planters for single plants that can be later transplanted outside, or to larger pots. Use a safety pin to poke drainage holes in the bottom of the jug, and place on a saucer to catch water. As an added bonus project, have the kids decorate the jug base with a few markers. If you have several starter plants growing at once, it is a good idea to write the names of the plants you are growing on each container.

Comments

  1. Great tips–we recycle our milk jugs, but I never thought of actually reusing them in our home. I definitely have some ideas now!

  2. This is such a great list! I will have to start saving these for grain and food storage. Thanks for the ideas and happy earth day!!

  3. Cut off handled section to use as dog food scooper. Like most things we use a lot of over the course of a month we buy dog food in huge bags to get the lowest unit cost possible, and store unused food in a dedicated trash can. When our dedicated scoopers get lost in the shuffle we cut the top off a used milk jug and use it to scoop food in our dog’s bowl.

    You are really better off using an old dry goods measuring cup for this purpose. By using the cut up milk jug, you are most likely overfeeding your dog, which can contribute to later canine health issues. Since most dog food manufacturers recommend between 1 1/2 & 3 cups of food a day for all but the largest dogs, your dog is better off is his food is well measured.

  4. @Grumpy: You make a good point. Poor dog, we typically just fill the bowl and let her at it! Perhaps I could create a fill line on the bottom of the jug for the appropriate amount she should have, or I could scrap this idea altogether and get a cheap measuring cup as you suggest. Thanks for the comment.

  5. These are some great ideas! Thanks, as we always go through milk quickly and have to get rid of these (we can’t recycle them in our area).

  6. Lots of good uses. Here’s what we do–I buy my milk in glass bottles, which have a $1.50 deposit. So you bet I return them to the store! Also, I stopped buying jugs of juice, instead opting for the frozen pop-can size of juice concentrates, which I make into tupperware pitchers. :)

  7. I really like all these ideas! I notice you said you buy bulk dog food and store it in a garbage can. I use recycled cat litter containers as our cat and dog food storage. The nice thing about them is they stack very nicely into a closet or pantry. Besides, I’m again not filling our earth with the waste of the litter container. I’m running out of uses for the litter containers though, so I’m planning to “freecycle” some of them soon.

    • I have found that dogs that are taken for walks and played with don’t eat out of boredom and will naturally stop eating when full. Kinda like people. Don’t give up on the scoop. If you notice your doggy getting portly, simply take a walk, or play fetch. Chances are you both will benefit.

      Great tips. I’ve been cutting the fronts off milk jugs and using them to hold clothes pins and other small items. Keeping the handle helps me not drop so many things. :)

  8. I love the list! One thing might not be so good for you though:

    “Make powdered drinks and juices. My wife and I like the sugar-free Great Value brand drink mixes from WalMart, but don’t drink them every day because they contain Aspartame. Depending on what you read this may be bad for us. Regardless, we occasionally use milk jugs to mix up powdered drinks and juices.”

    With all of the new about chemicals in hard plastic bottles the newscasts I’ve seen also say not to reuse plastic water bottles because after 1 use they start leaching chemicals. I don’t know for sure if it applies to milk jugs but it’s worth looking into.

  9. Please remember when you have a paint container, do not just rinse and let it go down the drain. It’s very bad for your septic system and costly for a municipal treatment plant to deal with. Paint should be allowed to dry out and disposed of as a solid.

  10. Just found you through tipnut. Our neighbors tell that in years past during the Christmas holidays they’d save the clear plastic milk jugs, cut the tops off, fill with a little sand, and put in a candle holder and votive candle. They’d line their lawns with them. Said it looked like a runway coming down the street!

  11. Better still would be to eliminate the plastic jugs from your life and buy local from a dairy or coop that uses glass bottles that can be washed and re-used indefinitely. (and some places encourage this with a deposit)

  12. I use some plastic containers for coins. One for pennies, one for dimes, etc.

    Once a year or so, I roll them up and take ‘em to the bank.

  13. Pee in an empty gallon plastic milk jug. put the cap on or it will smell up the bathroom within a couple days. Repeat for several days.

    Then one time when you need to flush the toilet for some other reason, dump the contents of the jug in the toilet and flush.

    You are saving gallons and gallons of flush water by doing that.

    It takes about a 7 sessions for an adult male to fill up a gallon plastic container. So that’s at least 7 flushes saved.

  14. If you need a funnel for automotive fluids, often you can just roll up some paper to make one. This gies a fresh funnel surface and prevents cross contamination of, say, motor oil into antifreeze or vice versa. You really don’t need a dedicated funnel.

    the other trick to not spilling motor oil is to turn the bottle sideways and only tip it till it starts to pour, no more. If the pour rate gets too high a vacuum will build up inside the bottle, back of the fluid, then cause the oil to “glug” and shoot off in a different pour path.

  15. Love the milk jug for a rain water catcher. I googled rainwater catcher to get alternative ideas about catching rain water and not spending money. I want to get rain water to drink with iodine tablet. The govnt is spiking our water with drugs and chemicals to weaken us. I am preparing for martial law and surviving on a shoe string budget and I love your idea. I think I’ll add a large funnel at the opening to catch more water quicker! Your idea is great and I appreciate it.

  16. I have seen ppl use milk jugs filled with sand or water and tie rope through the handles onto tarps that cover swimming pools and compost piles.
    I love these ideas!

  17. growing up we cut the bottom of milk jug off and used the jug as a mini green house for tomato starts in the garden that were only a few inches tall. They were protected from frost in their dome. Left the lid off to let them breathe and keep from getting overheated in the sun.

  18. I do not have a comment but rather a question. I keep all my milk containers and use them for all kinds of different things. I just need a good way to store them. Does anyone have any ideas? They have to be stored out of the weather to prolong there use. Any ideas would be appreciated. And thanks ahead of time. ~SJ

  19. Paint gallon jugs flat black and fill with water. Set out around tender plants. Jugs absorb sun & warmth during the day and give it off during the night to help keep plants from freezing.

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