Top 20 Ways to Re-Use Tin Cans

Networx practices what it preaches. Here is a tin can planter in a Networx writer's apartment. My toddler is a great lover of beans. Kidneys, pintos, black bean, navy beans, he’ll gobble them all up with equal enthusiasm. It’s earned him the nickname “my Bean-y Baby,” and it sure does make dinnertime easy. I try to home cook dried beans as much as possible, but with a toddler in tow, we resort to cans more often than not.

Which means, we go through a lot of tin cans. And it got me thinking – what could I do with them, once they’re empty? And what about the bigger, stewed tomato cans? Or the biggest, the coffee cans? Could I repurpose them into something fun and fantastic?

Of course, the Internet was full of ideas. So here they are, my very favorites. Start saving your own cans now, ‘cause you’re going to want to get creative!

1. Use a coffee can to hold your extra plastic bags. Just paint the can a cool color and cut a slit in the plastic top, so you can pull the bags out one at a time, like Kleenex.

2. Turn a coffee can into a wish jar, sort of like a piggy bank and a vision board all rolled into one. Decorate the can with pictures of the thing you desire - say, images of tropical beaches if you’re saving for a trip. Cut a hole in the top and start stuffing it with extra cash, visualizing your wish each time you deposit some money.

3. Transform empty coffee cans into great hanging planters. Try a series of old cans hung with twine for a rustic look, or paint them a pretty color and hang them up with ribbon.

4. Fashion a cool and uber practical rocket stove from a large can and four smaller ones, perfect for cooking outdoors while camping.

5. Make a wonderful DIY wine rack from larger, stewed-tomato type cans. Simply stack them on their sides in a pyramid, glue together, and then spray paint the whole thing in a color of your choice. Your wine bottles will slip perfectly into each slot.

6. Create a very cool storage system out of an assortment of different-sized cans. Just glue the various cans in an interesting configuration, open side up, and then spray paint the whole shebang much like the wine rack. Perfect for desktop storage, kitchen utensils, craft supplies, and more.

7. Make excellent stilts for kids from 2 large cans and some heavy-duty twine. Poke two holes on opposite sides of the bottom of each can, run the string through, and tie in a large loop. Measure so that the string is long enough to reach your child’s hand when they’re standing on top of the flipped-over cans. Voila! 

8. Another fun craft for kids is a tin can train, which can be built by stringing a few cans together. Let the kiddies go wild decorating each of the “cars.”

9. Small cans make great candle molds for older children’s craft projects. Use smooth-sided cans only or you won’t be able to get them out.

10. Fashion an easy bird feeder from a small tin can suspended in a tree, an entertaining afternoon activity for the family.

11. Use a few cans to make a simple-yet-effective wind chime – another fun project for children of all ages!

12. A “tin can knitter” is easy to make, though there are a few variations. Poke around the Internet for one that appeals to you.

13. Keep a cleaned can in the kitchen and use it as a biscuit cutter – they really do make the perfect size and shape!

14. And speaking of the kitchen, try baking mini cakes inside tin cans, for adorable individual portions (use smooth-sided cans if you plan to pop them out and frost them prior to serving)

15. Make lovely candle holders – called luminaries – by freezing water inside a can and then using an awl or nail to poke a pattern of holes along the side. The frozen water will prevent the can from denting as you work.

16. In the same spirit as above, use the patterned cans as covers for your outdoor fairy lights. All strung up and shimmering silver on a summer night, they really are quite charming.

17. Make a pencil holder!

18. Glue a magnet to the back of cleaned cans, and mount them on the refrigerator for a quaint storage solution.

19. Cut a number of cans in half, discard the tops, sand the edge so it won’t cut, and use the lot as a desk drawer organizing insert – one can for paper clips, one for sticky notes, one for thumb tacks, and so on.

20. Tin cans serve as adorable succulent planters, either painted or steel or even with the original label, if it is artistic enough.

For more complex (but equally creative) home improvement projects, contact a savvy contractor near you.

Sayward Rebhal writes for

Updated August 27, 2018.

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