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The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Upcycle and Repurpose Glass Jars and Containers

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Hey Yall, while I’m doing some spring/summer/all year round deep cleaning and organizing our tiny home, Leanne  the lovely blogger behind The Transplanted Southerner is here today Bringing us the Beginner’s Guide to Upcycle and Repurpose Glass Jars and Containers. I know I have more than a lions share of both and I hope you find this post as helpful as I did! Read on and be sure you leave some kind words  and encouragement!  And don’t forget to visit her lovely blog. Thanks Leanne, I’m looking forward to reading more of your helpful hints! xoxo Deb

upcycle & repurpose jars and containers

I came to natural living, repurposing, and upcycling late in life. To be honest, I had run from it for years. Growing up, I considered my mother a raging “hippy” – she gave money to PETA, used organic health and beauty products, and, worst of all, she was constantly washing and reusing jars.

Oh, woe is me, the embarassment of a mother who wasn’t wearing a fur coat, washing with Prell, and selling Tuperware. Poor, pitiful me.

I suppose it’s true then, we do become our mothers. I am now the raging hippy of the household. I use essential oils, grow my own herbs, and love to repurpose and upcycle whatever I can find.

I even (gasp) “trash pick* sturdy furniture finds that have been left out for the garbage man. I would hang my head in shame, but, y’all, you should see how great my house looks with practically NOTHING out of pocket!

One of the very things I thought was the most ridiculous thing my mother did was washing out used jars and saving them. I mean, really, what was she going to do with all those pickle jars? Well, here I am 37 years old, and washing out my own pickle jars. What’s the saying? Everything old is new again? It just so happens that is a very apt statement.

So what DO I do with all those coconut oil, olive jars, and wine bottles? Why do I save my glass drink bottles? I’m glad you asked!

Infused Water and Iced Tea

infusing repurposed bottles

Brewing Tea in an old kombucha bottle, and infusing water with peach and mint in a repurposed Argo tea bottle.

Confession: I don’t like water. There. I said it. I know it is good for me, I know I should be drinking water every day, and I can save money by opting for water instead of colas, teas, and coffees….but I just dislike water. It’s so terribly plain.

A few years ago, I found myself extremely ill. Following a two year battle just to stay alive, I made some life changes. My thyroid and adrenal conditions are such that I really can’t have caffeine, and need something that is gentle on my system. Enter water. Sigh.

What I’ve found, though, is that I really do like flavored waters and the occasional herbal tea. Sure, I can drink them from my mason jar glasses at home, but what about when I’m out? I wanted something a little nicer than a plastic sport bottle.

One thing I’ve found is that sticking to anything, particularly healthy food habits, is easier when you allow yourself the occasional indulgence. My guilty pleasure is Carolina Honey Tea from Argo. A nice side benefit is that the tea comes in a thick glass bottle with a tight fitting, reusable lid. (I also love kombucha for it’s health benefits – and I also save the GT bottles).

Now I perk up my boring water with some fruit slices and chia seeds for a healthy, yummy drink or I can brew some of my favorite Trader Joes Mint Melange herbal tea and refrigerate it in one of these upcycled bottles to enjoy a cold tea later.

*Chia seeds are very good for you, and can be easily added to recipes for a quick nutritional boost!


Bath Salts and Oils

Bath Salts in Recycled Jar

I like to add a few herbs to my bath salts and store them in jars that I’ve saved.

Cruise the internet long enough, and you will find all kinds of great things to add to your bath. From epsom salts to olive oil and everything in between, there are many things that you can mix up and use to help with sinus issues, muscle soreness, or to help you rest.

I like to put mine in upcycled pasta jars for my bath salts because they are sturdy and have a unique appearance. The large mouth makes it easy to use an attractive wooden scoop to measure out your bath salts.

Consider upcycling pretty olive and wine bottles for bath oils.

Storing them in repurposed glass jars not only makes them pretty when displayed in your bathroom, but is also a good option as they can leach toxins from plastic in containers.


repurposed jars

A $3 bouquet of sunflowers in a repurposed Alfredo sauce jar from ALDI brighten up my desk.


I love to use old jars for vases. It is very shabby chic, which fits my hodge podge decorating style perfectly. While olive jars make adorable bud vases, I’ve found that pasta sauce jars make quaint vases for larger arrangements. Mixed arrangements look beautiful in them, as do small bouquets of larger flowers like gerbera daisies and sunflowers. 

Upcycle jars and glass containers for everyday use around the house

olive jars make lovely little vases for peonies in the spring

One of my favorite things to do is to buy inexpensive bouquets from ALDI or Trader Joes and parcel them out into several old jars and bottles. I can display them together for a larger, ecclectic grouping or spread them throughout the house to cheer up bedrooms and entryway tables. 



reuse candle jars

I reuse my candle jars over and over to store my homemade laundry detergent.


I make my own cleaners using simple ingredients that include such things as baking soda, vinegar, and olive oil. It only makes sense to reuse jars and bottle to store my homemade cleaners, and I enjoy them a little more each time I use them. I use my old candle jars (I no longer buy candles as we have moved over to diffusers and homemade wax melts) to store the laundry detergent that I make. Seeing the sturdy little jars in my laundry room brightens my day each time I do a load of wash!

 Food Storage

upcycled candle jars

My most used tea bags are stored in candle jars on my kitchen counter.

Repurposed jars aren’t just for soups and sauces. Use them to store your dry staples like beans, pasta, and rice. If you think you will be keeping them for this purpose, consider prettying them up with chalkboard labels. You can even spray paint the lids and make them a kitchen accessory.


So how do you get labels off? Well, there are a few options. The easiest way, I’ve found, is to fill the sink with some scaldingly hot, soapy water and let the jars and bottle soak until the water is cool enough to touch. Usually, the labels just scrub off. If you have some stubborn residue, try slathering on a bit of olive oil and repeat the washing process in a few hours or the next day.


Do you save food containers to upcycle or repurpose, or do they go straight to the recycling bin?

About Leanne

Leanne is a homeschooling mom of 3, and has been married to her best friend for 17 years. She enjoys a busy life in northern Illinois, far from her roots in West Tennessee. When she isn't reading or blogging, Leanne enjoys cooking and crafting.
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  1. Robin Rue (@massholemommy) says

    July 13, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    I always just threw our jars away, but now I think I might save one to use as a vase! Cute idea.

    • Debbie says

      July 13, 2015 at 3:02 pm

      I used to keep jars for food storage, short term. easier than plastic and cheaper than zip lock bags. Then I had this collection of jars, Leanne’s article gave me lots of new ideas!

    • Leanne says

      July 14, 2015 at 9:34 am

      Be careful – it’s addictive ;) They really do make nice vases, though, and I love being able to send some of my cut flowers to neighbors in a cute bouquet and just say “You can keep the vase”!

    • Debbie says

      July 13, 2015 at 3:03 pm

      I have a huge mason jar that we keep change in, but the vast number of them are now being repurposed. I’m loving her tips too!

    • Leanne says

      July 14, 2015 at 9:37 am

      Kim, when I was growing up one of my friend’s family used to save change in one of those restaurant size pickle jars. They would fill it to the top and then count it out – it is a great way to save up a bunch of money without feeling the pinch in your wallet!

    • Debbie says

      July 13, 2015 at 9:50 pm

      Truly! I’ve tossed more than I’ve kept and when I think about what I have tossed.. wow!

    • Leanne says

      July 14, 2015 at 9:39 am

      Liz, that is just about the only way i can get my water in (unless it is incredibly hot outside and then I will guzzle plain water and whatever else I can lay my hands on)! I can’t believe I was so behind on the infused water trend because it is awesome.

  2. Crystal says

    July 14, 2015 at 12:11 am

    I’ve never met a good jar I didn’t like. I save them all. I am normally pretty good about tossing things, but when it comes to crafts I hoard like crazy.

    • Leanne says

      July 14, 2015 at 9:42 am

      I think I’m going to have to expand my kitchen cabinets if I continue to save jars and bottles, but I go through every so often and give a few away with flowers in them or make centerpieces for an event and then they can just toss (or keep!) the containers.

  3. Michelle says

    July 14, 2015 at 9:26 am

    Love your various ideas! I prefer buying things that are in glass rather than plastic, so I usually have a lot of bottles and containers that I’m constantly trying to find new uses for.

  4. Shell Feis says

    July 14, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    Thank you for the great ideas! I always save my jars and bottles because I hate to make more garbage, but I never know what to do with them so they just sit in a cabinet.

  5. Suzanne Hurst says

    July 14, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    PETA and the Rainbow Warrior have dropped off the radar, but this aging hippy mom still recycles jars.

  6. Jody Smith says

    July 16, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    Guilty of turning into my mother with the hippie phase too! I love re purposing bottles, especially glass instead of tossing them out. I love the chalkboard labeled ones with tea!

  7. Meagan says

    July 17, 2015 at 12:25 am

    Love the idea of putting bath salt in a glass jar! Who knew there were so many ways to use glass jars?

  8. Krista says

    July 17, 2015 at 9:11 am

    I love re-purposing old jars. I have used them for bath salts like you have done and I also have made them into candy jars!