5-gallon bucket light

Five gallon buckets certainly don’t get much respect. They are tossed around work sites, covered in paint or are filled with grungy water while washing the car. These time-honored staples of home improvement stores, though, have a wide array of DIY upcycling uses beyond work sites and the garage, as Chris Peterson, author of The 5-Gallon Bucket Book, discovered.
5-Gallon Bucket Book: DIY Projects, Hacks, and Upcycles
Peterson, a home improvement author, has a newfound respect for the buckets, stating that “they can be upcycled into a mind-boggling array of new conveniences and handy inventions.”

“These buckets are both remarkably strong and surprisingly adaptive,” Peterson said. The high quality buckets made with HDPE (high-density polyethylene) will hold up to nearly anything, and can be modified by cutting, melting, drilling and many more DIY upcycling ideas.

Upcycling by the gallon

While developing countries have been using 5-gallon buckets in a myriad of repurposed ways for years, according to Peterson, Americans are just now discovering the variety of items that can be crafted out of plastic buckets.

Don’t have any 5-gallon buckets at home, but you’re intrigued? Though you can purchase brand new 5-gallon buckets, Peterson encourages everyone to get them for free, while helping to reduce the number of plastic buckets that are sent to the landfills. 5-gallon buckets can be scored at:

  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Schools and other places where large amounts of food are delivered via plastic bins
  • TIP – Building contractors, car washes and supermarkets are also frequent disposers of used 5-gallon buckets that would otherwise be destined for the trash bin.

Some of Peterson’s ideas for upcycling 5-gallon buckets are unique, to say the least. A master at DIY, he shares designs on how to create

  • A small-room air conditioner,
  • An acoustic speaker dock,
  • A composting toilet, and
  • A manual washing machine.

Among some of the DIY upcycled projects using 5-gallon buckets are:

Shoe RackDIY Shoe Rack - 5 Gallon Bucket Cutting a bucket in half and attaching metal grating creates an elevated storage space for wet shoes in the winter, providing air flow and corralling all of the slush, melted snow and mud that would otherwise be tracked in on boots.

Upside Down Tomato Planter Sure, you can buy a planter to grow tomatoes upside down, or you could just make one from a recycled 5-gallon bucket for free.

Bucket Swing A little artful sawing and your child can have a repurposed swing.

5-gallon buckets can also work well as storage containers for dog food, bird seed, charcoal or other large bags of product.

DIY Hose Holder 5 Gallon BucketGarden Hose Holder Mounting a 5-gallon bucket on the wall creates an easy way to keep garden hoses off the ground.

Garden Container Strawberries, mushrooms, potatoes and more can be grown in 5-gallon buckets, without having to buy a pot. Perfect for those that need a raised garden surface or who are growing plants on a porch or patio.

Peterson isn’t alone in his awe of the many uses for 5-gallon buckets. Websites such as Five Gallon Ideas and Bob Villa’s 7 Creative Ways to Reuse a 5-Gallon Bucket also tout the many uses of the storage container somehow loved by both food service establishments and contractors.

What other ways can you think of for upcycling a 5-Gallon Bucket? Share your thoughts and projects with us below.

Feature image courtesy The Coopers who have also come up with this simple yet effective way of upcycling a 5-gallon bucket into a light. 

By Kimberly Button

Kimberly Button is the author of The Everything Guide to a Healthy Home and the Editor-in-Chief of GetGreenBeWell , featuring modern, sane ideas for living a non-toxic life. A professional journalist for nearly two decades, Button has written for magazines such as Martha Stewart's Whole Living, American Airlines, AAA, Sierra, National Geographic Traveler, and Vegetarian Times. Visit KimButton.com for more information.