12 uses for plastic buckets

We've all got a few lying around. Here's what you can do with them

By Liann BobechkoLiann Bobechko


Photo by Steven Balaban

How to use a bucket as a sieve

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The five-gallon bucket, often lurking in sheds, can also be found at hardware stores. These are our favourite ways to use a plastic bucket.

Bucket sieve

With a sieve you can remove stones from soil, take large undecomposed bits out of your compost, or sort gravel for paths (see illustration at left). Take two buckets that nest together nicely. Carefully cut the floor out of the both buckets. Choose a sturdy screen with holes the right size for the sorting you want to do and then cut it into a circle a few inches bigger than the diameter of the bottom rim. Fold the screen over the cut end of the inner bucket, then insert this assembly into the outer bucket. Flip it over and start shovelling!

Camp shower

At its most basic, this homemade shower is a bucket with holes drilled in the bottom hanging from a strong hook. Pour in water from another bucket (for a little warmth use a black one left in the sun), hang it up, and stand below. If you want to get fancy, try installing a showerhead with a stop valve into the bottom of your bucket.

Bucket stilts

For painters who need to be a foot taller, these bucket stilts will give you a lift. Take two upside-down buckets, place your foot centred on the bottom, and make a mark for holes on either side of your shoe. Drill holes, string a strong rope through, and tie snugly around your foot. Avoid stairs and conga lines, and top up your insurance.

Extension cord storage

For a simple way to corral a long extension cord, cut a hole in the side of your bucket near the bottom and poke the male end out the hole. Loosely coil the extension cord in the bucket, leaving the female end free at the top. Just set the bucket near an outlet, plug the male end into the wall, and take the other end with you.

Badminton post supports

Instead of digging holes for your badminton-net posts (only to realize the spot is in a wind tunnel), make supports that you can roll from place to place. Fill a bucket with concrete and insert the post. Check for plumb, then brace it while the concrete sets.


Homemade designs are limited only by time and imagination, but essentially you want your miserable rodent frenemies to fall into the bucket. It can be a third full of water, if drowning is your aim, or if you have a Sisyphean bent, leave the bucket without water and simply free your captives outside each morning. The basic components: a bucket, a way for the mouse to fall in (ramp, gangplank, what-have-you), and bait.

Boat bucket

Use a bucket with a lid to keep your boat organized: Store your extra lines, spare spark plugs and running-light batteries, charts, fishing licence, and safety equipment at hand but out of the way and dry. Bonus: It’s a spare seat when you stop at the neighbour’s dock or for a shore lunch.

Drink cooler

Riddle your bucket with holes, fill with drinks, suspend it in the lake, and tie the handle to the dock. When Dr. Suzuki pops in, pass him a cold one.

Off-grid washing machine

No more clean cottage gonch? Make your own off-grid washing machine with a bucket and a (new) toilet plunger. Use the plunger to agitate your lacy underthings.

Water clock

Want a timer that kids can have fun with? Make a small hole in the bottom of a bucket, fill it with water, and to calibrate the timer, hold it over an identical bucket while the water runs out; every five minutes, use a ruler to mark on the upper bucket the level of the water that has collected in the bottom bucket.

Strawberry pot

Drill a few holes in the bottom of a bucket, add a few inches of gravel or broken pottery, then top it up with potting soil and you’ve got a planter that you can set on the deck. Use a smaller bucket and hang it from a strong hook out of deer’s reach. You could even try cutting holes in the sides to grow herbs or strawberries. Mmmmm, strawberries.


Fill a bucket with concrete and insert an eyebolt; when the concrete sets, use the buckets to anchor your raft or floating dock.

This article was originally published on May 5, 2009

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Liann Bobechko