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10 Uses for Empty Pill Bottles

Here are 10 ways to use empty pill bottles for survival, everyday emergencies, and life on the homestead.

Part of sustainable, self-sufficient living is knowing doing everything you can with what you’ve got. Everything from toilet paper rolls to empty pill bottles have a use beyond their original intentions.

Today, we’re looking at empty pill bottles in particular.   

Have you ever stopped to wonder why most prescription medicines come in orange plastic containers? There are several reasons.

First and foremost, it is because these containers are made of No. 5 plastic, or polypropylene, which is durable and heat resistant. 

Next, they are colored orange, which protects the integrity of the medicines inside.

RX Saver explains, “Pill bottles are translucent orange to mimic amber-colored bottles that used to be used years ago. The orange coloring helps keep UV light from damaging the medications that are kept inside the bottle. Medications can be photosensitive, meaning UV light could create a photo-chemical reaction, which could damage the medication.”

While this is great for the integrity of the medications, it’s not the best for the environment.

While you can technically recycle No. 5 plastic (polypropylene), many city recycling centers do not accept it. Moreover, it takes up to 30 years to degrade. 

These are all reasons you should hold on to your empty pill bottles and find other ways to use them.

We’ve compiled a list of super-useful 10 ways to use empty pill bottles for survival, everyday emergencies, and life on the homestead.

First Things First: How to Prepare Empty Pill Bottles for Use

Before you start filling your empty pill bottles with the items listed below, you need to prepare the bottles.

Start by removing the labels so no one can get your personal information. Unfortunately, the labels are a little difficult to remove.

After removing as much of the label as possible with your fingernails, soak the bottles in hot, soapy water.

This will make it easy to remove the remainder of the label, and it will also clean the inside of the container. 

1. Mini First Aid Kit

a few q-tips

Empty pill bottles make excellent miniature first aid kits. 

They are small enough to keep in a variety of places, including car consoles, pockets, purses, and more.

Fill your bottle with essential first aid items such as Band-Aids, Q-tips, alcohol swabs, packets of antibiotic ointment, etc.

It is also wise to put a couple medications like pain killers and water purification tablets inside the empty pill bottle.

The type of plastic will keep the medicines you store safe from heat and moisture.

2. Waterproof Money Container

Even though we are moving closer and closer to a cashless society, it is always important to have cash on hand.

In the event of a major power outage, banks, ATMs, and credit card machines won’t work. You’ll have to pay for goods in cash.

Empty pill bottles work well as money containers. Roll up your cash and place it safely inside.

They also work well for storing quarters, so they don’t get lost in car seats or the bottom of bags. 

3. Mini Duct Tape

a roll of duct tape

Duct tape is a must-have for everyone – but especially for survivalists.

Some call it the MacGyver of all survival gear. The problem is, most people don’t want to walk around with a giant roll everywhere they go.

Have some empty pill bottles? Problem solved!

Simply take a broken pencil (its height should be shorter than the closed pill bottle) and start rolling duct tape around it. Just make sure you stop rolling before it gets too thick.

This will make a much smaller roll of duct tape that you can place inside the empty pill bottle, which allows you to have duct tape on the go. 

You can also use the empty pill bottle like the broken pencil to make a smaller roll of duct tape. This option will also give you the center for storing items.

4. Seed Storage

The prepping household always needs more seeds! Get out your empty pill bottles if you hope to save some of the seeds from this year’s harvest.

Clean empty pill bottles work great for storing seeds because they protect against moisture. Plus, they are easy to label and organize.

Place your seed-filled empty pill bottles in the refrigerator for the most effective storage solution.

5. Mini Sewing Kit

A sewing needle, sewing thread, and buttons

You never know when you will need to sew on a button, repair a seam, or mend a tarp.

That’s why it is wise to always have a sewing kit on hand.

Fortunately, you don’t need many sewing items to get the job done. All you need will fit inside an empty pill bottle.

Place a spool of thread inside the empty pill bottle and poke a small hole in the lid. Now, you have an easy pull-through for your thread.

Store needles, pins, additional spools of thread, buttons, and safety pins inside.  

These are much more durable miniature sewing kits than the ones you buy in the travel aisle at the grocery store.

6. Mini Survival Kit

Take a few minutes today to assemble the supplies necessary to make mini survival kits in empty plastic bottles and store them strategically.

Here is a list of items to place in your mini survival kit:

  • Small wooden matches
  • 2 safety pins
  • Neosporin ointment (put Neosporin inside a plastic straw and seal the ends)
  • 2 Advil
  • Band-Aids
  • 1 razor blade
  • 1 fishing hook
  • 1 fishing weight
  • Aluminum foil (folded small and tight – for catching water)
  • Cotton balls
  • Lighter
  • Needle and thread

7. Fire-Starter Kit

a roaring camp fire

An empty pill bottle is a waterproof, closed container that works well to keep fire starters dry until they are needed.

Fill empty pill bottles with matches, lighters, and the strike board from a box of matches. 

In addition to working as a fire starter receptacle, you can also turn an empty pill bottle into a fire starter itself.


  • 100% cotton balls
  • A sandwich bag
  • Empty pill bottles
  • Petroleum jelly 

How to Create a Fire Starter Using an Empty Pill Bottle

  1. Make sure the bottle is completely empty and clean.
  2. Gather supplies.
  3. Tear cotton balls into much smaller pieces.
  4. Place petroleum jelly into a sandwich bag.
  5. Fill the bag with the small pieces of cotton balls. 
  6. Seal the sandwich bag.
  7. Knead the contents to make sure the cotton ball pieces are covered in petroleum jelly.
  8. Transfer the mixture to the empty pill bottles.

Now you have great, long-lasting fire tinder!

8. Hide-a-Key

An empty pill bottle is an ideal place to store things you don’t want others to find. For example, most people won’t think a key is hidden inside a pill bottle.

While you can just store keys in empty pill bottles, you can take it a step further by turning it into a hide-a-key you can bury.

We’ve all seen the fake rock hide-a-key tools. While these are better than nothing, thieves know they exist.

Instead of purchasing new materials, DIY a hide-a-key using an empty pill bottle, a natural rock, and super glue.

Simply super glue the lid of the pill bottle to the bottom of the rock. Then, dig a small hole and insert the sealed pill bottle rock into the ground.

9. Liquid Toiletries for Travel

Empty pill bottles make great travel-sized containers for toiletries – even liquids! Fill the clean, empty bottles with shampoo, conditioner, and lotion.

10. Mini Fishing Kit

fishing hooks and fishing line

You never know when a disaster will strike and you will need to find food. 

A mini fishing kit in an empty pill bottle will save the day.

Instructables suggests, “Fill a prescription bottle with a couple of hooks, a weight or two, a length of fishing line and a button. When you want to use the gear, […] thread the button on the fishing line, push the button into the prescription bottle and put the cap on the bottle with the button inside and the fishing line threaded into the bottle and back out, under the cap. You can use the bottle as a float to keep your hook at the desired depth.”

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