So Many Ways For Preppers To Use Old Medicine Bottles

Medicine bottles seem to be another one of those things that you have around, have no secondary use for, and always need to get rid of. When you throw away these bottles, you may just be throwing away one of the most valuable prepping materials in your home.

Unlike many other materials, you need very little in the way of tools because medicine bottles can be reused exactly as they are. Just wash them out, let them dry, and they are ready to be used!

Have a look at these simple ways to reuse medicine bottles and see how you can use them to make reaching your preparedness goals cheaper and easier than ever.

Ensuring Medicine Bottles Will Work for Your Needs

Many applications for used medicine bottles require them to be air tight and water tight. Unfortunately, most medicine bottles will take on water and ruin anything inside. You will need to seal them up in Ziploc bags or some other water and air proof container.

Here are some other things to be aware of:

  • Not all medicine bottles will work well for prepper needs. Some bottles will crack in cold weather while others will have problems in hotter temperatures.
  • Some bottles are also very fragile and can be crushed easily.
  • Using the “child proof” side of medicine bottle caps will not improve their ability to keep out water and air.

Bug Out Bag Organizers

I don’t know about you, but as a prepper, I go through some definite stages. There are times when I focus more on larger, stationary items that would be very difficult to move to another location. At other times, I despair because there never seem to be enough “mini” kits or multi-purpose “mini” tools to fit into my pockets.  When it comes to bug out bags and mini kits, medicine bottles have an endless number of advantages.

If you use medicine as bug out bag organizers, you can make it very easy to find small items and keep them clean and relatively safe.  Medicine bottles also make the perfect place to store away all those “mini” kits that you might want to put in an EDC bag.  Here are just a few mini medicine bottle kits that you can build with stuff from around the house:

  • first aid kit – band aids, pain killers, alcohol swabs, and many other items can be stored in a medicine bottle and kept onhand at all times.  Make a kit for your backpack, car ,and even your pockets.
  • sewing kit – a needle, some thread, and good quality pair of foldable scissors will go a long way for repairing clothes or even assembling fishing gear.
  • fishing kit – be sure to include monofilament line, paper clips (for hooks), and a small knife in this kit.)
  • seed kit – store away seeds for the most important herbs and crops that you might need at a new location.  Even if you only store away 5 – 10 seeds from each plant, you can easily have enough room for several dozen species of plants in a single bottle.  Just put each variety of seed in mini  zipper bags (you can usually find them in the craft department) and label them so that you know what is in each bag.
  • screwdriver, hex, socket, and star wrench bits)
  • religious needs kit (you might store away special jewelry, holy water, or other small symbols associated with  your faith.)
  • electronics parts kit  (this would include basics such as resistors, transistors, diodes, and wire).
  • Field electronics kit (this would include items such as graphite, metal foil, wax paper, magnets, and a razor blade).
  • Alkaline,  acid tablets, chlorine, and iodine tablets that are safe to store in medicine bottles.
  • water purification kit
  • fire starter kit (you can store matches inside the bottle, and then tape a strike board on the outside.  To keep this kit waterproof, it is best to encase a smaller bottle in a larger one so that the strike board remains dry.)
  • Batteries – use one bottle for each battery size that you intend to have onhand.   The medicine bottle will keep the terminals from coming into contact with each other.
  • Custom all purpose kit – this kit should be small enough to fit into your pocket and take anywhere.  My personal favorites include: a very small mirror (you can get square and round shaped ones at the craft store), paper clips, monofilament line, small knife, razor blades, foldable scissors, thread, needles, aluminum foil, wax paper, graphite, 3 fold top plastic sandwich bags,  matches, a few pre-1970 pennies, a quarter,  a sterling silver medallion, small magnets, alcohol swabs, aspirin, and screwdriver bits.

Video first seen on kipkay.

Fire Starters

Smaller sized plastic medicine bottles also make perfect fire starters.  All you need to do is pack them with cotton balls soaked in Vaseline.

If you are dealing with rainy weather, or damp conditions, just start the fire right in the  medicine bottle. The plastic will fuel a hotter fire that will be better able to burn through wet or damp materials.

Seed Savers

Chances are, you already know that heirloom seeds and the ability to store seeds is a must for all preppers. If you are looking for cheap, compact seed savers, medicine bottles will suit your needs.  All you need to do is put seeds in a clean medicine bottle and then label the bottle with the seed type and date you stored them away.

Medicine bottles are also perfect for storing wild seeds that you happen to know will be of use. For example, during the spring months, you can always pick up dandelion and other seeds and keep them ready.

When gathering seeds, make sure that the area has not been treated with insecticide or GMO based herbicides. Even though the GMO agents are not supposed to cross over to other plant species, you never really know what scientists overlook in their quest to make money with little consideration for the long term consequences.

Needless to say, if you find a patch of several plants with seeds, you may want to harvest from a few of the healthiest plants so that you have added genetic diversity.

Essential Oil Storage

If you are serious about being healthy and living well in the post crisis world, there is a chance that you will wind up making and using essential oils. It is best to use glass medicine bottles with tight lids on them. You can also use these bottles to store away infusions that are already at therapeutic strength. While some oils may be safe to store in plastic bottles, others may corrode the plastic. When in doubt, use glass.

Candle Molds

Candles are going to be a mainstay early on in a disaster scenario and well into the future.  While tea light molds can easily be refilled, they also only give you four hours of light or heat. If you have medicine bottles, you can make taller and wider candles that will last a bit longer. When using medicine bottles as candle molds, use only enough heat to melt the wax.

Depending on the plastic used to construct the medicine bottle, it may still melt before the candle cools completely. Instead of pouring all the wax in at once and leaving it in place, pour the wax back out.  Continue to do this until a series of shells builds up, and then fill in the center of the candle.

You will also need to drill a small hole at the bottom of the medicine bottle so the wick will fit through it. Remember, since wax always shrinks, you actually need to cast candles upside down so that the wick has a suitable placement.

Once the candle is cool, it should fall right out of the mold when you tap it. If the candle does not come out, set it in ice or a refrigerator so that the wax will shrink faster and pull away from the sides and bottom of the medicine bottle.

Child Proofing

As much as you may hate tamper resistant caps on medicine bottles, they are necessary if you have children in the survival group.  Bottles that contain sharp objects, medications, fire starters, or chemicals should all be sealed with childproof caps.

Never forget that hundreds of children die each year because they get into chemicals or drugs that should have had childproof caps on them.

In a survival situation, you are already going to be focusing on many things that may take your attention away from what children are doing.  This is truly the perfect time for them to get into things that would normally be left alone.  At the very least, if child proof caps are in the way, it will give you time to find out what is going on and put a stop to it before something worse happens.

Sharp Items Disposal

Bits of sharp glass, diabetes testing lancets, and many other sharp objects can wreak havoc at the worst possible moment. An empty medicine bottle can be used to store these items until you can dispose of them properly.  Consider a situation where you are faced with the need to walk out of a major city and escape to a more rural area.

Now let’s also say that you must check your blood sugar levels on a daily basis. If you are concerned that someone may be following you, the last thing you will want to do is provide a “trash trail”.

In this case, you can keep the lancets in the medicine bottle until you reach a safe enough location.  Why get your fingers stuck when digging around in your bug out bag when placing them in a medicine bottle will prevent the problem?

Parts for Outdoor Projects

Video first seen on RealtreeOutdoors.

Ink and Dye Dauber

In the early days of a disaster and during the recovery period, you may have some unexpected need for ink and dyes.  For example, you may need to alter some of your garments so that they are harder to spot in a woods or other setting.

If you know how to make green, brown, and black dyes from local materials, then you can also use them to create crude camo prints.  To get a more precise pattern to match your area, make an ink or dye dauber from a medicine bottle.

Later on, if you decide to make your own clothes, you can also use these daubers to mark fabrics with brighter or more interesting colors.

Desk and Drawer Organizers

If you thought medicine bottles were useful for organizing your bug out bag, then you won’t be surprised to see what they can do for organizing your desk and drawers.   This includes organizing materials used for desk type weapons such as pen guns, clothespin guns, and other small weapons. BB,  tooth picks, mini darts, and several other objects will fit perfectly in medicine bottles and be easy to reach at all times.

As you go through different junk drawers and assorted catchers, you are bound to find many items that can be grouped together for survival purposes. If you think you can use these items as customized mini kits, then go ahead and label those bottles and keep them in a separate container.  No matter whether you store this kit in your car, or in a backpack, it will be right there when you need it.

During a crisis, it is entirely normal to remember that you have some item or other, but forget where you put it.  If these objects happen to be very small, the medicine bottle organizer system can be a true lifesaver.

Plastic Patch Material

Leaks in PVC pipe or other plastic containers can truly spell disaster, especially when you cannot get a hold of replacements.  In these situations, you will need to be able to patch the container and continue using it.  Some medicine bottles are  made of softer plastic and can easily be cut into useful shapes.

These softer plastics can also be melted with heat from a candle or hairdryer. To use the plastic as a patch, just set it in place and then use heat to melt the plastic and form a seal.  You can also try melting the plastic in a separate container and apply it to the container that needs fixing.  If you happen to have glue on hand, then you can also use that as a bonding agent.

When some preppers hear that medicine bottles are not airtight and water tight, they tend to overlook all the other ways these bottles can be used. If you are looking for inexpensive organizers, patch material, or ways to house mini-kits, medicine bottles are cheap, easy to obtain, and durable.

For situations where you want something a bit heavier or with other features, you can always buy dedicated containers that match some of your other concerns. At the very least, you can get started with assembling kits and move on with your prepping goals instead of putting “lack of containers” on your list of reasons to delay in certain prepping areas.


This article has been written by Carmela Tyrell for Survivopedia.

Written by

Carmela Tyrrell is committed to off gridding for survival and every day life. She is currently working on combining vertical container gardening with hydroponics. Tyrrell is also exploring ways to integrate magnetic and solar power generation methods. On any given day, her husband and six cats give thanks that she has not yet blown up the house. You can send Carmela a message at editor [at]

Latest comments
  • I can fit 3 new Bic’s in one size med-bottle. The container prevents accidental discharge from any pressure against the gas release lever that probably happens often in my pocket.
    Old “eye cleaner’s” were eye-shaped glass devices allowing your to put water in the glass, put it over your eye, and wash out sand, dust, etc. Some med bottles could serve the same purpose.

  • I have several four oz. amber bottles used for liquid medicine and cannot find the lids, and wonder if a drug store would give me lids. I save medicine bottles usually plastic, some glass. Many lids from containers will fit other bottles, but these 4oz ones have an odd size. May have to order new with lids.

  • I’ve never been sold on the idea that monofilament line and/or paperclips belong in a survival fishing kit. Monofilament line will develop memory. It will twist, curl, and rats nest on you before your first fish. Paper clips belong in survival kits for sure but not used as hooks. I’d stick with braided fishing line (low memory). I’ve been wanting to try dental floss. I know it floats but with a good size split shot/small sinker it would sink well enough plus since it floats, it could be used something like a fly line. You can get small travel size dental floss (50 yds) that would be stored easily. Add some shot and a few assorted sized hooks and your fishing for panfish. Just a thought. Good article!

  • What about the oxygen absorb packets that come in the med. bottles? Are they ok to reuse? I was thinking of keep salt and pepper packets in the large bottles.

    • Daniel,

      As a rule, I don’t like using oxygen abosrber packets because there are bacteria – often more dangerous ones – that grow in the absence of oxygen. If you are going to store salt and pepper – try sealing some into drinking straws, and then keep everything stored in a cool, dry place.