11 ‘Disposable’ Items You Should Be Reusing

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Old shoe planters for outdoor garden with reusable materials
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Many products that are considered to be disposable can be reused in surprising ways that will reduce waste and save you money.

Before putting things in the garbage or recycling bin, consider how they could be used again. If you’re willing to get creative, you’ll find that numerous things can enjoy a second life.

What follows are examples of everyday items you can reuse rather than throw away.

1. Eyeglasses frames

Confident man at work
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If you like the frames you’re wearing, and they’re in good shape, you don’t have to buy new ones when your prescription changes.

Unless you’re trying to keep up with the latest trends in eyewear, just refit the old frames with new lenses. This can save hundreds of dollars compared with buying a new pair of glasses.

For more ways to save on eyewear, check out “5 Common Memberships That Get You Discounts on Vision Care.”

2. Household cleanser bottles

A young woman cleans her bathroom mirror with a spray bottle and squeegee
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Small containers are handy to use, of course. And they’re easier to store beneath bathroom and kitchen sinks. But cleansers and liquid soap can be cheaper when purchased in large containers.

The solution: Get the big, inexpensive sizes and use them to refill your smaller bottles. Or, if you refill used bottles with homemade cleansers, you’ll save even more money.

3. Plastic containers

Cottage cheese container
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Most people simply toss away used food containers. However, items such as butter and cottage cheese containers come in various sizes and can be ideal for keeping leftover meals fresh in the refrigerator.

Don’t use them in a microwave, though, Harvard Medical School cautions. Potentially dangerous substances in plastic — such as bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates — can leak into food when some plastic containers are heated.

Here’s one more use for these convenient tubs and containers: Use smaller ones in drawers as organizers.

4. Gift bags

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Some things are just too nice to throw away. Fancy gift bags can be carefully folded and saved for reuse. Then, you’ll be prepared for the next special occasion that catches you off-guard.

Tip: Remember to remove the old gift tags so no one will know the bag was repurposed.

Wrapping paper and sometimes tissue paper, if carefully handled, also can be used a second time.

For even more options, check out “7 Ways That I Get Gift Wrap for Free.”

5. T-shirts

Woman painting a wall
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Cotton T-shirts can have a whole new life after they’ve become too worn out to wear in public.

When you’re done with old T-shirts, wear them when you’re doing chores around the house. That way, you won’t soil good clothes. T-shirts also make great rags for dusting and cleaning.

Can’t find other ways to reuse old clothing? You might be able to cash in on them, as we detail in “9 Retailers That Will Reward You for Recycling.”

6. Toothbrushes

Cleaning with a toothbrush
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There’s no reason to toss toothbrushes when you’re done using them to brush your teeth.

Instead, save them to use as cleaning tools. Toothbrushes allow you to reach into small spaces where larger brushes can’t reach. A few examples:

  • Bathroom and kitchen grout
  • Computer keyboards and other electronics
  • Your shoe polishing kit

For more options, check out “7 Smart Ways to Use Old Toothbrushes.”

7. Plastic squeeze bottles

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Those mustard and ketchup containers can enjoy a whole new life when you finish with them. After they get a good cleaning, fill them with homemade salad dressings and sauces.

8. Printer paper

Woman happy with her free tax filing online
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You can reuse printer paper that has been used on only one side. Unless you need a printout for professional reasons, flip used pages over and reuse them, printing on the blank side.

Admittedly, not all printers function well when you use recycled paper. If that’s the case, use the blank sides of printed paper for writing notes, lists or reminders — for your refrigerator, bulletin board or to have in your pocket or purse on your next grocery store trip.

9. Corks

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Hold onto a few used wine corks for use as replacements when you accidentally break a cork removing it from a bottle.

Used corks also are useful in craft projects:

  • Collect enough used corks to create a cork bulletin board.
  • Cut shapes into one end and use them like rubber stamps for art projects.
  • Make a necklace by painting corks and stringing them together.

10. Shoes

Preto Perola / Shutterstock.com

Keep at least one pair of beat-up shoes around the house to wear when you do messy chores such as gardening or painting. That saves your good shoes from getting wet, muddy or covered with paint.

What’s more, old shoes and boots make novel planters for the garden.

11. Carpeting

Young women carrying carpet.
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

When you replace a carpet, it’s a good idea to save some strips for use around the house.

A few ideas:

  • Fold old carpeting to serve as a cushion when you’re doing housework or gardening that requires you to kneel.
  • A strip of carpeting on your garage wall can help protect the car door from dings.
  • Are you handy with tools? Use old carpet to construct a scratching post for your cat.
  • Money Talks News reader Joe McCarthy shared this use: “I put small squares of old carpet upside down under the legs of furniture when I’m rearranging the layout of the rooms. This way I don’t scratch or scrape the hardwood floors, and the furniture glides easily from one location to the next.”
  • MTN reader Mike Glen suggested using old carpet as a frost guard for your car: “Just cut a section of carpet to the size of your windshield. Put the wipers up and the carpet under the wipers. In the morning, just remove the carpet and you have a clear windshield.”

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