10 Uses for the Humble Toilet Roll

Apr 24, 2020 | Reducing Waste, Upcycling

Toilet paper has been in the news a lot lately. Who woulda thunk it?! Yep, it is clearly something most of us can’t imagine living without. Apparently it is the first thing we grab to stockpile in a crisis. But when the toilet paper is gone, is there also value in the cardboard roll that remains? If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen one way I’ve been using them but I thought it would be fun to brainstorm a few more. So here’s my list of the top 10 uses for the humble toilet roll.

Seed Raising Pots

While there are plastic free alternatives to seed raising pots available commercially, such as peat pots, to me they seem quite expensive for a single use. Why not use something basically free and recycled instead?

Because they biodegrade in the soil, seedlings started in toilet rolls can be planted out in the rolls which reduces transplant shock and root damage.

They are also easy to write on with a permanent marker to identify what has been planted which is very handy.

To make a toilet roll seedling tube, simply fold over one end of the toilet roll, tamp the folds down from inside with a piece of dowel or a sturdy stick and fill with potting mix. Pop your seed in and water as usual. Place them on a seedling tray. They stand up pretty well on their own but I’ve fashioned supports from two lengths of timber. They get soft over time but hold up long enough to raise the seed and put it in the veggie patch.

Photo by Family Footprint Project

Cord & Cable Tidy

Do tangled cords give you the heebie-jeebies? They do me! Wrap a toilet roll around a coiled cable and they’ll stay tangle free. Again, they are easy to write on so you know what cord is for what device. This Instructable from berserk takes it to the nth degree.

Spool for Yarn, String or Thread

Like tangled cords, unravelled yarn, string or embroidery thread can be a headache. If it gets too knotted up, it usually ends up in the bin. Save it by winding it around a toilet roll. A small slit in the end will also hold the end of the yarn so that you can find it easily.

Wrapping Paper Storage

In a similar way, wrapping paper rolls can be controlled with a toilet roll. Cut straight down the length of the toilet roll then slip it around the wrapping paper roll.

Make Christmas Crackers

While we are on a celebratory theme, let’s discuss Christmas Crackers or Bon Bons. Make your own for a lower waste Christmas using a toilet roll as the core. The snaps can often be bought from craft stores or online before Christmas.

Gift Wrapping Box

Another lower waste celebration idea is to use a toilet roll to make a gift box for smaller items or party favours. Check out Create Craft Love to see how cute they can look.

Pack Items for Travel

Used in a similar way, they are a handy way to store small things in your luggage for travel. For longer items, connect two together. Again, use a marker to identify the contents.

Scarf Organiser

If you have a number of scarves hanging in your wardrobe you might find that, well, they don’t tend to stay hanging very well. However, if you hang a scarf over a hanger and then thread both ends through a toilet roll, they will stay on the hanger. See how Back To Calley did it.


Stuff an empty toilet roll with dryer lint or shredded waste paper for a free firestarter. If you use scented wax melts, you could also add the spent wax (the wax remaining when the scent has dispersed) for extra burn.

Dog playing with empty toilet roll
Photo by Family Footprint Project

Pet Toy

Like kids, pets often find fun in the simplest of things. Our dog gets a good half an hour of entertainment from pulling apart an empty toilet roll. Thankfully she is not a dog who discovered the fun of pulling the toilet paper off the roll! You could also pull one from a string and keep a kitten entertained for ages.

Bonus Ideas

Of course, there are countless craft activities involving toilet rolls as any preschool parent would know. Finger puppets were a particular favourite here.

They can also be upcycled into useful items like desk organisers – a classic Father’s Day gift!

In the end, if you have an excess of toilet rolls even after all these ideas, shred them up to add to the carbon component to your compost. Yes, they are recyclable but composting them is even better.

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