10 Smart Uses for Old Plastic Bags

Including two occasions to wear them.

Photo: Getty Images

Despite making a concerted effort to always carry reusable grocery bags, plastic bags still seem to multiply like crazy. Here are some new ways to reuse them (and better the environment).

01 of 10

Plastic Bag as Knee Pads

Woman wearing plastic bags as knee pads
Kana Okada

Need to kneel in your garden to pull weeds, or on the street to change a tire, but don't want to preserve the memory eternally on your pant legs? Grab a couple of plastic bags and tie one around each knee, covering the area that will be exposed to dirt and grime.

02 of 10

Plastic Bags as Hand Protectors

Dog biscuits and a leash
Kana Okada

Fact: There are some things you'd just as soon not touch with your bare hands. Use bags as gloves to handle what's messy (say, chicken carcasses) or just plain gross (like the little "presents" the dog leaves in the front yard), then turn them inside out to trap the offending matter within for easy disposal.

03 of 10

Plastic Bag as Paintbrush Preserver

Paintbrush wrapped in plastic bag resting on open can of paint
Kana Okada

You're painting the kitchen when an emergency (kid's sick at school; Brad Pitt is Ellen's special guest) calls you off the job. To keep brushes and rollers from drying out, place them in bags, and tie them or wrap them with rubber bands to keep out air. The tools will stay moist and protected for a day or so.

04 of 10

Plastic Bag as Makeshift Rain Hat

Folded plastic bag in back pocket of pants
Kana Okada

A 30 percent chance of rain… hmm. Do you tote around an umbrella (maybe for nothing) or head out sans protection (and risk getting drenched)? Third option: Tuck a plastic bag into your pocket or purse. Then, if you're caught in a downpour, you can use it as an on-the-spot rain hat to protect your do.

05 of 10

Plastic Bag as Kitchen-Cleanup Aid

Carrots and peeler on a plastic bag
Kana Okada

For no-fuss cleanup, instead of peeling fruits and vegetables over a cutting board or into the sink, do it over a plastic bag. When you're done, flip the peelings into the garbage and rinse the bag to reuse another day, or simply toss the whole shebang into the trash.

06 of 10

Plastic Bag as Gift Wrap

Box decoratively wrapped using plastic bags
Kana Okada

No time to make an emergency pre-party run for wrapping paper? Riffle through your bags to find the prettiest and most colorful―or just ones without writing. Triple-bag the gift, then tie all three sets of handles into a knot. Cut the tops of the loops and fan out the pieces to make a plume.

07 of 10

Plastic Bags As Wet Umbrella Holders

Umbrella wrapped with a plastic bag in a purse
Kana Okada

To avoid dripping water all over your (or anyone else's) house on a rainy day, pop your wet umbrella into a bag as you cross the threshold. You can even tie the handles snugly and throw it back into your purse―unless, of course, your bumbershoot is of Mary Poppins proportions but your carpetbag isn't.

08 of 10

Plastic Bag as Shoe Protector

Woman wearing shoe stepping into bag
Kana Okada

It will never be a fashion trend, but tying bags over your shoes can keep you from tracking mud into the house when you come in, or protect slippers from dirt, snow, or rain when you run out to fetch the paper from the front lawn. (Be careful when walking on smooth surfaces, as the plastic won't give you any traction.)

09 of 10

Plastic Bag as Cookbook Protector

Cookbook protected by a plastic bag
Kana Okada

To keep the cookbook clean while attempting that "easy to follow" seven-layer-cake recipe, wrap a bag around everything but the page you're using. Although it won't keep you from (inevitably) spattering the list of ingredients with vanilla extract, the rest of the book, at least, will remain pristine.

10 of 10

Plastic Bag as Plant Filler

Flower pot stuffed with plastic bag as filler
Kana Okada

Crumple bags to fill the bottom of a large pot that's too deep for your plant (but be sure not to cover the drainage hole, if it has one). You can cut down on the amount of potting soil needed, and since plastic packs less heft than dirt, you'll be able to move a big planter around with a bit less grunting.

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