12 surprising uses for toilet paper tubes

Don't throw away those cardboard tubes when the roll is gone!

Alina Bradford
Alina Bradford has been writing how-tos, tech articles and more for almost two decades. She currently writes for CNET's Smart Home Section, MTVNews' tech section and for Live Science's reference section. Follow her on Twitter.
Alina Bradford
1 of 16 Alina Bradford/CNET

Save the tubes!

Cardboard tubes found at the center of toilet paper, wrapping paper and paper towel rolls are super handy around the house. The next time you're about to throw one in the recycling bin, stop and give it a second life with one of these tips.

Cluster of cords
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Fix a drawer of cords

If you have a drawer full of tangled cords -- like I once did -- you need this tip. First, grab a bunch of toilet paper tubes.

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Prevent cord tangles

Next, wrap a cord around your hand to coil it, and then shove it inside the tube. Make sure to label each tube with a marker. When you're done, throw the tubes in a shoebox. No more tangles!

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​Make fire starters

Whether you're starting a campfire or lighting some briquettes for a barbeque, toilet paper tube fire starters make the process much easier. 

Simply stuff a tube with dryer lint, then wrap the tube in newspaper -- or any scrap paper -- and twist the ends. 

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Light your fire starter

When you need to start a fire, light the twisted end of the paper and pile your kindling or briquettes on top of the tube.  

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DIY phone speaker

You can quickly and cheaply boost the volume of your phone with this easy toilet paper tube speaker. First, cut a long, rectangular hole in the tube that is big enough for your phone to slip into.  

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DIY phone speaker

Then, use push pins as feet to stabilize your speaker. Make sure to stick the pins on the edges of the tube, away from your phone so they don't scratch it. You can finish up by coving the tube in colorful tape, like I did, if you wish.

To use the speaker, slide the end of your phone that has the built-in speaker (usually the bottom) into the slit. Here are some more DIY speaker ideas.

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​Stand it up

Cardboard tubes can also be made into a simple phone stand. Cut a toilet paper tube in half, diagonally. Then, cut a U-shape in the center of the diagonal cut you just made. The U should be around 2 inches (5 centimeters) deep from the top of the diagonal cut. 

Your phone will slide snugly down in the U-shape.

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​Corral wrapping paper

You're going to love this tip when the holidays come around. Cut down one side of a longer tube, like one from a paper towel roll. Slip the tube around wrapping paper to keep the rolls neat and tidy. 

I use to used rubber bands until I realized they left wrinkles in the paper. The tube holds the paper so it doesn't unroll and doesn't leave any damage.

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​Pack it right

I hate packing my jewelry for a trip because the chains always get tangled. I've found a simple solution, though. Cut a slit, lengthwise, down a cardboard tube. 

Pull the chain through the slit and wrap the chain of your necklace around the tube, lengthwise. This will keep the chains tangle-free. 

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​Prevent creases

Hanging your pants up can cause creases where the fabric folds over the hanger. To solve the problem, cut a slit lengthwise in two toilet paper tubes (or one paper towel tube or half a wrapping paper tube). 

Slide the tubes onto a hanger and hang your pants like normal. The tubes will give the pants a wider area to lay on, preventing creases.

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​Stop slumping

Prevent your knee-high boots from plopping over by placing a couple paper towel or wrapping paper tubes inside each boot.

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​Make your cat happy

When your cat is so bored that she's constantly getting into trouble, it's time to give her a challenge. 

Put cat treats inside of a tube and fold the edges of both openings inward. Your cat will work to get the tube open to get the treats, expending energy that she would otherwise use to wreak havoc.

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​Get into tight spots

When you can't find your vacuum's crevice attachment, use a toilet paper tube. Slip the tube over the end of the vacuum hose and pinch the end to mimic the crevice attachment's tapered design. 

You'll need to keep your hand around the paper tube where it connects to the hose to ensure good suction while you vacuum. It isn't a long-term solution, but it's a good fix when you need a quick cleanup.

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Store plastic bags

Corral the pile of plastic shopping bags under your sink. Stuff them into a paper towel tube for use later on.

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Bonus tube

I've been talking about cardboard tubes that you find paper wrapped around, but there's one tube that shouldn't be overlooked: the chip can. With a few steps, it can become a nifty solar oven. Here are the details.

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