Archive for the "household" category

How can I reuse or recycle little paint tester pots?

We covered old leftover paint on the site many, many moons ago (roughly 66-67 moons ago apparently) but these last few weeks, we’ve been rather overrun with little tester pots of paint here.

I hate tester pots from an environmental point of view – usually plastic pots, sometimes with an integral brush, that are thrown away once their purpose has been served – but I’ve made enough costly paint mistakes in the past (and in the very recent past, she says knowing there is £80 worth of unsuitable-for-current-job paint sat upstairs…) to begrudgingly accept using them.

I think there are two questions here: how can I use up the little bits of paint? And second, is there anything I can do with the little pots?

The amount of paint in each tester is only enough for very small projects. I remember at uni painting a set of drawers with leftover tester pot paint – each drawer a different shade of blue – and the sides of the pots themselves tell me they’re suitable for stencilling, where you just need a little paint of each colour. Have you done (or seen) any mini-craft projects using leftover tester pot emulsion paint?

As for the pots themselves, the ones I have here tell me they’re polypropylene – plastic number 5 – which can be recycled but isn’t collected everywhere yet. The pots seal very tightly – as you’d expect from something containing paint – and so they could be washed out & reused for containing other liquid things or keeping other things dry or safe. I won’t use them for anything food related – since they’ve contained paint and aren’t food grade – and probably not anything like plant seeds either — but they’d be fine for small amounts of non-edibles/growables: like old film canisters, they’d be useful for all sorts of little fishing related things, for beads or buttons, and nuts/bolts/screws or sewing needles etc.

What would you reuse them for?


What food packaging & other household waste do you use for starting seeds?

It’s seed-starting time here in the northern hemisphere and my Twitter feed is full of exciting stories about what fruit & veg people are going to be growing this year. I’ve added half a dozen more fruit bushes to our garden this year but I’ve not sown any seeds yet — my seed box is sat on the side of my desk making sad puppy eyes at me as I type ;)

Gardeners & allotmenteers are just about always resourceful types when it comes to reusing and recycling stuff – I don’t think I’ve ever met a grower who doesn’t keep ice cream/margarine tubs etc for reuse – but I thought it would be worth having a bit of a sharing session about what you reuse for starting seeds, as plant pots or as water-catchers under plant pots, and if there is anything that you choose not to reuse for whatever reason.

At one point, a good few years ago now, I think about 90% of my seeds were started in plastic mushroom tubs — either directly in the tub or using them to catch water draining from plants pots. In the past, I also used shallow fresh pasta packaging as starter trays and multi-serving yoghurt/cream pots for the growing on stage. I know my dad keeps the clear plastic boxes used by supermarkets for muffins or pastries whenever he gets them because the lid gives the tray its own little propagator/greenhouse too – and similarly he cuts down 2ltr pop/soda bottles to make a pot with its own little cloche.

Moving away from plastic – since I do worry about putting plastic in direct sunlight/warm spots when it’s not designed to be used in that way, I’ve used newspaper and toilet roll tubes to make “plantable” pots – the former just require a little folding into shape and the latter can be cut in half to make twice the number or left whole as “root trainers” for growing carrots or parsnips.

(I also cut up plastic milk bottles & drinks cans to make plant markers for all these many, many seeds!)

So, what packaging (or other household waste) do you reuse for starting off your seedlings? What about for the growing on stage?


How can I revamp some plain curtains with recycled/upcycled materials?

Following on from my recent “how can I revamp a kitchen so I don’t need a new one?” question, Janet has asked a similar (smaller scale!) question about curtains:

I have ordinary plain curtains that need to look snazzy. I like the “wacky” type of design,whether it’s adding on old buttons,bits of fabric etc. Any ideas? Many thanks,Janet.

I think you’ve already got a few good ideas on there: cover the bottom quarter/third of the curtains with a strip of contrasting fabric and decorate the join with a row of buttons (mmm, buttons on curtains) – or go shabby chic with a whole row/section of buttons and misc (badges, charms, pompoms, bows, rosettes – whatever you can find). Or use scraps of old fabric and yarn to make a bunting design higher up – old patterned clothes or bedding would be fab. I’ve seen curtains that looked like they had tufts/short tassels of yarn every 15cm/6ins or so in lines down the length of them, which would be easy to replicate. Or sew on ribbon/thin strips of scrap fabric to add stripes or wiggly lines – for thicker stripes, this chevron idea is nice and I’ve seen a similar appliqué idea using strips of a design cut from old lacey net curtain. Alternatively, you could make reverse appliqué patches – cut out simple shapes and add a contrasting shape/fabric behind to peek through (reverse appliqué tutorial). A simple no-sew idea is to attach ribbon/yarn/strips of scrap fabric to each curtain ring/clip – like the idea (about a third of the way down) on this page.

If the curtains are 100% cotton, you could try dyeing them – ombre/dip dye ones would look interesting (as if all the dye from the curtains had slid down to the floor ;) ) – or if they’re too dark for that, selectively bleaching them. (Obviously do try a test patch first.) If they’re too big to be manageable in a dye bath, you could try printing onto them instead (possibly using a linocut technique or an even simpler stamp for something like polka dots — or for a fun or kid-centric room, hand prints ;) ).

How would you revamp or embellished plain curtains using recycled/upcycled stuff? What did you do? Have you got any tips or suggestions for Janet? Any non-sewing idea or ones that use alternative materials to fabric/yarn?


How can I reuse or recycle a unwanted solid deodorant bar from Lush?

Kathryn has emailed us asking about reuses for a solid deodorant bar:

I recently bought a solid deodorant from Lush (this one). It smells nice, but it’s not right for me. Other than using it to keep my sock drawer fresh, could I do anything else with it? The ingredients are listed as including chamomile vinegar, bicarb and essential oils, so I’m thinking I might be able to use it in some other cleaning function… crumble it into the washing machine?

Any thoughts?

Lush has a full ingredients list – and info about each ingredient – on their website — can any cosmetics experts give us their reuse opinion based on those? Most of the key ingredients are also used in their soap bars but I’m wondering if the combination of astringents in this bar might get in the way of cleaning power… anyone know?

I like the sock drawer idea – I also wonder if it would be cut in half and used as a deodorant in undesirably aromatic trainers. Any other reuses to take advantage of the nice scent?

What would you do with it?


How can I reuse or recycle old PVC pipes?

We’ve had an email from Madhvi asking :

how can I creatively recycle old PVC pipes?

We’ve covered some reuses for guttering and drainpipes – which are increasingly plastic these days – but I thought it was worth asking Madhvi’s question because PVC pipes come in all sorts of diameters and lengths.

A few months ago, when I was looking to build us a laundry basket for the bedroom, I spotted this PVC pipe laundry hamper project, which I thought was a very neat idea. Depending on the size, that could possibly be made from offcuts or the idea shrunk down if you only had smaller pieces available. In a similar constructed-with-plumbing-joints vein, I also like the idea of this PVC pipe laptop stand and this bike stand.

As for smaller reuses without additional parts, I like this bathroom storage idea – I’m not sure how many people have two sets of curlers but it’s an adaptable idea, especially regarding the cables. You could use them to tidy up electric cables under desks/behind TVs etc – if all the cables go through sections of pipes, they’re less likely to be underfoot and get tangled. (If the end plugs are too wide to go through the pipe, you can cut slot in it to slide the cable through instead – this guy was doing it for something a little different but this is what I mean by a slot.) Similarly, you can use them instead of kitchen roll/toilet roll tubes for storing electric wires & extension cables when they’re not in use – we’re a geeky household, we’ve got a lot of spare wires ;)

And that’s all before we start thinking about ideas for the garden!

As for actual recycling, PVC recycling has increased over recent years but it’s still not as commonly collected for recycling as some other plastics (and it’s harder to recycle too). If you have a lot of pipes to get rid of, contact your local council’s waste department to see if they can accept them for recycling – or if they’re still in a new/usable condition, pass them on to someone else yourself through eBay, Freecycle/Freegle or Craig’s List etc.

How would you reuse or recycle old plastic/PVC pipes? Have you used them anywhere interesting around your home or garden?