Thursday, November 30, 2023


Bet you’ve never thought of these uses for cardboard tubes while RVing

So much of RVing is expensive that I really love discovering inexpensive (or even free) fixes to problems when we’re out on the road. Here are a few unusual uses for cardboard tubes that I hope might help you while RVing. I’m talking about the cardboard tubes that appear when you run out of paper towels or toilet tissue. You might be surprised at how useful these cardboard wonders can be!

10 uses for cardboard tubes in an RV

Electrical cord wrangler

Our tool drawer was a mess. Our three electrical cords were constantly entwined and tangled together. So, I untangled them and now store them separately, each folded neatly together and held in place. How? I slip the folded cord inside a cardboard tube. The tube holds them securely until needed. Bonus: I use a marker to note the length of the extension cord right on the cardboard tube. That way I can tell at a glance which cord I need.

Seed starter

As winter winds down, I grab my collection of small cardboard tubes. I stand the tubes upright in a shallow pan and fill each tube with potting soil. Then I place tomato seeds into the soil. When the weather warms up, I transfer the tubes right into my garden. The cardboard will disintegrate, and the plants have a head start on the growing season.

Fire starter

I keep a cardboard tube in a plastic, zipper-type bag near our RV dryer. When I clean the lint trap, I put the lint inside the cardboard tube. When the tube is filled, we use it for a campfire starter. The lint quickly ignites and the cardboard burns long enough to get kindling wood burning well.

Bend preventer

I like to hang my pants on hangers in our RV closet. The problem? The clothes hanger will often form a bend or crease in the pants. To prevent this, I split a cardboard tube lengthwise. Then I slip the tube over the hanger and use tape to hold it in place. The cardboard prevents the crease or bend in the fabric.

Boot shaper

RV closets are notoriously small. Longer cardboard tubes poked down inside each boot will keep the leather from bending over, which can result in permanent wrinkles. With the tubes in place, I can store the boots on a shelf and the boots still hold their shape.

Hair band holder

A cardboard tube is a great holder for hair bands. All you do is wrap the bands around the outside of the tube. They will remain in place until you need one.

Vacuum helper

Trying to vacuum beneath our RV’s slides is impossible without a cardboard tube. In fact, there are many narrow places all over our RV’s interior where our vacuum nozzle just can’t penetrate. The vacuum end is simply too big to fit inside the narrow cracks. If you face this situation, too, just grab a cardboard tube. Gently flatten one end of the tube to fit into the narrow opening. Hold the vacuum nozzle against the non-flattened end and you should be able to remove pet hair and other debris from the narrow area. (You’re welcome!)

Viewing spring, napkin rings, and office things

One rainy camping day, our grandkids set to work recycling some cardboard tubes. One stapled two cardboard tubes together to make “binoculars” for our hikes in the woods. Another child cut the tubes to form individual “rings,” which they decorated as napkin rings. Our grandson stood various sizes of tubes on a small block of wood and glued them in place. Once decorated, the tubes now hold my pens, pencils, rubber bands, and other small office supplies.

Fairy light holder

To keep fairy lights (these) from becoming tangled, I wrap them around a cardboard tube. First, I cut a small slit on opposite ends of the tube. I begin by securing one end of the light string in one of the slits. Then I gently wind the lights around the tube. I secure the end of the light string in the slit at the opposite end of the tube. No more tangles! Yay!

For the birds

A cardboard tube can also make a great bird feeder! Thread a string through the tube and tie the ends. Coat the outside of the tube with peanut butter. Then roll the tube in bird seed. Use the string to hand the feeder on a nearby tree, then watch the birds from your RV window.

If you have additional ways to use cardboard tubes, please share them in the comments below.

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Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.



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bill pearson (@guest_207395)
1 year ago

You forgot the best use!! When I grease the bearings on my trailer I slip a short tube over the bearing to catch the old grease when it comes out of the bearing. Makes cleanup a lot easier.

Catherine (@guest_203839)
1 year ago

I just cut a heavy-duty tube into 6” pieces and put on the bottom of tube legs on my folding table (to make the table taller when I need).
Also, I have flattened tubes to use as knife sheaths.

Donna (@guest_203490)
1 year ago

I save the toilet paper rolls and stuff them with dryer lint to make fire starters. I keep them stacked in an old sturdy shoe box that we put in the basement storage of our camper. I have used them in my wood burning fireplace as well.

Karen Hansen (@guest_203318)
1 year ago

I save them and give them to my parrot to shred. It’s her favorite toy.

Shannon (@guest_203301)
1 year ago

I use a paper towel tube to hold plastic shopping bags

Keitha Culwell (@guest_203291)
1 year ago

My favorite article in months. Such great ideas all of which I will be using both in the rv and at home. Thank you.

Bill Dunbar (@guest_203290)
1 year ago

I use paper towel tubes when outside cooking. I flatten the tube to place my BBQ tongs in to keep my shelf clean and it keeps the flies off the tongs while cooking.

Larry Lee (@guest_203257)
1 year ago

Cardboard tubes of various sizes and thicknesses have worked their magic in my bathroom in the behind the mirror storage area. I had placed some narrow wicker basket containers on the shelves and filled them with all sorts of small to medium sized items. This worked fairly well to keep things corralled. The problem came when I removed any one or two items for use, then all the other items would move and fill in the open space making replacing the used item difficult or impossible. Soooo, I emptied the wicker baskets and stuffed them FULL of cardboard tubes of various sizes, then replaced all of the items. Now each item has its own cubby to return to after being used. I often find free tubes long enough to cut to length for various items such as the toothpaste tube which now stands upright in one place. It is so easy to find my comb, shaver, toothbrush, nasal spray, and shoe horn every morning.

Snoopy (@guest_203246)
1 year ago

We have been using paper towel tubes cut about 2″ long to hold our BBQ tongs, works great & the cardboard isn’t very thick, but great for that purpose, they stay in place in the drawer. Use them in motor home & house!
Thanks Gail, you have some great ideas!

Bob p (@guest_203213)
1 year ago

I don’t know what brands of toile paper and paper towels you buy, but the brands I buy don’t have no where near the thickness of your tubes in the picture at the beginning of the article. Lol

Bob (@guest_203230)
1 year ago
Reply to  Bob p

Ditto. Maybe 10-15 years ago the tubes were thick enough for most those uses. Now they are not much thicker than the toilet paper they are holding.

Keitha Culwell (@guest_203293)
1 year ago
Reply to  Bob p

The thick ones, my guess, are more rare, aluminum foil, packing tubes and the like.

Cathy (@guest_203299)
1 year ago
Reply to  Bob p

The thicker tubes are on foil and plastic wrap.

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