12 Of The Most Useful Ways To Reuse Cardboard Tubes

Uses for Cardboard Tubes

Did you know it takes approximately 50 times more water to recycle cardboard than it does to recycle plastic? Recycling cardboard requires massive amounts of water and energy in order to remove ink, bleach, re-pulp the paper, etc. While recycling cardboard is still a more environmentally-friendly option than sending it off to a landfill, it’s even better if you can find a way to reuse it.

Today’s post will focus on reusing one cardboard item in particular, simply because most of us tend to go through a lot of them. I’m referring to cardboard tubes, like the ones at the center of rolls of toilet paper and paper towels. I’ve got a dozen great ideas for reusing those cardboard tubes, and I’ll be sharing those with you today!

I decided to focus specifically on uses that are helpful and practical, rather than just crafty. By the end of this post, you’ll be ready to put your cardboard tubes to good use all over the house.

12 Practical Ways To Reuse Cardboard Tubes

Uses for Cardboard Tubes

1. Organize Your Office Supplies

Use your old cardboard tubes to make a handy organizer for your desk! Start by cutting tubes down to different sizes to make the stuff in the back more accessible. Arrange them into a small box and glue them into place. Decorate it however you want for a cute and FREE desktop organizer!

Uses for Cardboard Tubes

2. Keep Pants Crease-Free

Use a tube from a roll of paper towels (or two toilet paper tubes) to help keep your pants and slacks free from wrinkles. Just slice the tube(s) open lengthwise, slip them onto the bottom of a hanger, then tape them closed. Hang your pants over the tube to keep them from getting creased in your closet.

Uses for Cardboard Tubes

3. Secure Wrapping Paper

Use a toilet paper tube to secure a roll of wrapping paper. Just cut a tube open lengthwise and slip it over your wrapping paper. The tube will keep the paper securely in place and keep it from unraveling!

Uses for Cardboard Tubes

4. Store Cloth Napkins

Use cardboard tubes to keep your nice cloth napkins from getting wrinkled. Just lay out the napkin, place a tube along one edge, then roll the napkin around the tube. You can stack the rolled napkins in a cupboard or closet and they’ll stay pressed until you’re ready to use them again.

Uses for Cardboard Tubes

5. Make A Handy Firestarter

Keep your cardboard tubes and turn them into handy firestarters! Collect some dryer lint from your lint trap and stuff it into a cardboard tube. Stack up your firestarter and some kindling, and you’ll have a roaring campfire in no time!

Related: 10 Clever Ideas That Will Make Camping Easier And More Fun!

Uses for Cardboard Tubes

6. Organize Cables & Cords

Use a cardboard tube to keep cords and cables tidy. Just wrap the cable up and slip it into the tube. Label the tubes with the type of cord or cable for easy identification!

Uses for Cardboard Tubes

7. Make A Bird Feeder

It’s easy to make a nice little bird feeder out of an old cardboard tube! Just spread a layer of peanut butter over the outside of the tube, then roll it in birdseed. Hang your bird feeder on a tree branch or pole outside and see what kinds of feathered friends come along!

Uses for Cardboard Tubes

8. Store Plastic Grocery Bags

Keep your collection of plastic grocery bags contained in a cardboard tube. It will save you quite a bit of space, and it’s easy to pull a bag out when you need one. Keep a bag-filled tube in your car so you always have a “trash bag” when you need one!

Uses for Cardboard Tubes

9. Start Seeds For Your Garden

Use a cardboard tube to start seeds for your garden. Press part of one edge down, then turn the tube slightly and press the next section of edge down. Repeat until you’ve formed a flat surface. Turn the tube upside down, fill with potting mix, and plant your seeds! Once the seeds are big enough, you can plant the seedling—tube and all—into your garden. (Just saturate the cardboard tube with water first to make sure it will start breaking down quickly.)

Uses for Cardboard Tubes

10. Make Gift Boxes

Turn a cardboard tube into a small gift box! Press down on the tube to flatten it, then press the edges in to create flaps. Place your gift inside, then tie it closed with ribbon or string. You could also paint the tube beforehand to make it look a little less cardboard-y!

Uses for Cardboard Tubes

11. Secure Baking Mats

Use a cardboard tube to keep your baking mats organized. Just roll the mats up and slide them into a cardboard tube. You can save a lot of space by storing them this way!

Uses for Cardboard Tubes

12. Keep Hair Tools Tidy

Tired of the cords of your hair tools getting tangled? Use cardboard tubes to keep them organized! Just wrap the cord up and slip it into a tube. For smaller tools like flat irons, you could also slip the tube over both the tool and the cord.

Do you reuse cardboard tubes for any other practical purposes?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Bright Ideas

  • As an adjunct to tip #6 – for ages I have used tp tubes to corral extension cords, BUT I mark the length on the outside of the tube. Everyone in the house figured out knowing how long a cord they needed saved much frustration.

  • We have a friend who’s made all sort of crafty things with the tp tunes. A cute little Chinese lantern type basket. Also a cute bee favor with hearts for Valentine’s Day. She would fill them with candy.

  • The short cardboard rolls can be used for sheaths for sharp kitchen knives. Insert blade and contour roll to blade shape. Staple sides together and trim excess roll. My mother in law did this with all her sharp knives. She’d been doing this for 50 years!

  • I have been using my cardboard rolls using your method to keep cords of my hairdryer and flatiron from banging and making noise where they are hung on the inside of the bathroom “pantry” door. Very easy for containment and no long cords are hitting noisily when you open and close the door. (Wrapping around the tool itself did not help.) Has made quite a difference and are no longer like a nail on a chalkboard-type of irritant. Thank you!!!!

  • I save and use all my cardboard tube’s and yesterday I was trying to slip on some tight shoe’s and bingo! They work perfect to slip your heel down into your shoe. Just flatten the tube and put it under your heel and it’ll slide right in!

  • I used your suggestion for securing wrapping paper. AMAZING. I tape the cut sides together and the tape never touches and rips the paper. If the roll is too big, use 2 cardboard tubes front to back. My husband thought I was nuts until he saw the end result. Now he saves the tubes for me.

  • I flatten the tubes and run them through my paper shredder. Then I put them in my chicken coop for bedding, that eventually gets put into our garden.

    If you don’t have chickens or a garden, you can use as mulch on top on indoor plants, or bedding for other animals, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits etc.

    Call your local school/day care center/senior home, do they use them for crafts, if so, donate them?

    I have also used the shredded as the base for my Easter baskets for the grandkids.

  • My dad uses paper towel tubes to keep kitchen tongs from springing open in his utensil drawer. His crazy aunt’s reused everything – and especially tubes to store extension cords. You can write the length on the tube for a quick id.

  • Occasionally I have a really sturdy thick cardboard roll, maybe from FoodSaver bags or other items on a roll. I usually save them because I just cannot throw them out, so I had accumulated four or five of them. When I wanted to make some pie crusts for freezer storage, I wrapped the rolled-out crusts around the sturdy cardboard rolls, wrapped in plastic wrap/foil, and into the freezer they went. I didn’t have to store the crusts flat, thereby using up more freezer space. When ready to use, thaw them right on the roll until they are pliable enough to unroll. Works great!

  • When I cut the rolls for gift wrap or other uses, and they just aren’t quite tight enough to do the job, I just add a rubber band to snug it up.

  • . . . oh dear, Jillee, you are amazing . . . this is one of my favs . . . tho your shares are so great, it’s hard to choose . . . love this one among my most favs . . . recycling something that most everyone uses “by the tons” . . . all our lives . . . just amazing . . . you are . . . God Bless . . . :)

  • OMG, what great ides, I have done a few of these already, and plans to implement the others. Thank you for all of your wonderful ideas you share with us, your readers.

  • I have tried the wrapping paper trick, but have found when I slice the tubes length-wise, they no longer want to stay in the round shape. I slide rolls of wrapping paper into in-tact tubes, rather than cutting the tubes. This works much better for me.

  • Great ideas. I agree using the cardboard rolls from paper towels (which can be cut to whatever size you want, etc.), but I don’t think I’d use toilet paper rolls for anything. Germs and bacteria…..kinda yuk.

  • Great ideas! Similar to #4, I store some of my shorter fabric pieces around paper tubes and use washi tape to secure them. I also cover toilet paper rolls with dollar store contact paper when I use them to store cords for kitchen appliances. It makes them more sturdy, easier to wipe clean, and they look pretty as well. I do the same for my collection of extension cords, marking on the side the length of the cord.

  • I use paper towel rolls for knife guards in my drawer. I can fit two long knives for chopping or slicing in one tube. Paring knives can go in smaller tubes. The paper rolls help keep the blades covered when I reach in to get a knife and keeps the knives from shifting around in the drawer.

  • Some of these tips are nifty, esp. the one with the clothes hanger. I hate creased pants!!
    The seed planting tip however doesn’t work well, at least not with tp rolls. They have a tendency to unroll when wet. Maybe paper towel rolls work, maybe the more expensive brands have stronger glue/cardboard. But the regular stuff didn’t work for me, in fact it made a big mess when the rolls undid themselves.

  • Here’s a funny, April Fool’s Day trick. Tear a brown toilet paper roll into small pieces. Then form them into fake poop logs. Place them where a pet or person may have had an accident. Then get ready to laugh!

  • I was surprised to not see my favorite- vacuum cleaner extension. Sometimes you just need to get in a hard to reach spot, and you can even tape it on.

  • I punch the bottom out of a McDonald’s coffee cup and use them for some of the same things you used the cardboard tube for. The cardboard is a bit thicker.

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