Aluminum Can Upcycling

July 5, 2012 Three comments View all articles in Re-Use-It

Aside from collecting old pens and pencils, few people look beyond quick-and-dirty desk storage solutions as a use for aluminum cans. If, however, you recycle lots of aluminum cans every week and are looking for something else to do other than send them out the back door, try one of the following upcycling projects. You might surprise yourself with just how versatile and handy a spare aluminum can really is!


  • Cubby Storage: If you have a wealth of aluminum cans sitting around the house, grab a few extras, a tube of liquid nails, and a few small clamps and make yourself a quick cubby storage unit. All you will need to do is glue together a few larger-sized aluminum cans with liquid nails, clamp them together to let the glue dry, then continue to add as many (or as few) as you like throughout the day. Aluminum can cubby storage works great for the office or the kid's room.
  • Wine Rack: Aluminum cans are also great for storing wine bottles. You will need larger cans for this project, and will also need to cut both the top and the bottom out of the can with your can-opener. When done, use liquid nails to glue several cans together in any shape or order you desire. For a splash of color, spray-paint the outside of your new wine rack a devilish red or modest black to add a bit of atmosphere to your kitchen.
  • Gift Basket: A great way to accessorize your stocking-stuffers next holiday is to craft yourself a handy gift-basket out of an aluminum can and a bit of fabric. You will need Elmer's Glue, some recycled fabric pieces, and a pair of scissors for this project. First, remove the original label from the can and replace it with some colorful cloth of your choice. Next, fold the remaining cloth over the top of the can and glue it down on the inside to hide the aluminum rim. Finally, trim a long slender piece of cloth for a handle and glue each end on the inside (or outside of the can). If you are feeling extra crafty, add some ribbons or stickers to your new gift basket and fill it up with lots of tasty holiday chocolates.
  • Hanging Lanterns: Any aluminum can or even aluminum soda can makes for a great hanging lantern. Using a metal punch, drill, or even a pair of metal shears, cut out some holes or lines around the outside of the can. (Be sure to wear leather gloves!) Leave the lower part of the can intact to catch any stray wax and then place a small votive candle inside. Hang the can from the ceiling using a bit of twine or an old coat hanger and you will have instant (and groovy) lighting for any room.
  • Sidewalk Luminary: Aluminum cans (like glass jars and bottles) make for fantastic sidewalk lighting. Simply strip the original label from the can, fill the bottom inch with sand or potting soil, and place a votive candle or small LED candle in the bottom. Line your sidewalk with as many luminary can/candles as you desire and be the king of the outdoor party.
  • Planters: Lost of items can easily be upcycled into planters and seed-starters. Aluminum cans are no exception to this rule; poke a few small holes in the bottom of any empty can, fill ¾ of the way with potting soil, then plant any flower, garden vegetable, or fruit inside. Water regularly, and when the plant inside outgrows the can, flip upside down while holding the soil and plant in place, tap the outside with a knuckle and slide the entire thing out for replanting in the garden.
  • Kid Toys: Aluminum cans are surprisingly sturdy, and because of this, could be made into great toys for the kids. One crafty parent went so far as to design a small aluminum can doggy pull toy out of a few upcycled cans, reclaimed springs and bolts, and a few rolling wheels. If you are extra ambitious, have a few tools at your disposal, and want to surprise your children with a new toy, see what you can create with the items you have lying around your house or in the garage. Let your imagination run wild and you just might surprise yourself and your children! (Note: make sure you file down any sharp edges so the little ones don't cut themselves.)
  • Pincushions: Small aluminum cat food or even tuna cans are easily transformed into quick-and-dirty pincushions. Make sure you thoroughly clean out your can with soap and water before filling the inside with cotton or poly-fill. Cover the poly-fill with a piece of cloth and hot-glue the edges of the cloth to the rim of the can, effectively sealing off the filling inside. Decorate the outside of the can with another piece of cloth and stick a few pins in the top for safe-keeping. You won't regret having this handy tool at arm's reach next time you design a colorful summer outfit for the family. 

(Photos:, Martha Stewart, Constitutionally Modern DIY, TangMu)


Georgina on July 6, 2012 at 3:49 a.m.

I used tin cans to package my home-made fudge in last Christmas. I punched some quotes into the tin and they went down a treat!

Robin Wade on Sept. 14, 2012 at 9:53 a.m.

wow, we appreciate real, unadorned things. I don't regret doing this stuff right now. It helps the environment,it's recycling and you know I do gravitate toward unique, one of a kind works of art. :)

Robin Wade

USer on April 25, 2017 at 12:33 p.m.

you can make a set of fake nails with an aluminum can! I'm wearing a pair right now

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