How can I reuse or recycle old jars?

Empty glass jarsBetween jam, honey, olives and sticky-sticky sauces from the Chinese supermarket, we go through quite a lot of jars and it seems a shame to just recycle the glass and bin the lid.

So any suggestions about how they can be used again? I know it seems, on the face of it, quite an obvious thing to be able to reuse but you never know what other people haven’t thought of…

Oh, and it would also also be great if anyone knows any foolproof ways of
a) thoroughly degunking them (including smell, which always seems to linger on) and
b) getting the label and all the sticky off easily.

Best Suggestions

  • Reuse – Practical: Even if you don’t make your own jams and pickles etc, you can still reuse cleaned jars – use them instead of plastic tubs in the fridge or to keep dried foods airtight in cupboards.
  • Reuse – Creative: Use them as a teeny-tiny greenhouse/terrarium.
  • Recycle: Glass jars can usually be recycled at bottle banks. Remember to take off the lid first though and recycle that separately if possible.
  • See the comments below for more suggestions and ideas

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31 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle old jars?”


  1. snapper says:

    i remeber the days when labeles used to come off really easily with just a bit of hot water. now i have to used WD40 and elbow grease on the blighters.

    and with deisgns and logos on the lids too like in the pictrue, it’s really hard to annoymise them to use again.

  2. Matthew says:

    Pick fruit. Make jam.

    Mmmmmm… Jaaammmm…

  3. mark says:

    i use cans of olives for cooking becayse thye’re cheaper but i rarely use a whole can, just like a quarter of the can at a time, so i use a clean old olive jar to keep the rest, in the fridge. i find it easier to judge hjow many i have left when they’re in a jar rather than a tupperware tub.

  4. anykey says:

    keep yer screws n’nails in ‘em.

    store the jars *under* the shelf in the garage, by screwing the lid to the under part of the shelf.

    Twist the jar on/off the lid. easy :O)

    • louisa says:

      Ooh, great idea anykey. I saw someone doing this a few years ago but never got around to doing it myself. Now, two olive jars and four screws later, see how neat and tidy our fuse/battery/bits cupboard is now! see!
      Jars screwed to the underside of a worksurface

      (sorry about the quality of the photo – it turns out it’s quite difficult to take photographs inside cupboards)

  5. smileygirl says:

    go and make a great gift for someone who always say : i want nothing !

    http://www.craftbits.com/viewProject.do?projectID=1087

  6. My grandmother uses the Nescafe ones to keep homemade pickled onions in. Btw they taste lovely…

  7. Rachel says:

    The best way to get a label, a sticky price tag, or any adhesive ick off of a hard surface is with acetate nail polish remover.

  8. miko says:

    if you want a less toxic way to remove sticky labels that won’t budge, use a bit of baby oil – or even olive oil – with a metal scrubber

  9. miko says:

    forgot to say the best way to get most labels off is to leave the jar soaking in boiling water until the paper slides off. the baby oil thing can be used for any which don’t come off in the boiling water.

    i tend to soak the lids as well, and most of the smell comes out that way. i have heard you can pour hot vinegar or lemon juice into the lid, leave standing until it cools, then rinse to get rid of any lingering smells (not tried that one though).

  10. Anteater says:

    After you’ve soaked the label off, if sticky stuff remains (glue I guess) you can rub it off with peanut butter.

  11. Sarah says:

    You can use just the lids for a saucer for bottles that leak over your cupboard shelves, like olive oil. Means you don’t have olive oil over the bottoms of everything, don’t have to wipe the shelves all the time and you can wash the lids easily.

  12. Rivka says:

    Organize your pantry by keeping beans and pasta in neat, matching jars. Neater and prettier than piles of plastic packages.

  13. LizD says:

    I make jewellery & keep all the various stones, beads etc in jars.
    A pen holder, elastic bands, paperclips storage etc to keep the office tidy.
    Use them to store peanuts, cashew nuts etc for cooking or eating.

    Also, like my old school days, I stick paper round the jar if I fancy something looking a bit different!

  14. Anonymous says:

    I use baby food jars to store the last bit of butter on a stick, instead of having a slippery bit of butter in a crinkled piece of wax paper. I also use them to store granola because I always make a huge batch. Ditto for noodles, rice, sugar, baking soda, and pretty much anything that is an open container once you use it for the first time. It’s also great for things that are bought in bulk at the store. Prettier and stores easier than piles of bags of stuff all over the place.

  15. Nikki says:

    You could make your own Jam’s and Chutneys. If the lid is ugly it could be covered with some twee material and an elastic band.

    Or paint the Jars and put small candles inside. If you attach some old wire (maybe from a coat hanger) they would make great garden lights. The same could apply as plant pots.

    They could be used as ‘Gift Jars’ paint them up and decorate imaginatively and in pops the gift!

  16. Leslie says:

    If I am going to keep the jars, I put it in a bowl of water to soak. The label usually comes off on its own or I can use the Dobie scrub pad to get the rest off. Glass is a pretty easy surface to clean.

    If you ever buy the Classico spaghetti mason jars, they are great for turning into glasses. A big glass of lemonade or cold water with ice cubes is perfect. Or you can use them as we do to make shakes in our blender. They are the same size as our blender blade unit and so you can put them right on the jar, saving you time…you don’t have to clean the blender glass and your shake is all ready to drink.

  17. angela says:

    If the label just won’t come off and there is printing that won’t wash off, here in the States we have stuff called “goof off” that removes both fairly easily. I reuse glass jars -sterilized- for my homemade bathsalts and sugar scrubs. I decorate the lids with nail polish, pictures and beads and I make my own labels and glue them on. I also add a recycled spoon from the thrift shop tied on with a recycled ribbon. Great presents and I sell them too.

  18. Shorty says:

    Soak them for hours in hot water, then use WD-40 and a toothbrush on the sticky residue. Spray-paint the lids in a bright color that corresponds to what you’re keeping in them, and write the contents on the lid in sharpie marker. You can now store:
    Spices
    Nuts and bolts
    Marbles
    Sand art
    Dry beans
    Home-made dips or natural aloe vera to keep in the fridge
    Paint

    http://www.craftideas.info/html/recycled_jar_pumpkin_b.html
    Cute pumpkin decoration

    Paint them with glass paint for a great decoration.

  19. Cyndall says:

    I make infused vodka with left over bottles. They are great because I can make just enough to give as a gift and try different infusing methods in the same batch because the jars are smaller that the economy size vodka we buy for these projects.

    I like to put a little piece of fabric over the top of the lid tied on with a piece of ribbon and then we use stick on labels to mark the infusion date and flavor.

    Fun and upcycled!

  20. Jessie says:

    You could use them as candle holders for tealight or votive candles.
    You could paint the outside of the jar and have a candle on the inside. You could even make a vegan jack-o-lantern this way.

    You cold melt leftover wax from old candles, buy a new wick and make your own jar candle.

    Halloween!!
    You could do the jack-o-lantern Idea above or you could make potion bottles!
    Label them (choose a spooky font) with weird names like “bat wings” “fairy wings” “babies tears” and fill them with odds and ends from around the house (broken jewelry, beads, sand, dirt, rocks, glitter, broken cds, crinkled up vhs tape)

    I use the jars in the fridge instead of plastic containers.
    The other day I made a drink in one and took it with me because I didn’t have time to drink it at home, it was powdered “Instant Breakfast”.

  21. Melinda says:

    My Nova Scotia aunt-in-law uses them for preserving- just the ones with a pop-up bit on the lids. I’d hesitated using commercial jars for jams and such, but I’ve had good results with them, too. If the pop-up bit is down, the vacuum is still there. It usually goes down as the hot, freshly-filled jar cools. If it doesn’t go down, then use that bit right away, or re-cook it and try another jar. If the jar comes out of storage with the lid already popped up, discard it. The seal is broken. I’ve done this with jams, and tomatoes.

  22. Vitor says:

    I use them to prepare my hot sauce:

    Dry Chilli peppers with 1/4 vodka and 3/4 extra virgin oil.
    close it and leave it on direct sun light for the whole summer and after 3 months its ready to burn your mouth

  23. Katja says:

    If you’ve got lots of small ones (about the size of sandwich spread jars) – you can use them for making spice jars. there’s also more on what to do with them here: http://howwemontessori.typepad.com/how-we-montessori/2011/11/five-things-great-ways-to-reuse-baby-food-jars.html#comment-6a0147e1d4f40f970b016306bacfb5970d

  24. dm says:

    Just soak the jar in hot water, then use a spoon to scrape the labels off–easy. A brillo/metal scrub pad can get off any remaining glue. The tops with the brand info can be painted with acrylic paint, and also covered with bits of fabric glued on to the top and sides–go to a craft store for cheap supplies.

  25. Jasmine says:

    I use the larger jars to make candles out of. Just clean the jar, stick a wick at the bottom, melt left over wax from old, used candles then pour it in. They take a few hours to set, but look lovely. I often add a little essential oil to the melted wax to add a nice fragrance.

  26. Kirsten says:

    I have made pretty lamps by covering jars with seaglass-mosaics.
    My husband has made a hole in the lid for the bulb and added chains for hanging up. And such small lamps can be created in many other nice ways.
    We also use them for making sprouts. Put a lid of fine net over and let the seeds soak one night over. Then pour off the water and let the seeds sprout, water them daily. 3-4 days, and you have nice, healthy sprouts.

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