Saturday, May 27, 2023


Upcycle those empty medicine bottles for RVing. Here are 22 ways

Every thirty days. That’s how often I end up with an empty medicine bottle. Over time, all of these translucent, amber bottles pile up. If you have excess medicine bottles, you might check with your local recycling outlets to see if they accept the bottles. Our local recycling company does not recycle them. Neither will our pharmacy. So … what do I do with all of these bottles? I upcycle them!

Check out these nifty uses for medicine bottles. You’ll want to thoroughly clean both the outside and inside of the bottles before repurposing them. You can use contact paper or craft paper to decorate them, if you like. Then, let your creativity take charge.

Sewing helpers

  • Machine tools. I like to sew, and my sewing machine comes along on almost every extended RV trip we take. One medicine bottle neatly holds my machine bobbins. Another bottle contains machine needles, and yet another holds fabric pins. Larger bottles could corral different pressure feet and spools of thread, as well.
  • Sewing kit. Here’s a tutorial that shows you how to make a bottle cap pin cushion (you won’t need a sewing machine for this). I followed the video directions to make a pin cushion for the cap of a medicine bottle. Inside the bottle, I store sewing needles and a thimble. A small spool of thread also fits inside. Now everything is in one convenient place when I need to replace a button.
  • Buttons. Speaking of buttons, I keep a few white and black “shirt buttons” inside a bottle—just in case.

Coin corral

  • Laundry coins. I keep quarters inside one of my medicine bottles. At least two dollars’ worth of coins will fit. I tuck the bottle into my clothes bag and the money is ready to use at the campground laundry.
  • Shopping cart. If you shop at Aldi’s you’re probably familiar with their shopping cart policy. In order to get a cart, you’ll need a quarter. By keeping quarters inside a bottle in our car, I always have a coin ready for a cart.
  • Snacks. When we receive change from fast food eateries, I slip the coins into a medicine bottle instead of dropping them in the car console or into the hidden depths of my purse. The bottle keeps the coins gathered together and we use the money for future snacks and treats.
  • Parking meters. Our stash of coins in the bottles also comes in handy if we need coins for parking meters.


  • Rings. I don’t always take my rings with us when we travel. If, however, we plan to be gone for an extended period of time, I’ll pack my rings inside a medicine bottle until I choose to wear them.
  • Earrings. I also take along a few favorite pairs of earrings in a separate bottle. This keeps earrings paired and together in one place.

Personal care

  • Hair care. Medicine bottles easily contain shampoo and conditioner for short RV trips. (Ditto for hand lotion.) I put a different color rubber band around the outside of each bottle for quick and easy identification. You could also use a permanent marker to label each bottle.
  • Polish remover. I fill a larger bottle with cotton balls. Then I add fingernail polish remover to the bottle. Medicine bottles seal tightly so I have ready access to polish remover when we’re on the road. To use, simply insert your finger into the bottle and twist.
  • Hair pins, clips. Store your hair clips, rubber bands, and pins inside a medicine bottle.

Campsite helpers

  • Campfire. Coat cotton balls with Vaseline for quick fire starters. Store the fire starters inside a bottle and keep the bottle with the s’mores equipment or other campfire items.
  • Matches. Medicine bottles work great for storing stick matches.
  • First aid. Follow these directions to turn a medicine bottle into a first aid kit that will fit inside a pocket.

Hobbies, crafts, and more

  • Craft supplies. If you take crafting supplies along as you RV, medicine bottles can help hold small items for you. Think beads, sequins, glitter, and more.
  • Seed keeper. I store garden seeds inside medicine bottles. Use a permanent marker to label the bottles.
  • Batteries. Keep high humidity away from batteries by storing them inside medicine bottles.
  • Earbuds. I’m no longer losing my earbuds! Why? Because they “live” inside a medicine bottle when I’m not using them! Now they’re much easier to locate.
  • Baking. Medicine bottles can store cake decorating tips and nozzles.
  • Tool items. Keep track of small nuts, bolts, and screws by storing them inside medicine bottles.
  • Knit, crochet, etc. Forget buying that ball winder. Instead, wind yarn around a medicine bottle. It will create the yarn ball with the central gap you need. Here are directions.

Inspired? I hope so. If you can add to this list, please do so in the comments section.


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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27 days ago

I use my leftover medicine bottle to put spices /seasonings in. I write the name on the bottle. Keeps them fresh because of the tight seal.

23 days ago
Reply to  Vickie

Don’t spices and seasonings already come in bottles with the names on them? Asking for a friend.

Valerie Wallace
27 days ago

Here is a partial list of the items I store in medicine bottles: twist-ties, toothpicks, tacks, dish soap, gum, pins, paper clips…basically anything small that you need to corral. I also keep stick matches on top of the toilet tank and use double-sided tape on the underside of the cap to affix the strike paper. (If affixed to the outside, the moisture in the room will eventually make it impossible to light a match on that strike paper.). Another idea for the pill bottles: put condiments in them—catsup, salad dressing, syrup, etc—for meals on the go.

28 days ago

We have a small first aid kit in a large medicine bottle

Ken English
1 month ago

I use them to store and organize connectors for my radio hobby. Each adapter goes in it’s own, labelled bottle. When I need one, I can easily identify it’s characteristics. When packing up, I can see what I am missing.

1 month ago

I put q-tips in my clean pill bottles & stash in rv and also throw one in my shower bag for camp showers.

Gary W.
1 month ago

Why don’t you get a 90 day supply instead of a 30 day?

1 month ago
Reply to  Gary W.

I wondered that too.

1 month ago
Reply to  Gary W.

Might be an insurance issue.

1 month ago
Reply to  Gary W.

Sometimes insurance dictates how many pills you can get, and the frequency of refills. It’s a pain if you’re planning an extended trip and won’t have access to your pharmacy

Gary W.
1 month ago
Reply to  Denise

This is why I use my local Tom Thumb pharmacy. I can always find a TT, Safeway, Albertson’s etc. to get a refill.

Frank Niehius
1 month ago
Reply to  Gary W.

I do that but they then come in 3 bottles

23 days ago
Reply to  Gary W.

What, and not have all of those swell empty bottles around?

1 month ago

Work great for fishing gear and fly tying.

Neal Davis
1 month ago

Thank you, Gail! Don’t your ear buds need to be recharged by putting them into their case? Oh, I bet yours are corded, not cordless. Great idea, then. Thanks again! 🙂 😎

1 month ago

The smaller size bottles, labeled and dated, are great for taking small quantities of herbs and spices (the standbys you always use). They seal tightly against moisture and the color helps prevent light damage and several will fit into a plastic tray or box for travel.

Debbie Miller
1 month ago

Check with a local vet. They often have a need for these cleaned bottles. I run them through the dishwasher after removing the labels. When I have a dozen or so, I call around to see if a local vet wants them. Most are happy to get them.

27 days ago
Reply to  Debbie Miller

Excellent idea to recycle w/o any processing.

Brenda B
1 month ago

I used to put my nut snacks in them when I was working. Sometimes it would startle people to see me eating directly out of a pill bottle. 🤣

Seann Fox
1 month ago

Return them to the pharmacy most will take them for recycling

1 month ago
Reply to  Seann Fox

Sadly mine won’t

1 month ago
Reply to  cee

Mine won’t either.

Kimberly Hanson
1 month ago

Great ideas!

John B.
1 month ago

Word of caution. If you use a plastic pill bottle, Acetone  nail polish remover can destroy the plastic.
Along the line for a coin keeper, you may need coin ready for toll booths, car wash and for the odd times you need change.
I have two sets of pill bottles. One with the white caps and another with the amber caps. I put my morning pills in the white cap bottles and evening pills in the amber cap bottles. It keeps me organized and on track if I miss one, I don’t have to go through the routine of opening each of the original bottles twice a day. I already have them ready and I can take them with me at a moments notice. I keep them in a organizer draw chest. A plastic one work’s well with a separator for full and empty bottles. One draw for AM pills and one for PM pills. It is a good idea to have a list of all medications and the Doctors information when traveling even on short trips. This keeps you organized, and prevents loss of the original bottles.

1 month ago

Spare fuses.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago

Everyone who Geocaches uses med containers for caches. They are waterproof too, which is a big +.

1 month ago

I love the idea of the cotton balls with Vaseline kept as fire starters! Great idea! And though I don’t wear polish often, when I do, I’m usually stuck with it till I’m back home so I like the idea of keeping remover and cotton balls in a small bottle ready to go!

Very cool stuff, all the ideas!

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