Already have an account?
Get back to the
Life Hacks

13 Brilliant Uses for Paper Bags That Have Nothing to Do With Shopping

Instead of recycling paper bags, consider these genius ways to "upcycle" them to solve household hassles!

When you’re left with a collection of paper bags after going to the grocery store, you may be tempted to just toss them into the recycling bin. But saving them can make your life a whole lot easier. Keep reading 14 surprising uses for paper bags, from entertaining pets to removing stains, perfecting your baking and more. Soon you’ll be begging friends for their extra paper bags!

1. Uses for paper bags: Create a perfect photo wall

photo frames arranged on a wall: uses for paper bags
Larry Washburn/Getty Images

The secret to a stress-free photo wall: Trace each frame on a paper bag and cut out. Place the pieces where you’d like the pictures to hang, attaching with pins or clear tape. Once you’re happy with the arrangement, tap in nails, remove pins or tape, tear away the paper and mount your photos. (Click through for easy gallery wall ideas.)

2. Keep delicates smelling sweet

No need to splurge on pricey sachets to ensure your undergarments or bathing suits have a pleasant aroma. Instead, toss a handful of soap slivers into a paper bag, poke a few small holes in the sack and staple the top closed. Then slip the bag into the drawer with your clothes. The soap’s fragrance will freshen the items while the bag protects them from residue.

Related: Soap Slivers Freshen Your Linens — Plus 9 More Ways To Use Up Leftover Soap

3. Uses for paper bags: Extend the life of garlic and onions

It seems like onions, shallots and garlic cloves often sprout or rot before you use them up. Try this: Use a hole punch to punch holes all around a brown paper bag, then fill halfway with the savory foodstuff, using a separate bag for each. Label each bag and close with a chip clip. The holes will allow just enough air to circulate to keep these veggies from rotting.

Related: Wrap Bananas in This Kitchen Staple, & 4 More Pro Tricks to Keep Produce Fresh

4. Get windows clean and clear

The next time you go to clean windows and mirrors, forget about paper towels, which can leave behind fuzzy streaks. A better way: Spritz cleaning solution onto a crumpled-up paper bag, then wipe away as usual. The bag’s thick and sturdy fibers knock off and absorb grime without falling apart.

Related: How to Clean a Mirror Without Windex

5. Uses for paper bags: Remove stuck-on wax

The candles you used for your dinner party dripped all over your tablecloth. To effortlessly remove the residue, let the wax harden, then cover with ice to freeze the wax. Next, place a piece of a paper bag over the spot, then glide over it several times with a warm iron (no steam). As you move it over the area, the wax will melt and the paper will lift it up, quickly removing it.

See this tip put to the test in the video below:

Related: 6 Expert Tips to Make Candles Burn Longer — & the Common Hack That Can Backfire

6. Bake up perfect cookies

Baking up perfect cookies is one of many uses for paper bags
Dennis Swanson – Studio 101 West Photography/Getty

On rainy weekends, you love to whip up your famous chocolate chip cookies for your family. To guarantee your goodies are extra delicious, enlist the help of a paper bag. To do: Slice open a paper bag and lay it on the counter. After removing treats from the oven and letting them cool a minute or two, place them on top of the bag and let them sit for 30 minutes. The paper will absorb any excess butter, resulting in just-right cookies that aren’t too greasy. Yum! (Still enjoying the cookies days later? Try this clever reheating trick.)

7. Uses for paper bags: Freshen stinky sneakers

Oops! You got caught in a rainstorm while running errands, and now your sneakers are getting rank. Eliminate the odor by stuffing the shoes with crumpled brown paper bags and letting them sit overnight. By morning, the fibers in the paper will have absorbed the odor-causing moisture and sweat, leaving your kicks nice and fresh.

Related: How To Clean White Shoes So They Look New (And What Doesn’t Work)

8. Protect valuables during a move

brown paper bags crumbled in a moving box: uses for brown paper bags
Jennifer A Smith/Getty Images

If you have a big move coming up, no need to splurge on moving supplies to protect your items. Simply start saving up as many paper bags as possible! “You can crumple them up to provide padding for fragile items, use them to wrap delicate surfaces like mirrors and wood furniture to prevent scratches, and of course, you can pack things in them if you run out of boxes,” shares Nick Valentino, VP of Market Operations of the moving company Bellhop.

9. Uses for paper bags: Entertain your pet for pennies

Entertaining pets is one of many uses for paper bags
GK Hart/Vikki Hart/Getty

No need to spring for pricey toys to keep your pup amused! “A fun game is hiding treats inside a bag and folding them loosely, letting your dog use their sense of smell to find the treats,” says dog trainer and veterinarian Sabrina Kong, DVM, dog senior veterinary contributor for WeLoveDoodles. “This game provides mental stimulation and helps improve their scent-tracking abilities. For puppies, crumpled paper bags can serve as a light, chewable toy, perfect for teething.”

Cats will also have fun playing with a paper bag! Simply cut some holes in the bag, sprinkle some catnip inside the bag and leave it open on the floor. Kitty will be attracted to the catnip and the bag’s crinkly sound, plus will love playing hide-and-seek with the bag’s holes.

Related: Why Do Cats Like Boxes So Much? Vets Explain Why Kitties Can’t Resist Cardboard

10. Ensure linens stay organized

Rummaging around a linen closet to find matching sheets and pillowcases is so frustrating! Spare yourself the stress and mess by using paper bags to store complete linen sets. Place one set inside each bag and stash in your closet. Add a dryer sheet for freshness!

Related: 10 Small Closet Organizing Hacks From Pro Organizers That Will Change Your Life

11. Uses for paper bags: Cut down on painting mess

Protecting surfaces from paint is one of many uses for paper bags
Ann Schwede/Getty

When painting small areas in your house or working on a craft project, the last thing you want is to get paint on your carpet or floor. The solution: Use paper bags as makeshift drop cloths. “Just lay them down to catch any spills or messes,” says Kim Abrams, CEO of Abrams Roofing. “It’s much easier to replace than dragging out the real drop cloths!” (If you accidentally got paint on the carpet before using a paper bag, read how to get it out).

Planning to use spray paint on a small décor piece? Set the item in a large paper bag and spray inside. Once the item is dry, you can simply toss the bag.

12. Guarantee knits maintain their shape

When the temperature is cooling down, it’s time to dig the wool sweaters out of storage. But months of being stashed away in the basement left them in dire need of a laundering session. Make sure they keep their shape with this trick: Before washing, trace the contours of each item on a paper bag. Then use the outline as a guide and stretch the wet garment back to its original shape after washing . It will dry perfectly every time.

13. Uses for paper bags: Speed up fruit ripening

Helping fruits ripen is one of many uses for paper bags
Massimo Ravera/Getty

It can be frustrating when you buy a bunch of bananas to snack on, but they’re still green long after you picked them up from the grocery store. Thankfully, keeping a paper bag on hand makes solving this issue a breeze! “Store unripe fruit in brown paper bags so trapped ethylene gases help fruit ripen faster,” shares expert organizer Jamie Novak, author of Keep This, Toss That: The Practical Guide To Tidying Up.

Related: Pro Tricks to Keep Your Produce Fresh For Longer

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

For more clever life hacks, keep reading!

14 Brilliant Uses for Apple Cider Vinegar

13 Brilliant Uses for All Those Packing Peanuts

14 Brilliant Uses for Dental Floss That Make Life So Much Easier

Use left and right arrow keys to navigate between menu items. Use right arrow key to move into submenus. Use escape to exit the menu. Use up and down arrow keys to explore. Use left arrow key to move back to the parent list.