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6 Cool Can Crafts

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Aluminum, tin, and steel cans are best recycled — but they’ve got an incredible amount of DIY potential, too.


What would we do without canned food? It’s got an incredibly long shelf life, and the tamper-resistant container lets you rest easy knowing your food hasn’t been messed with. What’s more, canned goods can be an environmentally-responsible choice: They can reduce food waste since they don’t spoil as quickly as produce, and the metal with which they are made is eminently recyclable.


But once you’ve eaten those beans or tomatoes, what do you do with the can? Hopefully you’ve recycled it, and probably, you have. Steel cans are one of the most recycled materials; 71 percent of cans are recycled. Another fun fact: 80 to 90 percent of all steel ever produced is still in use today, since it is so recyclable.


But if reusing and repurposing is more your style than recycling, then you’re in luck. Just as the metal can is infinitely recyclable, it’s also infinitely usable in craft projects. I only had to look as far as Pinterest and some of my favorite style and craft bloggers to find some great ways to upcycle my cans next time I make a big batch of chili. Here are a few of my favorite projects:


1. Cute Succulent Planters: One crafter was inspired by the limited edition Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup labels, turning the colorful retro cans into little planters. So next time you admire the design on a can label, buy up a few and follow the instructions to turn them into mini planters (they look better in a group). Or, trim off the label and use it as a template to create your own label to decoupage onto some cans.


2. Tin-Punched Lanterns: In this tutorial from Inhabitat, a pretty design is created on graph paper, then punched into a can for a lovely votive lamp that casts glowing patterned shadows. If you buy coffee in a can, you can even use the oversized cans to make larger lanterns that can hang from wires. Or, use a hole saw to cut out a hole in the bag big enough to insert nightlight hardware.


3. Reusable Storage: A British design student came up with a great idea: Plastic toppers that gave cans new purpose, like a toothbrush holder, a vase, or a soap dispenser, for instance. It’s an idea reminiscent of all the accessories that make Mason jars so multipurpose (LED insert, anyone?). Sadly, his idea never seemed to make it to production — but it doesn’t mean you can’t repurpose your cleaned cans for other storage or organizing projects. Use cans creatively to store stuff like sewing notions, craft materials, or office supplies (it’s not a good idea to save food in the cans, since the metal can leach into your food — and whether or not BPA from the can lining is also leaching into your food is an entirely different matter).


4. Pedestal Stand: A plate or bowl on a pedestal makes a great centerpiece, helps make more room on a buffet table, and offers a lovely focal point. I love this project from Sweet Paul that uses mismatched plates and a painted tin can to make a footed pedestal (he uses a long, skinny asparagus can for an especially elegant presentation!).


5. Citronella Candles: Save up the stubs of old candles and melt them down with citronella and other essential oils for a poured citronella candle that will keep the bugs away at your next patio party. Here’s how, from Garden Therapy.


6. Tin Can Stilts: A couple of the same-sized cans and some twine are pretty much all you need to make a pair of stilts that will provide hours of fun outside. Little kids will have better luck with shorter cans, such as tuna cans, while big kids will get a kick out of larger cans like coffee cans. Let the kids decorate the stilts with acrylic paint first if you’d like.


Can Manufacturers Institute



What are you favorite craft projects to do with your old food cans? Share in the comments below. 

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan
I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same. more
  • Diane T. 1 month ago
    Hello everyone, I hope this is a good month for everyone.
  • Debra B. 1 month ago
    Hey everyone! Happy December 2021 ! As I was looking at these rusty cans and smiling , with a chuckle as well Randy... a thought popped into my head! They were probably trying to color coordinate the RUSTY cans with the BRICK WALL ! Then add a little green for visual appeal... You could put your broken ornaments tucked in so so one sees the broken part and maybe a Christmas Gnome or Elf On The Shelf... Get Creative and have fun! I sent out 46 hand written Christmas Cards , with something written in each , to bring joy! The response of texts and phone calls I have received so far has been amazing!
    • Laurel L. 1 month ago
      I love the fact that you mail out actual, handwritten Christmas cards. I look forward to the 1 or 2 I still receive every year, and I make it a point to mail mine out every year as well. :-)
    • Barbara W. 1 month ago
      Debra, you are always right on top of things, an admirable quality to have!
      Take this as another Christmas note with smiles and joy. I love reading your comments, they are always good ones/ some of my favorites ... Friendly, BarBara

      I also send out handwritten cards with individual notes to each, but my list is only about 20. Right now we are having a record HIGH with the weather this week so I did more things outside. ( but no rusty cans out there) ahahhaaa... The days will get colder and that's when I will do the cards.
    • Diane T. 1 month ago
      I haven't really done Christmas cards for a long time, but I would really like to send them out this year. I need to go buy some stamps and then decide on whether to make them or buy them. Also, I need to get some addresses. But, I really do want to send them this year, so we will see.
    • Debra B. 1 month ago
      Do it! If you have the items on hand to do handmade, do that! I use Christmas stickers that are puffy or glittery and buttons or whatever, then I hand calligraphy...which i learned as a teenager. this year I bought my cards from Dollar tree. they have cute ones with the red Chevy truck that is 3 D, and another with the same truck in which I placed a puffy Christmas Tree in the bed of the truck for fun! If you have some type of Dollar tree, i really find fun crafty items to use! have fun and you will reap what you put out, joy and good energy!
    • Barbara W. 1 month ago
      Diane, Go for it !
      It will make you feel good and bring a special smile to your face.
  • Barbara W. 1 month ago
    Okla has roller coaster weather! A record warm this week but will change on Monday and take a nosedive, then roll back to the average for a while , who knows after that?
    • John J. 1 month ago
      Happy La Nina!
    • Laurel L. 1 month ago
      Sounds like here in Maryland! Woke up yesterday, it was 31. This morning it was 45. We're hitting low to mid 60s today, in spit of the cloud cover and breeze. Tomorrow it's supposed to drop down a bit, temperature-wise.
    • Barbara W. 1 month ago
      John, I hope this winter does not give Texas another arctic blast.
      You guys are usually 10 * higher than we are, But that might just be in the summer?? Cross your fingers.
    • Barbara W. 1 month ago
      Laurel, enjoy those 60's, and get outside when you can!
    • John J. 1 month ago
      La Nina results in warmer and dryer than normal winters, but our weather folks left out the part about 'but can have infrequent extreme weather swings' (I found that when I looked it up after our snowmageddon).
  • Steven S. 1 month ago
    Posted Thursday, December 2,2021
  • RANDY F. 2 months ago
    L. O. L. Them #@%$ Rusty Cans, Again!? L.O.L.

    Talk About Recycled ! (√ ;

    Got my hearty chuckle for the day
    • RANDY F. 1 month ago
      My Cans Again !

      Not knocking it for others but its just not for me - right now.

      It's kinda like the shabby chic (chić) distressed table on another page here: In the right formal setting they may look Great but in others it may just look Reallly Shabby!
    • Barbara W. 1 month ago
      I laughed when I saw the rusty cans again, we had been talking about them on here. It's a good article for Spring, not so much for Winter
    • Debra B. 1 month ago
      See Debra B reply above
    • Barbara W. 1 month ago
      Randy, you will be remembered for the "rusty cans" and Javier for the "used cooking oil" he was going to use to toast with when the notifications came back on.! You guys are a riot....!
    • Barbara W. 1 month ago
      Randy, did you ask Santa for a box of rusty cans?
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