20 Wine Cork Uses

25 Reuses For Natural Wine Corks. Photo © Liesl Clark

Wine corks have a natural mystique. There’s something attractive about those stoppers of cork once they’re released from a bottle of fine wine. And when you’ve accumulated a few, cork projects come to mind. One of the first DIY projects I made for my first home was a cork board out of a frame of recycled old painted wood found at the dump in Aspen, Colorado. It was such a thing of beauty, I made several of them, collecting corks from local restaurants, and I sold them to a shabby chic antique barn.

Before I start in with this list, I feel compelled to bring attention to the fact that cork is a renewable recyclable material. Recycling your cork through Recork or Cork Forest will keep your cork out of the landfill and result in cork flooring and other cool products made of cork like shoes. Each organization can point you to your nearest recycler or you can take corks to a bin at Whole Foods Markets since they have a partnership with Cork ReHarvest.

The cork forests of Portugal are one of the oldest forms of sustainable agroforestry in the world. They’ve been in production since the 13th century and harvesting of the cork does not require cutting down the tree. Buying wines that use natural instead of plastic corks helps sustain these forests and their biodiverse habitats that need continued protection. But how do you know which wines have natural corks? There’s now a web app for that!  Put out by Recork, I love this app called CorkWatch. I did a search for my favorite local winery, Eleven Winery, and found that all of their wines are corked with natural cork. Kendall-Jackson by contrast has a Reserve chardonnay in natural cork and their less expensive everyday chardonnay in plastic.

Although there’s risk of getting a wine with cork taint if you sample a natural cork wine, I still prefer purchasing a plastic-free wine. We know plastics leach BPA into liquids and there is good evidence showing that the plastic corks are not allowing wines to mature properly. Recork’s CorkWatch is helping me reduce my plastic footprint. Furthermore, Cork Forest Conservation Alliance has a method of identification on the bottles themselves which some wineries are using: If you see an acorn on the bottle it means the cork is natural.

If you have accumulated some plastic corks, apparently the industry says you can recycle them. Of course our recycler won’t take them. I couldn’t find any information whether Seattle takes them and Earth911 had zero results for a recycler in our region. Hmmm. I think I’ll stick with traditional cork.

Ok, so you want to do something cool with your saved natural corks rather than recycle them? Here are a few ideas.

1) Wine Cork Cork Board: It’s as simple as gluing the corks against particle board with a frame around it. I use wood glue.

2) Wine Cork Pot Grippers: I squeeze them inside the handles of my cookware so I can pick up the pot tops when they’re hot without the need of a pot holder. Corks don’t conduct heat so these cork handles have become a staple in our kitchen.

cork potgrippers

3) Cork Stamps: If you’re good with an exacto knife, try carving some stamps.

4) Bulletin Bar: Line up your corks and glue them to a yardstick. This makes a yard-long bar for pinning things like your children’s art.

5) Cork Placemat: With 50 corks, a utility knife, and a hot glue gun you’ll have a cork placemat in no time (Okay, it’ll take some time.)

6) Cork Plant Labels: Cork looks natural in the garden labelled with the names of your veggies and herbs you’ve planted.

7) Furniture Leg & Floor Protector: Little cork disks make great furniture leg pads to protect your wood floors from scratches.

8) Wine Cork Key Chains: They might keep your keys afloat!

9) Cork Centerpiece: If you have a large glass bowl and a tea light you can make a pretty cork centerpiece.

10) Cork Trivet: Cork is a great material for making a trivet.

11) Cork Backsplash: If you have a wet bar, a cork backsplash would look great.

12) Cork Ornaments: Corks and beads make pretty Christmas ornaments.

13) Wine Cork Wine Coasters: They might be a bit wobbly for your wine glass but the do look cool.

14) Cork Wreath: Even wreaths can be made from wine corks. Next thing you know, you’ll be able to make a planter out of wine corks.

15) Wine Cork Bird House: This video shows you how to do it. Doesn’t look tough.

16) Wine Cork Place Card Holder: These aren’t difficult to make and they leave a great impression.

17) Wine Cork Curtain: Alas, I can’t find a decent tutorial, but imagine stringing corks and beads together to create a 60’s-ish curtain of cork-strings in your doorway.

18) Wine Cork Base Board: This Old House shows you how to make a base board runner made of wine corks.

19) Wine Cork Dog Leash: Really! And it’s not hard to make.

20) Plant Pot Moisture Absorbers: This one is 2 ideas in 1. You can place corks in the bottom of your large pots to reduce the amount of potting soil you need to put in while providing drainage. But you can also grind up some corks in your vitamix and put the bits in your soil to help hold moisture on hot days.

DIY Plastic Bag Dryer

Here’s an admission: We wash and dry all of our used plastic bags and then reuse them. Since the polyethylene in our bags will still be here in 2516, it’s hard for me to think of these things as a single-use product. Since plastic bags will still be here, but in tiny micro-pieces out in our environment, in 500 years, why not use them as long as we can? With a little water and soap, they’re ridiculously easy to clean. The drying of plastic bags just takes some thought.

My mother uses her refrigerator magnets and then sticks her bags to her fridge for drying. I think it makes her fridge look like the bag monsters we see at environmental events. Other folks just stick them onto the water faucet for drying, or on a nearby plant (the bag serves to then water the plant, yo!)

Well, I like to have a little drying station right near the sink where the bags can be hung easily. To that end, my sister gave me a wooden Gaiam plastic bag dryer a few years ago and this thing is now an everyday-used staple in our kitchen.

Gaiam Bag Dryer, Photo © Liesl Clark

Gaiam Bag Dryer on My Sill © Liesl Clark

But here’s the thing: You can make your own from items you have in your house right now. Take a toothbrush holder (or if you don’t have one of those, just use a mason jar) and stuff some pebbles into it. Then poke chopsticks through the toothbrush holder holes and lodge them into the pebbles to set them firmly apart. If you’re using a mason jar, drill some chopstick-width holes into the top and insert chopsticks. Place your bag-holder by your sink and wash, hang, and reuse your plastic  bags with glee!


DIY Bag Dryer © Liesl Clark

I’ve used a pretty vase, too, for this purpose as well, making sure I have a method for firmly setting the chopsticks in place. If you have some pretty sticks to use, like curly willow, rather than chopsticks, you can make an artistic-looking bag dryer for your sink that looks beautiful at all times. Jewelry trees are also cool to use. Have fun with it, because the end game is to create a space for drying plastic bags, like Ziplocs, so you never have to buy them again. We haven’t bought any in about 10 years and although we mostly use glass these days, the reusable bags come in handy for all kinds of projects the kids have at school or at home for holding things.

I posted a link to this article on my Facebook page and, what do you know, so many of my friends are willing to admit they, too, wash their plastic bags and dry them. There were so many different ways of drying the bags, I had to share them here. Check this out:

Anahata: I use, wash, dry and reuse. To dry I just slip half of a clean dishtowel into the bag and fold the other half over the outside. Then, I roll it up and the majority of the surface moisture is absorbed in the towel.

David: Liesl, bit mundane – decline plastic bags when offered but stuff used bags into my back pocket for picking up dog shit later [not sure about the energy cost to me or the planet of washing and drying] the trash hereabouts is incinerated and turned into heat and, as far as I know, toxin-free compost.

Jake: We’ve been doing this for years – not a problem at all! Yes, our cleanliness police love to think it’s dangerous, but like you said, no different than washing and reusing a pan or a plate. We wash lightly – depending on what was in it – sometimes just a rinse, and then hang on a wooden drier like in your pic. We also reuse other bags from food items, so rarely if ever need to buy plastic bags, etc. Frighteningly, I still have a tube of Saran wrap in our drawer from college – it’s now become a bit of a pride point. Thanks for sharing and encouraging us all to be a bit more friendly to the planet, and to ourselves!…Such simple things that make a big difference if everyone does it!

Melissa: I have seen too much plastic in the ocean, during dives, to be able to stay unaware. I source food not packaged in plastic to the best of my ability and if we do end up with plastic packaging, it had to be reusable if not recyclable. Plastic zip bags of hemp hearts or wild rice, for example, get rinsed and just turned over atop of utensils in their drying basket beside the sink where the drip dry for reuse. They tend to hold up significantly better than the zip lock type bags that are made with the intention of being used once and then tossed (shudder).

Jeanne: I have always washed them out with sudsy water, rinse, then I hang upside down on a wooden spatula smile emoticon I was lucky to grow up with resourceful Scot father. We didn’t use paper towel much either, and when we did, it also hung on the wooden spatula! So I’ve been doing this my whole life. I applaud all you do and you inspire!!!

Lissa: I used to use clothespins to pin them to a thin curtain rod in my kitchen window, but there was never enough room for all of the bags. Now we use a baby bottle drying rack.

Of course I got the baby bottle drying rack from my Buy Nothing group.

Ann: I put a pair of tongs in them and put them on the dish drainer, facing up. They dry out nicely that way.

Robynn: We wash them and then air dry on a mitten rack. I found it yeears ago in some crazy catalog and thought is would be perfect for bags. It makes me crazy to have them dry on the cooking utensils since they always seem to be in the way. We can get 10 bags (or 5 pairs of mittens!) on the rack!

Caroline: I dry them on slotted spoons, single chopsticks of varius sizes (missing their mates), I loved drying them on a mitten wrack as Robynn mentined but said wrack is in use for drying doggie raincoats & such nowadays.

Robynn: I dry the doggie rain coats & dog towels on a quilt racks that seem to pop up at the Salvation Army iwth increasing frequency. Home carpenters made some great sturdy racks to hold those heavy handmade quilts – but now no one seems to put (have?) quilts on them any more! smile emoticon

Caroline: I also use a large glass vase I got from Value Village for 50 cents years ago. I use branches that fall from trees, ut them in the vase & use them to dry plastic bags.

Tammy: yup, turn inside out, wash and they stay up alone, drying on the counter. dont buy anything ,just turn inside out and wash” For soups and messy stuff, ziplock has some great containers

Sandie: I put mine over mason jars and let them dry out or use a large wooden spoon in a jar for the larger bags.

Deidra: I’ve been looking into the fabric/oil cloth type that are dishwasher safe. My boys tend to not save the plastic ones no matter how much I cringe.
Shanda: I reuse mine over and over. I rarely wash them, though. If it’s merely a little moisture from the produce, I just dry them on the fridge with magnets. I only wash if the produce goes bad, or if the bags contained meat.

Stephanie: We use our wine rack as a bag dryer.

Stephanie Browne's photo.


What does your bag-drying rig look like?