25 Brilliant Ways to Reuse Plastic Grocery Bags

published Jul 23, 2021
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Plastic bag filled with groceries on kitchen counter.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

Unless you live in a city that bans plastic grocery bags (or charges you a few extra cents to have one), chances are you have an abundance of them at home. Even if you make a point of shopping with your own reusable bags, a few plastic ones still somehow seem to make their way into your home every now and then.

Whatever you do, don’t throw these useful bags out! As your mountain of plastic bags begins to grow, you should definitely reuse them at least one more time before they head to the recycling bin (yes, you can recycle them at grocery stores!). We’ve put together a list of 25 practical and brilliant ways to make use of plastic shopping bags at home. Let’s take a look.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

1. Line trash cans.

Lining your trash can keeps the inside of your garbage can clean and odor-free. Plus, it makes it easy to get your trash out. Plastic bags are just the right size for each of your small trash cans at home, such as for a home office or bathroom. 

2. Store as emergency trash bags for the car.

Even if you have a car garbage can, you’ll no doubt find yourself needing to collect trash from your vehicle. Stashing a few grocery bags in the glove box or center console ensures you’ll be ready with a trash bag for those late-night trips to the drive-thru.

3. Use as a wet bag.

To separate wet bathing suits from dry contents, toss a grocery bag or two into your beach bag when you pack for the day.

4. Pack shoes in suitcases.

Before you head out on your vacay, wrap shoes in plastic bags before packing them in a suitcase to keep your soles from dirtying garments.

5. Pick up dog poop.

Using your excess plastic grocery bags as doggie doo pick-up bags means you don’t have to shell out money to buy poop bags that are going to get thrown out just the same. 

Credit: Sarah Crowley

6. Stuff into shoes and purses to retain their shape.

Plastic bags stuffed into purses, shoes, and boots can help these items retain their shape between uses. 

7. Protect fragile items while moving.

Wrap fragile belongings, like vases or ceramic platters, in bags before placing them in moving boxes. This keeps items from hitting against each other and reduces breakage. 

8. Store paint brushes or rollers for later use.

If you do painting projects in fits and spurts, the worst part is having to wash your paint brushes and rollers again and again. Instead, wrap your brushes in plastic bags so that the paint doesn’t dry, and you can pick up your project where you left off. 

9. Line a paint tray.

Line your paint tray with a plastic bag to keep it from getting caked with layers of dry paint and to make cleanup a total breeze.

Read more: 3 Brilliant Tips to Make Your Next Painting Project Way Easier

10. Reuse for future groceries.

This tip is so straightforward it’s easy to miss. Bring your old bags to the store and use them again.

11. Use as travel hampers.

Pack a few extra grocery bags (in addition to those you use for separating shoes) to stash dirty laundry while you travel. 

12. Line the cat box.

Want to make cleaning the litter box a little easier? Lining your cat box with a plastic bag means you can change the litter without having to wash the whole box.

13. Contain dirty diapers.

A dirty diaper can stink up an entire house — that’s why many people use a diaper pail! But it’s not always the case that you’re changing a diaper near said pail (blowouts can happen anywhere!). If you need to throw a diaper out in your regular ol’ trash can, first place it in a grocery bag and tie it tight to contain odors. 

14. Protect packages.

Most of us don’t have packing peanuts or bubble wrap waiting in the wings when we need to mail something fragile. Grab a handful of plastic grocery bags to cushion breakables. 

15. Empty the vacuum cleaner.

If you have a bagless vacuum cleaner, you’re well acquainted with the mess that can happen as you empty it. Releasing the canister into a plastic bag helps keep messes contained. 

16. Collect gardening scraps.

When you’re weeding or trimming plants, rather than tossing scraps on the grass, collect everything easily in plastic bags, and then empty the bag and save it for future yard work.

17. Keep coolers neat.

Instead of dumping ice straight into your cooler from your freezer — only to dig through it to find buried food and drinks — keep ice separated in plastic grocery bags. 

Credit: Sarah Crowley

18. Gather cooking scraps.

Line a kitchen “garbage bowl” with a plastic bag and add cooking scraps so you can tie it up before you throw it in the trash. This helps keep odors contained and counters clean while preparing food.

Credit: Marisa Vitale

19. Protect plants in a frost.

Tie plastic bags loosely over your plants to protect them from frost damage. Winter is coming …

20. Use as shoe coverings for guests.

If maintenance workers with dirty shoes need to walk through your house, have them tie plastic bags over their shoes to keep floors clean.

21. Store other bags.

Use one bag to store the rest of your plastic grocery bag stash. Hang the bag on a hook in a closet or the inside of a cupboard. Tie the bags you’re storing into loose knots so they stay neat.

22. Separate freezer items.

To categorize items in your freezer, separate them with plastic bags. For instance, put all your frozen veggies in a plastic grocery bag and add a label. They’re sure cheaper than baskets!

23. Defrost items in the fridge.

Place frozen, wrapped items you want to defrost in plastic grocery bags to keep water from accumulating on shelves and the fridge clean. 

24. Protect your knees while you garden.

To keep your pants from getting dirty while you garden, tie plastic bags around your knees and spread the plastic around the front.

Credit: Lisa Freedman

25. Soak your shower head in vinegar.

If you have hard water where you live, try soaking your shower head and even sink faucets in vinegar every now and then. The vinegar will clean out hard water buildup while you do something else. Just fill a plastic bag and use a clip or rubber band to hold it in place.

Do you have any other clever tips for reusing plastic shopping bags? Tell us in the comments below.