How can I reuse or recycle … old test tubes?

test tubesAn email from Kathy:

OK this probably isn’t going to be a common thing people will need to recycle but I was cleaning out a cupboard at work and found some old glass test tubes. I have no idea where they came from but don’t want to throw them away if there is anything fun to do with them.

They’re not spotless so they must have been used at some time, no idea what for, some of the stain look almost waxy, but now most of them are just dusty.

I remember a few years ago, there was a trend for drinking shots out of test tubes but if you don’t know what’s been in them, you probably shouldn’t be using them as glasses for your next party… I’ve also seen them used for single stem vases – but I guess you’d need some sort of holder too.

Any better ideas?

(Photo by Vierdrie)

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19 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle … old test tubes?”

  1. a friend of mine has a very trendy bathroom, and he uses testubes to hold toothbrushes. you can get a simple pipe clip from a hardware store which screws into the wall, then the testube simply clips into this and makes the perfect holder for toothbrushes.

  2. Andy says:

    If you only have a few large stems of flowers, you could place each stem into each tube, which are supported into a glass vase with beads, and to add colour to each stem, how about filling each tube with food colouring so you have a display of different water within the vase, and each flower would then draw up the dye and become coloured too.

    • Katz says:

      yes, I once saw in an interior design magazine – they got some brackets from DIY store and srewed the tubes randomly to the walls in random order, but so that you can take them out to wash. Then they placed flowers in them – just one stem in each one. It looked fantastic.

      You can also try and find some cork for them and store your spices in them – you can even put them on the kitchen wall in the same fashion as described above

  3. Lesley says:

    I have a turned wooden vase, quite a small one, which is vase shaped on the outside and on the inside is drilled out so that a glass test tube fits inside to hold the water. It looks good with very small flowers, or single specimens.

  4. rachel says:

    Grow herbs in them by your kitchen window

  5. sean says:

    Find the cem teacher at you local High school a new life that serves to improve the life of others

  6. daysleeper says:

    Attach them all together with a long wire so that they can hang down in the window and then just put one flower in each one. I saw this once somehwere it was very pretty

  7. Anonymous says:

    Shot glasses

  8. Fishcake_Random says:

    If you go to your local pet store or sometimes a pound shop you should be able to get sucker rings.

    There made of a jelly type plastic and have a sucker on the end to attact them to most surfaces. your suppsosed to use them for the heater in a fish tank.

  9. Karen Marie says:

    Using a 2 x 4 of about a foot long,
    evenly space and drill holes using a
    paddle bit. Insert the tubes into the
    holes, which will help hold them.

    Now use the tube stand as a rooting
    station for various plants such
    as Ivy. When they have taken root,
    which you can easily see in the tubes,
    simply transplant them. When the water
    level decreases, simply fill the tubes
    back up.

    I often use this board when spring approaches, to make additional shoots of Sweet Potato.

    Karen Marie

  10. Andrew says:


    I am not sure this is the correct place to post this (related) question, but I was wondering if anyone had ideas regarding the recycling of large amounts of test tubes.

    I am a student at a university in which many thousands of test tubes and other small pieces of glass (e.g., microscope slide coverslips) are thrown out every day. I have been told that the pieces are themselves so inexpensive that it would cost more to clean and reuse them than it does to simply throw them out.

    However, I feel that there must be some use for these thousands of test tubes. Does anyone have any ideas here on what to do? It is possible that, if a good idea is suggested, funding of several thousand dollars will be available.


    • HuntingWabbits says:

      I’m sure there’s some kind of school supply organization that would really appreciate the test tubes and such, they were going to be thrown out anyway. Alternatively, I bet every thrift shop in the country can have a few test tubes from what you’ve said. :3

  11. molliewobbles says:

    Ask a science teacher about how to “silver” them. We did this in school before christmas last year and it was really great! Even if the high school doesn’t need them, they can be used for this experiment!

    • HuntingWabbits says:

      By ‘silver’, do you mean like what they do to lightbulbs to make them reflect more light? It’s like a coat of melted metal on the inside. Btw, nice name, Harry Potter, right? :o)

  12. nick stones says:

    i had 12 test tubes. i use mine for jerbra flowers cut off stems at differnt levels..they look fab.

  13. judy says:

    anyone know how to make a light fixture from test tubes??

  14. Bradley says:

    What are some different uses of a test tube?
    I’m a student at a secondary school and I know that there are most probably large amounts of test tubes or other objects which are found in a chemistry lab which are thrown away at certain stages throughout the year. I’ve been told that since they are not very expensive the idea of reusing is not really considered. My goal for a design project is to make something with a green design and I’ve chosen test tubes since there’s so many of them. I would like some suggestions as to some different uses so that I may come up with an appropriate design that could involve re-using test tubes, thanks.

    • Chris Parker says:

      You could turn them into a light source, maybe putting some little LED lights in them or any other type of light.

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