I’ve become a bit obsessed with reusing containers. I’ve learned how to wash them, clean them, remove writing, and repurpose them. Depending on the container and my needs, learning to reuse containers has become one of the easiest, money-saving sustainable practices in our home.
How to Reuse Containers
In theory EVERY container can be reused, but, honestly, that’s not the case. And, not every container can be reused for whatever purpose, so here’s my process for picking which containers to reuse, how to reuse them, and how to keep yourself organized and looking decently put together!
What containers can you reuse?
When it comes to reusing containers, anything you can fairly easily wash out and then refill is a great option.
My usual suspects for reuse are containers with a pump or spray nozzle at the top (e.g. lotion bottles, oil bottles (even olive oil bottles), face oil bottles, hand soap containers, etc.).
Things that are almost impossible to reuse are tubes and a lot of makeup container (mostly because they’re too hard to clean effectively or easily refill.
With all that said, I really only reuse non-food containers for non-food things. I would love to reuse some of my containers to hold some food things in our kitchen, but I rarely feel comfortable enough to do so.
It’s no surprise that I prefer to reuse glass containers over plastic, but I honestly try to reuse any decent-quality container. If I can reuse a plastic container even just one time, then it’s no longer a single-use product!
glass vs. plastic containers
I save pretty much every glass container possible to reuse. While I’m pickier about the plastic ones, I still have those ones as well.
When it comes to picking which to use where…I tend to reuse plastic containers to hold cleaning supplies (or whatever) that are usually stored away. At the moment, I have a plastic pill bottle holding a few tablespoons of baking soda, an old lotion bottle holding castile soap, and a dish soap squeeze bottle holding scented white vinegar all under my kitchen sink.
I use each of these ingredients quite a bit, so I buy then in bulk and have no desire to lug out the big containers each time. You can learn about how to start buying in bulk and refill stores here.
For the glass containers, I use them for EVERYTHING! I love reusing them for lotions, oils, etc. These containers are great for buying bulk and then separating everything as needed around your home!
How do you wash out containers for reuse?
For every container, you’ll want to separate all the parts. I wasn’t aware of how many parts went into a pump or spray mechanism!
Then add everything to a bowl of warm soapy water. You’ll want to make sure the soapy water gets into every container and all the crevices. For the pump/spray component, I like to pump/spritz the soapy water through it. Then let everything sit for about an hour.
After that you’ll want to rinse it all out with warm water. You’ll find that some things need some extra shaking or scrubbing. Just do the best you can. Then let air dry. Here’s a video I made for IG to show it all to you.
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I follow this practice for any containers I’m recycling as well. If you have those beauty containers that aren’t easily refilled, be sure to recycle them properly. Nordstrom’s BEAUTYCYCLE offers free recycling drop off at their stores!
How Do You Remove Writing from Glass?
There are some beautiful containers (mostly from clean beauty products) that I want to reuse, but they’re covered in screenprint writing. Not to fret, you can actually get that writing off pretty easily!
The trick is apple cider vinegar! It’s always some kind of vinegar, isn’t it?
You have to let the containers soak in the vinegar for about an hour, then you can scrub off the writing. Some of it will come off with a dense sponge or brush, but I often have to resort to steel wool or my copper sponge. Then rinse and let dry for reuse!
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How to Label Reused Containers?
I have a few label techniques depending on my relationship with the item or practice. That sounds silly. Let me explain!
When it came time to try out the idea of putting the baking soda, castile soap, etc. is small containers under the sink, I didn’t know if I’d love it. So why waste time with fancy labels.
If you’re just starting with something, you can certainly use a piece of tape and a marker. (UPDATE: A read suggested using wine glass markers to label containers. It wipes off easily and allows you to reuse containers more than once for different things).
My next level is to print out a label with my handheld label printer – by the way, one of the best $20 purchase I’ve ever made!