Re-Using Tin Cans

April 21, 2011 Four comments View all articles in Re-Use-It

Presumably, kitchens haven't been absent of tin cans since the first one was patented in 1810. This very moment, your pantry shelves are probably lined with dozens and dozens of canned food items; even more if you're a bachelor. Since the 1960s, cans have been made primarily with aluminum, which makes them entirely recyclable, corrosion resistant, and durable.

Recycling may save 47 percent of the energy required to process steel from raw materials, as well as keep waste from ending up in landfills. But being recycled doesn't have to be the only experience cans have to look forward to after faithfully preserving your tomato soup, baked beans, and creamed corn.

Note: As long as you smooth jagged edges with a metal file, remove the labels, and wash the tin cans in hot, soapy water, they can be used for any number of things! Tin Can Candle

Outdoor Lantern:

  • Using a clean, empty tin can, a church key can opener, spray paint, and a tea light candle, you can make your own decorative outdoor lantern. has photos and instructions for making these outdoor candle holders with coffee cans, but you can use any size can you have on hand. You can also loop string or twine through the holes and hang the lanterns from tree branches for outdoor parties!
  • The Craftzine blog has photos, instructions, and a downloadable PDF pattern to help you make a delicate, punched metal luminary and piece of art using a tin can and a few other household supplies.

Bathroom Drawer Organizer: Place 4 clean, empty tin cans in your bathroom drawer. Keep dental floss, hair ties, tweezers and toenail clippers, and cotton swabs organized in their individual cans. You can also use a hammer and nail to poke two holes in each can, and then tie them together with bits of colored ribbon, twist ties, or twine. Tin Can Desk Organizer

Desk Organizer: You could just plunk a tin can on your desk, toss in your pens and pencils, and leave it at that.

  • Or you could cover the tin can with photos and sayings printed on copier paper, and sealed with shellac.
  • You could encourage your son or daughter to make a personalized desk organizer for Mother's Day or Father's Day with the instructions at
  • Or you could even follow decorator Shannon Quimby's instructions at and make a stacked organizer from ten cans, which will hold not just pens and pencils, but scissors, rubber bands, your cell phone, scotch tape, ink cartridges, power adapters, and more.

Flower Vases: Painted tin cans make excellent flower vases. You can also paint several cans of varying sizes to organize different arrangements, lengths, and species of flowers in. Visit Martha Stewart's webpage for instructions and a photo.

Mini Cake Tins: Did you know you can bake cakes in tin cans? The Eating, Etc. blog has detailed instructions, photos, and ingredients to help you make a delicious yellow cake complete with frosting. And it's the size of a tin can!

Bread Tins:

  • The Coffee Bean Goddess blog offers instructions, photos, and ingredients for making wonderful-looking tin can sandwich bread.
  • The Chasing Fireflies blog not only includes a great banana bread recipe you can bake in a tin can, but also suggests that, once cooled, you tie a bright ribbon around the can, tuck a tea bag under the bow, and give it away to friends and family.

Gift Can: You don't necessarily have to bake yummy foods inside tin cans before giving them away to friends and neighbors. Just put tissue paper in a tin can, place cookies, chocolates, or candies inside, and then tie it with a colorful ribbon.

Pincushion: Learn how to make a tin can pincushion at

Indoor Plant Pots: You don't have to spend money on ceramic pots; you can make your own by re-using cans and wrapping paper. Start by puncturing the bottom of a clean, empty can a dozen times with a nail and hammer so the finished pot will have proper water drainage. Next, measure the height of the can (for width) and its circumference (for length), then using a ruler and an X-acto knife, cut your wrapping paper to size. Use double-sided tape to stick the paper to the seam of the can. Protect the paper from water damage and the can from rust by covering it with shellac. Once it dries, you're ready to plant!

Candleholders: has instructions on how to make candles in tea tins, but you can use tin cans instead.

Kid's Craft Organizer: Hot-glue magnets to the backs of several tin cans and mount them on a magnet board. They're the perfect size for holding and organizing your child's colored pencils, rubber stamps, crayons, Lego pieces, chalk, and glitter pens. Make the cans more aesthetically pleasing by painting or labeling them before gluing on the magnets.

Workbench Organizer: Nail several tin cans onto a length of wood, positioning them side-by-side. Put this at the back of your workbench to catch nuts, bolts, nails, screws, and various other bits and bobs.

Get inspired by visiting and taking a look at Clare Graham's Tin Can Top Wall, and by visiting and viewing Jack Bresnahan's biodegradable plastic lids that fit standard tin cans and turn them into new, useful, decorative objects.


Juanita Clack on Sept. 4, 2011 at 6:22 a.m.

WOW!!!!! thanks so much. Have saved cans to use for outdoors decor. Not too sure how to prevent them from rusting and would love to know how. can you advise??? Thanks for a great site. will use it often.

Nathan on Sept. 13, 2011 at 5:57 a.m.

Like any other metal, tin cans are melted down. The impurity's are skimmed off and the remainder is reused.

latrice on May 8, 2012 at 1:55 p.m.


annette hill on Jan. 25, 2015 at 8:09 p.m.

Whatt paint do you use to paint the tins for making candles.

Thanks Annette

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