Reusing Your Packaging

Article by Michael A. McAuley

One of the most lamented aspects of purchasing almost any product is the, often valuable, packaging left over once the contents have been used up or removed. However, the “King of Reuse” is here to save you from having to recycle your bottles before they’ve reached the end of their useful lives.

Reusing your packaging

Many soap-makers have found the usefulness of packaging that can be used as molds in creating distinct shapes. My most unique was a 2 ounce bar shaped like a small pipe cutter created by filling the cavity of the tool’s packaging. I know many soapers using cat food dishes, soda bottles, potato chip cans and other “waste” packaging. The role of reused items for soaping is probably only limited by your imagination.

fragrance oil bottles teach soap tutorialsGetting the fragrance out of fragrance bottles

While many people have found ways to use or reuse found material in their soaping, it is often the products designed for making that wonderfully fragrant or oddly shaped creation that leaves us baffled when trying to reuse their packaging; in particular, the bottles that we all get our fragrance or essential oils in. For most of us, the bottles are too valuable to throw into the recycling bin and we’d really like to use the space, but the previous occupant just lingers on, a ghost of its former self.

The solution is, to pardon the pun, salt solution. I have rescued many a brown bottle with nothing more than Morton Salt from the pantry. I usually try to throw in some rock salt for scouring and that’s it. So what’s the salty secret? Old fashioned elbow grease – nothing more. Often, in order to clean glass, you must scrub it like last week’s lasagna casserole, but don’t worry, I won’t tell your mom it sat so long! Also, you must create an environment inside your bottles amenable to removing the oil clinging tightly to the glass. Water, as we all know, even with lots of warm suds just won’t remove all the smell from your brown, Boston rounds. The salts, besides providing the rough scouring action you’ll need, act as a place for the oil to attach once it is removed from the glass.

So what you will do is add a nice amount of Mortons’s and any rock salt you can fine – usually a quarter inch in the bottom is enough. Then add enough warm (not hot) water to fill the bottle about one third fill. Too much water doesn’t allow the crashing action (think ocean waves during a current) and too little doesn’t lubricate the process. Do not add any sudsing agents or you’ll fill the bottle with bubbles that will only need to be removed for this to work. Next, put the cap on tightly and shake like a mad demon. Also, this process relies upon your ability to imagine you are one of those salt grains slamming about the bottle, crashing into every nook and cranny, and dragging those stubborn oil particles away from the glass. If you skip the imagination step, your bottle with not come clean, trust me.

Next, empty the bottles’ contents into your drain, or your next load of laundry (not the salt though), rinse the bottle and “poof,” all clean. This will clean your bottle as well as you’ll need to. You will probably smell a small amount of residual fragrance in the bottle, but it will be so tiny that any new fragrance added to it will easily overwhelm it with no risk of contamination.

The thing to remember when reusing your bottles or any other item is that sometimes you are limited in what you can do. For example, leftover organic scraps from the table can be fed to your worm bin, your compost, or just tossed into the neighbor’s yard and your old newspapers can be turned into paper mache Halloween masks, but your fragrance oil bottles should probably not be used to store water for your fallout shelter. Their best use will remain as storage for your soaping supplies so don’t even think of switching them out with your child’s broken Incredible Hulk thermos.

Next issue, how to make a dog sweater from your dryer lint…