Glass jars are one of the easiest household items to recycle, but how often do you consider re-using them instead? With just a little bit of straightforward preparation, there are so many ways you can give them a new and useful life.

Remove The Labels

Removing the label from your jar can range from an easy job that takes just moments, to a few hours of scrubbing and soaking without much success. Our secret weapon for guaranteed, non-sticky label removal is Brasso, the old-fashioned metal polish, and it works like magic!

Soak the jar in soapy water for a few minutes, and try peeling the label off. You’ll generally find the top layer of paper comes away quite easily. Soak it again, to see if the stickier under-layers will also peel off. If they don’t, it’s time for the Brasso. Start by drying the outside of the jar, then tip some of the polish onto an old cloth or rag. Rub firmly all over the sticky residue on the glass. It should start to come off quite quickly, but if it’s still reluctant, you can try scrubbing with a kitchen scourer as well. Once the label and any residue has been completely removed, wash the jar again to get rid of the Brasso, and it’s ready to use.

Banish Any Smells

If there are any lingering food smells in the jar, add a spoonful of baking soda and some water or lemon juice, then leave it to soak, preferably overnight. The mixture will absorb the odour and, after washing, you can use the jar for anything – even storing other types of food.

an old glass jar repurposed as a lantern filled with LED fairy lights

HOW TO USE EMPTY GLASS JARS

1. Repurpose jars in a range of sizes as vases for garden flowers and greenery. If you have a larger bouquet and some of the pieces have wilted, take out anything which can be salvaged and make a new, smaller arrangement in a jar. Old glass bottles are great for this, too.

2. Use empty jars as refillables in your kitchen cupboards. If you’re able to buy loose supplies locally, they’re perfect. Alternatively, buy in bulk and decant into the smaller jars. It’s cheaper and, as long as you keep an eye on use-by dates to avoid waste, greener too.

3. Fill jars with homemade cleaning or beauty supplies. Lots of Etsy sellers offer inexpensive vinyl labels, including custom options, so you don’t lose track of the contents of your jars.  

4. Make your own snacks instead of buying them, and store in jars. Things like granola, trail mix and even salted nuts are incredibly easy to make, and often taste better than store-bought versions. Larger jars can be used to store baked goods, such as biscuits, crackers and energy balls.

5. Glass jars are perfect for storing children’s toys. Group together smaller items, such as toy cars, or pieces of larger sets, like Lego. Organising Lego blocks by colour in jars makes for a fun, but still practical, display in a child’s bedroom or playroom.

6. No Lego? The same idea works for other types of supplies, too. Use jars to sort and store screws, nails, nuts and bolts in your shed, or art and craft supplies in the house. Group like-items together so they’re easy to find when you need them.

7. Place a set of LED fairy lights inside a glass jar to create a simple light feature, indoors or out. You can also use battery-operated tealights inside smaller jars, grouping a few together, or wrapping decorative tissue paper around the outside to make a pretty luminary.

8. Create utensil jars for just about anything that stands up. From cutlery and make-up brushes, to paintbrushes, office supplies and even toothbrushes in the bathroom.

9. To make display jars look more interesting, try painting the lids or adding decorative paper on top. Glue a small drawer pull or knob on top for extra interest. We love this chalk-painted idea, too.

10. Small jars make great containers for individual homemade puddings such as parfait, fruit crumble, mousse or no-bake cheesecake. You can spoon or assemble the finished dessert into small jars, ready to eat at home or add to a packed lunch or picnic.

empty glass jars used to make individual puddings and desserts

11. Take a jar with you on a nature walk, or set one aside for children to use in the garden. They’re great for trapping and observing insects, before releasing them back where you found them.

12. Turn your jar into a homemade candle. It’s much easier than you might think, and they’re great to give as gifts as well as burning in your own home. Look out for soy or vegetable-based waxes to make your candles more eco-friendly.

13. If you have a glass jar without a lid, or with a boring lid you’d like to replace, try adding a cork ball as a stopper in the top of the jar. You can find these on eBay or Etsy, and they elevate a simple glass jar into something just a bit more stylish.

14. Bend a piece of wire into a loop shape, then wrap the ends around the top edge of the jar, so you can hang it up. Fill your hanging jar with a faux plant or turn it into a simple lantern.  

15. Recreate the look of beautiful vintage glass by tinting your jars. We love this blog post which shows you how to do it with simple, inexpensive craft-store supplies. 

16. Make a mini-terrarium inside a medium or large-sized jar. Starting with gravel, soil and a selection of small plants, you can build a mini-world and watch it grow. There are plenty of tutorials online, or if you want to explore the idea further, this book is a mini-plant lover’s dream.

17. Simple glass jars are ideal for propagating plants. The classic grow-an-avocado-tree-from-a-stone is one of our favourites, and is both fun and aesthetically pleasing, even if it never makes it all the way to an actual tree.

18. Save up coins in a glass jar, so you can watch your stash grow. This is great for children, but a handy incentive for adults too, especially if you’re saving for something in particular. Decorate the jar or add a simple label, then leave it somewhere you can easily see and add to it.

19. Turn a glass jar into all kinds of compact presents. Fill it with bath salts, handmade sweets, cocoa mix – anything you can dream up – then decorate, ready for gifting. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration if you need a few extra ideas.

20. Banish boring packed lunches by swapping your sandwiches for a salad in a jar. If you missed this foodie trend when it did the online rounds a few years ago, this blog post has you covered.

 

Once you start reusing jars, the chances are you’ll come up with plenty more ideas of your own. Don’t be afraid to mix and match the ones above either. Try adding LED lights inside a tinted-glass jar, creating a hanging loop for an insect jar so your favourite kiddo can carry it more easily, or decorating one before using it as a flower vase. The possibilities are as limitless as your supply of empty jars.