We don’t like clutter (who does), and in the past would normally throw out empty spice containers. But while we were planning for a recent camping trip we were trying to come up with storage solutions for several scenarios. If you are not camping in a big RV, space is always at a premium. More on how empty spice containers were used for camping is further down the page. For now we’ll just focus on everyday uses.
In the process of looking for camping solutions we found multiple other practical uses for our empty spice bottles. We now reuse both the glass spice jars as well as the plastic spice containers for way more purposes than we ever intended.
Upcycled spice jars are a great alternative to buying small plastic storage containers; upcycling is good on your wallet and conserving storage space. The average spice bottle holds between 1.5 to 4 ounces, which is perfect when you just need a small container for storage. The .5 ounce mini round spice containers work even better for smaller items.
Spice bottles come with caps, some of which are attached or screw-on, and they also typically have a “sifter fitment” or “sifter or shaker disk” which is either a separate fitted disk that sits over the bottle opening, or it is either attached to or is incorporated into the bottle cap itself. A few have dual sift and pour caps with a lift-able lid. You don’t always need the sifter, but it’s definitely convenient when you do.
If you normally buy name brand spices at the grocery store, you will probably have plenty of empty mccormick spice bottles and other brands to work with. The $1 bargain brand plastic spice containers from the big box stores and dollar stores work equally well. They all seem to have pretty much the same design. The glass spice bottles are nicer if you are planning on decorating them, displaying them out in open, or giving them as gifts. The plastic bottles are nice because they are lightweight and you don’t have to worry about breakage if you drop them. Their appearance doesn’t matter if you are storing them in a drawer or craft box.
Now that we routinely save empty spice jars we gleaned a little bit of experience in cleaning the spice bottles and have plenty of ideas for decorating your repurposed spice bottles, all of which are located at the bottom of the page.
Loose Change Holder For Your Car
If you’re on the road a lot and your center console is the repository for loose change you’ve received at drive-throughs, or you use coins for tolls, a plastic spice container is the perfect way to keep the coins contained. The top is easy to take off and put on, you see the coins and shake it to get at the coins you need in a hurry. It’s much easier than digging through the bottom of your console.
Custom Spice Mixes
This is probably the most obvious way to re-purpose a spice container, especially for custom spice blends. If you have a meal you cook frequently and the spice quantities are always the same, why not mix up a double or triple batch of the spices in advance? Just label the container with the name of the meal (“Chicken Paprikash“) and indicate how much to use (“use 1/2 or 1/3 of bottle, or 2 tablespoons”), and skip pulling out all the spices bottles you normally need the next time you make that meal.
Twist Tie Tamer
You know all those twist ties that you’ve acquired from bread and baked goods bags, remove from new appliance cords, or the 50 twist ties you found at the bottom of the trash bag box that you never used but decided you should hang onto anyway? Well, here’s a clever way to organize them. Instead of having a jumbled mass of twist ties shifting around the bottom of your junk drawer, store the twist ties inside a spice bottle. Then, just pull one out as you need them.
If you’re looking for dozens of ways to use that huge collection of twist ties you’ve accumulated over the years, definitely visit our Uses For Twist Ties page!
Cinnamon Sugar Shaker For Toast Or Pancakes
Instead of mixing up a small batch of cinnamon and sugar every time you want cinnamon toast, why not premix the two and store them in their own spice shaker. You’ll be able to shake out just the right amount cinnamon sugar each time you need it.
The spice bottles are the perfect height for q-tips. For aesthetics, we recommend using the glass containers and you should definitely decoratd the cap (see decorating ideas below).
Mini Food Storage
You’ve chopped up some onions, parsley, or chives and didn’t use all of it preparing dinner. No problem, up to a 1/4 cup should easily fit into a spice bottle and can be stored neatly on the top shelf of your fridge until your next meal.
Speaking of excess chopped up ingredients…
Frozen Food Shaker
So you’ve chopped up some green onions or chives for dinner, but if you’re not planning on use the remaining onions or chives any time soon they will eventually go bad. Why not mince them up now, freeze them on a cookie sheet, and store them in the freezer inside a spice shaker for the next time you need them?
They will mostly stay separated if they are frozen before being added to the spice container. Also, only fill the container 1/2 to 3/4 full to allow enough room the shake them apart just in case they stick. Next time you need some chives or green onions, just grab you container out of the fridge and shake out what you need.
Travel Sewing Kit
Add some needles, thread, a few spare buttons, and safety pins to make an emergency sewing kit. Don’t need a sewing kit? The use the bottle to store all the loose buttons that have accumulated. Or maybe to safely store all your sewing straight pins or needles. Wrap a small amount of foam with fabric and glue it on the cap to make a pin cushion for your straight pins.
Organize all your various fasteners using spice containers. They are tall enough to hold 3 inch deck screws and nails. Our favorite garage use is for holding the containers to hold the nails for our air gun and staples for the staple gun. The paper boxes they originally came in always fall apart and spice bottle fix that problem. The extra benefit is that the contents are clearly visible, making it easy to grab things you need right away.
Crayon Coloring Kit To Go
Provide your little ones with an activity while you’re on the go. This compact coloring kit fits easily into a purse or bag. Cut some paper to the height of the spice container and curl it up inside. Add crayons to the center and replace the cap. If the kids get antsy while out for dinner or an appointment, pull out the kit and you’ll keep them happy for a few minutes longer.
Do people actually use glitter anymore? Sure, if they are crafters, have kids, are into scrapbooking or stamping, etc. If you don’t already have glitter, you’ll probably be getting some after you see our suggestions for decorating spice bottles below.
Glitter gets messy. You’ll likely still see it on surfaces in your home weeks after using it. Storing glitter in spice bottles makes it easier to lightly apply glitter using the sifter, and the wider bottle openings make it easier to pour glitter back in. Unfortunately, it won’t fix the problem of glitter specks randomly appearing on surfaces weeks after you used it.
Keep your band-aids neatly stored in your medicine cabinet by using an empty spice bottle as storage. Even the bigger sized band-aids fit inside nicely. Another option would be to make a mini-first aid kit to take to kid’s sports games or for camping. Add some band-aids, antiseptic packets and antibiotic ointment, and you’re ready to treat minor scratches and scrapes.
Seed Storage And Seed Shaker
The small spice bottles make great seed savers for the seeds you’ve collected from your yard. Leave enough room in the bottle to add a small desiccant bag (these come in all prescription and OTC medication bottles).
The shaker is convenient for spreading seeds in your flowerbed. To help space seeds out a little more, mix one part seeds to one part sand before shaking. This method works really nicely for spreading out flower seeds when you don’t have to worry so much about spacing. It’s our favorite way to seed cleome and larkspur seeds.
Rubber Band Roundup
Once you’ve finished wrangling all your twist ties out of the junk drawer, you can now focus on rounding up all those loose rubber bands. The height of most spice bottles are perfect for the larger rubber bands that hold produce together and the remaining smaller rubber bands will squeeze in nicely.
Powdered Sugar Shaker
If you make breakfast or desserts that call for powdered sugar sprinkled on top, you’re probably grabbing your bag of powdered sugar and pouring it into a sifter or sieve, and making a mess along the way (at least that’s how it ends up for us). Save time and mess by pouring your powdered sugar into a larger spice container (4+ ounce capacity). The next time you make a cake, crepes, Belgian waffles, french toast, funnel cake or anything else that calls for powdered sugar on top, you can just grab your powdered sugar spice jar and sprinkle on the powdered sugar with ease and without as much of the mess.
Tiny Craft Supplies And Jewelry Findings Containers
Miniature connectors, eye screws, sequins, rhinestones, and charms are probably best stored in small zip lock poly bags to conserve space. But if you have a lot of these supplies and want an easier way to keep them securely separated and easily accessed, the short 1/2 ounce spice jars are the ideal solution.
If you are rolling out pasta or cookies or kneaded dough, and don’t have or don’t want to buy a flour sifter, just fill a spice shaker with flour and shake out flour as needed. You won’t need to reach into the flour bag every time your hands, the roller, or your surface starts to get sticky. Use the spice shaker to sprinkle a little bit on at time, then set aside until you need more. You’ll have much less waste of flour and even less mess.
Craft Seed Bead Storage
These tiny beads are only 1.8mm in diameter, and are a nightmare to cleanup. They are usually sold in an organizer box containing several assorted colors, which isn’t very helpful in keeping them organized and separated. They somehow manage to shift around in the organizer and eventually the different colored beads are no longer separated. If you are use beads in your projects or are into beading, spice bottles will help keep the beads separated, and the wider openings make it easier to access the beads.
Gifting Homegrown Dried Herbs
If you had a bumper crop of herbs in your garden, why not package up the excess and give them as gifts? If you’re invited over for dinner, the herbs would make the perfect, thoughtful hostess gift. A collection of 3 or more bottles of homegrown herbs are also a great holiday gift, especially for those that love to cook. See the spice bottle decorating ideas below for ideas for creating a pretty gift presentation using spice jars.
If you are decorating a cake, hosting a pancake buffet for guests, or offering an ice cream bar at a wedding or birthday, having an assortment of different sprinkles available is both convenient and fun for your guests. Allowing guests to sprinkle on their toppings using a spice shaker instead of scooping them up from a bowl using spoons reduces the mess. Depending on the size of the sprinkles you will want to use the shaker disks that have 4 or 5 large openings rather than the smaller ones to make it easier to shake out the sprinkles.
Scrapbook Glass Microbead Shaker And Storage
If you are into stamping or scrapbooking, you’ll probably have an assortment of microbeads that you use to embellish paper. The microbeads are usually sold in small flat jars or tiny (really tiny) vials, which make it nearly impossible to neatly return the excess beads into their original containers. Spice jars have wider openings that make it easier to pour the microbeads back inside. You can also use the sifter disk to shake out the beads onto your glued paper. To get more control over the volume of beads that come out, put some tape over 3/4 of the sifter disk so that only 2 or 3 holes are open.
While this isn’t very practical (a larger glass or mason jar is a healthier environment for the plants, easier to decorate, and is more visually appealing), it’s a fun project to do with tweens. A thin layer of activated charcoal, white pebbles, and then peat moss is all that is needed before adding a small patch of moss and a decorative twig as the finishing touch. It’s a nice project because it doesn’t require a lot of materials and just might spark a green thumb in the next generation.
Dry Rub Shaker
Applying a dry rub to poultry or ham before baking or smoking can be a messy process. To make matters worse, you have to (or are supposed to) clean your hands each time you reach for the next ingredient or spice in order to avoid cross-contamination.
The solution is to mix all your spices in advance and pour them into a large spice bottle. That way, you can gradually work the spices into your meat and easily sprinkle on more spice as needed without having to continually wash your hands.
Plant Cuttings Water Propagation
The long, narrow profile of glass spice bottles make them perfect for holding and rooting up a single plant cutting. The plastic bottles work too, but they aren’t as sturdy as glass and are easier to knock over. A window sill with filtered sunlight, water, a drop of hydrogen peroxide, and your cuttings will root up quickly without taking up a lot of space.
And now, onto the uses we found for using empty spice bottles for camping. We only go camping a few times a year and usually only stay for a few days each time, so buying extra cooking and cleaning supplies just for the camper doesn’t really make sense. We also don’t have a lot of kitchen storage space in our camper, so we try to bring only the quantity we’ll need for each trip. No sense bringing a large 10 oz box of corn starch for thickening stew if we’ll only need 2 tablespoons for the that one individual meal.
The same goes for bringing a large assortment of spices, especially those we’ll only use for one specific meal (which is usually the chili dinner). We premix the spices and store them in a spice bottle.
We don’t use the spice bottles for liquids because that gets messy. We re-purpose small, empty condiment squeeze bottles for all things liquid.
Take-Out Packet Organizers
Using take-out condiment packets for camping is an awesome way to save space by bringing only the quantity of condiments you’ll need. We always grab a few extra packets when we eat out. We bring a few jelly packets for breakfast toast, a handful of mayonnaise packets for lunch sandwiches, ketchup and mustard packets for burgers, and the assorted sugar, salt, and pepper packets for everything else. Each type of condiment packet is stored inside their own 4 oz re-purposed plastic spice bottle. The bottles are lightweight, keep everything dry, and most importantly, make everything easy to find.
Because spice bottles are small, they wouldn’t make much sense to use for storing string at home. But when camping, it’s convenient to have some string on hand just in case. It can be used to tie up a tarp for cover if it’s especially rainy, for bundling kindling, or what ever other need arises. Drill a small hole in the cap of the bottle, add the string, and feed one end through the drilled hole. Then just pull out what you need and snip it off.
Meal-Specific Spice Mix
Instead of bringing all the different spices we’ll need for one specific meal (in our case, chili dinner), we combine all the spice ingredients and pour them into one spice bottle. Then just add the entire bottle to the meal and you’re set.
We’re not survivalist and don’t really have a need for matchsticks because we always carry a lighter for starting camp fires. But there have been two camping trips where the lighter fluid ran out near the end of the visit. The matchsticks we had stored in a camper drawer a few years earlier apparently became duds; maybe due to all the moisture in the air? Now we keep two boxes of matches stored inside a spice bottle for emergencies. Haven’t used them yet, but hopefully they’ll work if we ever need them.
How To Remove Labels, Clean, And Remove Spice Scent From Spice Bottles
Removing The Label
Remove as much of each paper or plastic label as possible. For glass spice bottle labels, these are usually clear film and tend to pull off easily after you pry up an edge using a paring knife or razor. Some labels are only glued at the seams, but most are fully attached.
One very important thing we’ve learned is that not all label adhesives are alike, especially on plastic spice jars. Some adhesives are water-soluble and come off easily, some require a little elbow grease or rubbing alcohol to get them off, a few need to be coated in vegetable oil to soften the adhesive, some need special tricks to get them off (more on that in a bit), and a few just won’t budge at all.
You won’t know what type of adhesive you’re dealing with until after you soak the spice containers. Immerse the containers in very hot soapy water with a little bit of ammonia and let them soak for at least 3 hours (but longer is better). You’ll also want to soak the lids to remove any film; be sure to pull out the lid liner first (if it has one). You can reinsert the lid liner if it’s plastic or foam but the paper liners should be tossed.
Just after you drain the soaked spice jars, cover them one more time in very hot water. This will help most of the labels pull off easier. There will be a few you’ll have to treat differently.
If the label residue just won’t come off
If there is still a sticky residue on any of the bottles, first try using isopropyl alcohol or vegetable oil on soaked cotton balls to help lift off the residue. It works on about 75% of the adhesive residues.
For the remaining bottles with adhesive residue, 50% will clean off nicely with our “tape trick”. The other 50% you’ll either toss out or just put a new paper label on them to cover the residue.
Our “tape trick”: we discovered this purely by accident when testing out placement of a clear tape label on one of the “gummier” spice bottles. Clear Gorilla glue tape pulled off the residue on a lot of our spices bottles that wouldn’t get clean during soaking or after using rubbing alcohol or vegetable oil. You can read more on how we used this technique here. Not sure if Goo Gone or kerosene would work (we didn’t have either) but you might try those if you have them on hand and don’t happen to have Gorilla tape lying around.
Neutralizing The Spice Scent
Neutralizing the scent of spice is dependent on a few things. First, if the bottle and or lid are made of plastic and the spice has a higher oil content, the spice scent will likely have permeated through and you’ll probably have a little residual odor. That’s okay if you’re not reusing the spice jar for other spices. There’s nothing wrong with glitter smelling a little like cinnamon.
But if you really need the scent gone, soak the bottle in an ammonia solution…for as long as it takes. You can use window cleaning solution, but a one part ammonia – 4 parts water solution works just as well.
Spice Jar Decoration Ideas
We’re really not going to decorate spice bottle that are meant purely for storage and are just stored inside drawers or cabinets. But for the bottles that are re-purposed for display or used as gifts, decorating them makes complete sense.
Even if the spice containers are different sizes and shapes, they’ll look more uniform if they all have the same cap color and design style especially if you are using them for gifting.
You could just wrap the bottle with a new label or get really creative in decorating the bottles and jars.
Here are some photos of various decorated spice bottles to use as inspiration. The full article with details about decorating empty spice jar bottles and containers can be found here.
Spice Jar Labels
Labeling spice jars can be as simple as writing on them with a sharpie or printing off strips of labels using (if you have one already). You can buy vinyl labels and use calligraphy sharpies, or make plastic gift tag labels from water bottles that are attached at the bottle rim.
We’ll be adding a link to to a more detailed article with even more label suggestions and tips soon.
Some spice jar labeling suggestions:
- The bottles are clear, which makes tracing a printed word with a sharpie easier.
- Label printer strips
- Plastic circles cut from water or soda bottles
- Cardstock shapes cut using decorative craft edge scissors
- 1″ round circle adhesive label sheets
- Custom shape using air dry clay or sculpey
- Print out vinyl labels or words using Cricut or Silhouette
- Chalkboard paint
- Label shapes cut from wax-coated paper plates
- Contact paper cutouts