DIY Project Ideas for Repurposing Light Bulbs

DIY Ideas for Repurposing Light Bulbs

Repurposing light bulbs is definitely not something you do with kids, but for adults, if we are very careful, it can be a pretty challenging and satisfying project. The shapes of bulbs are so curvy and elegant, it’s hard to resist. We can create very cool DIY light bulb decorations, vases, or even candles, the possibilities are endless.

Used up light bulbs for DIY bulb decorations projects

There are different methods to repurpose light bulbs in DIY projects:

  • Method # 1: Gut the light bulbs, and do something inside of them. Since there are different types of light bulbs these days, there are two different techniques to gut them.
  • Method # 2: Use the bulbs without making any drastic transformations, creatively cover them and take advantage of the shape.

I have tried both, and here are my experiences and tips to make the perfect DIY light bulb decorations: 

Method # 1 - using the inside space

Gutting the classic, fat light bulbs

I have to make a warning, the chances you cut yourself during the gutting are pretty high, so take precautions, use gloves, goggles, and prepare the first aid kit, just in case. We broke about 1/3 of the bulbs that we tried to gut, but blood was not spilled.

First, you need to remove the little seal on the bottom (it’s called “terminal contact”). You can use pliers, or a knife to get underneath, and then grip it and pull it off. 

DIY Bulb decoratins Removing Terminal Contact
how to remove the inside of light bulbs DIY

Once you took the seal off, there is a tiny hole. Stick a thin screwdriver in it, and carefully start stretching it in every direction.

After it starts smashing to pieces, and as the hole gets bigger, you can use the pliers again and go deep.

You are going to break the pressure discharge tube, which will make a very light hiss sound, which is normal. 

When there is enough room in the tube, put in a thin screwdriver, carefully start pushing it to one side until it breaks from the stem.

Opening the light bulbs DIY project
use pliers to take the inside out of light bulbs

If the cleaning was okay, there will be enough space to just shake the bulb, and everything will fall out (or you can use pliers to pull them out).  

Finally, poke in with a screwdriver until everything is broken off.

inside of light bulbs taken out
empty bulb after gutting recycling light bulbs

Sawing off the cap of the thin type of light bulbs

The gutting method is “easy”, if you have the good old traditional light bulbs, with the wide stems. But repurposing light bulbs is not that easy these days, because the thin necked shape has become more popular.

So we got a rasp that has sides with 90 degrees angle (this way, it can be used as a knife), and carefully and evenly sawed it around. Once there was a nice notch around, we just had to pop it off, and pull out the whole thing in one piece.

sawing off the top of light bulbs DIY project
recycling light bulbs popping off the top
recycling light bulbs taking out the inside

When the light bulbs are empty, you can decide what to do with them. When I start repurposing light bulbs, I usually gut several bulbs, so I have enough empty ones for future projects, and I don’t have to start from the beginning next time, which is the messiest and most complicated part of the project. Pour water in them and use them as vases, or decorate the inside, or, use them as molds.

Using them as vases

The classic light bulbs still have the caps, which can have a practical purpose, or they can be covered with something, like jute strings. Afterwards, you can decide on what to do with them, use it as a vase, of fill it up with colourful sand, or something else.

Check out the end results of my DIY light bulb decorations with the classic bulbs:

recycling light bulbs as vases decorated with strings
DIY bulb decoration vase with wire stand

DIY light bulb decorations inside the bulbs

When you have the neckless glass bulb, it’s easier to just fill it with things, because it doesn’t have a neck to help with the hanging. If you put the right amount of weight inside, they will find the right balance and stay on the bottom, but it’s also good to turn them upside down and glue them on something (I used a glue gun).

The inside can be filled with different colors of sand or gravel, shells, or something totally different: a photo, or an old relic, a wire, shaped like something. This is kind of similar to the bottles that have those beautiful ships inside.

Here are my thin necked types of DIY light bulb decorations:

DIY bulb decorations with old light bulbs, sand and shells inside
diy bulb decorations with old light bulbs, filled with colored pebble
recycling light bulbs DIY Heart Gift Idea
recycling light bulbs as cute decorations

Use them as molds

Did you know light bulbs can also be used as molds? Of course, you will need to break it at the end of the project to take out the creation, but since the shape is so pretty,  I think it’s worth it.

You can make soaps, candles, seed bombs, and tons of things, mine is a simple table weight made of concrete and since I put a strong magnet in it, it also works as a paper clip magnet.

Light bulbs are not the only things that can be used as molds. I repurpose eggshells as well. Paper clip magnets can be shaped like eggs as well. There are several ideas to repurpose eggshells, which means there will be less waste in the household. 

DIY Repurposing Light bulb, concrete poured in mold, paper clip magnet

Method # 2 - taking advantage of the shape

Cover up the light bulbs

The good news is, we don’t have to have the above mentioned complicated gutting procedures. There are many DIY light bulb decorations where you just cover them up with paper, napkin, tissue paper, strings, sand, or anything you see and think is cool to decorate with. Take advantage of the shape. Want to know what else you can do with tissue paper and napkin? Check out the tutorial of the DIY fridge magnet with decoupage technique.

Blimps kill over one Americans every year, as we all know😉, still, they are pretty cute. You can spice it up, and put tiny passengers in them if you want, or use the basket as a case for a pencil sharpener, or a key or something tiny. If you cover them with string, you can also create an interesting DIY light bulb decoration.

diy recycle at home light bulbs to blimp
diy bulb decorations project vase with string from bulb recycling

In conclusion

Repurposing light bulbs is not an easy DIY project type, but I think the end results make up for it. They are perfect gifts to anyone, and also look good on the shelves in our homes.

As I promote in all my posts, I truly believe that many types of waste can be repurposed. When we avoid throwing something in the trashcan, we help the environment by decreasing the amount of waste that humanity produces every single day. 

Do you know what happens to glass after it becomes trash and recycled? Glass is one of the most common type of trash, find out what the others are.

Light bulbs are not the only things we can repurpose easily. Here are some items you can repurpose right in your home.

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