Monday, April 22, 2013

Make // Milk Jug Votives

Since today is Earth Day, I thought I'd dig into our recycle bin and come up with an upcycle project. 

Most upcycle projects that I see are glass-- wine bottles, jars, even beer bottles. Not too many pretty projects with plastic milk gallon jugs though. I wonder why?  ;)  I guess they aren't the most exciting in their original form, but with their vellum-like quality, I thought they would be perfect for a votive project.

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Milk Jug (Polyethylene) Votives

Since I want to use these in our backyard this summer, I decided to make them as water-resistant as possible while also keeping it an easy DIY. After trying several adhesives, I'm happiest with this clear adhesive sealant. It is easy to work with (the texture is thick enough to adhere the pieces together without using clamps) and it also dries relatively quickly... although not as quickly as hot glue.

Why I didn't use a hot glue gun... Unfortunately hot glue does not adhere well to polyethylene (the material that milk jugs are made from) and it is not water resistant. If you do want to use a hot glue gun, you'll have paint the polyethylene (clear spray paint or acrylic paints) or rough it up with sand paper. Even with that, the bond will not be as strong.

If you don't have any milk jugs on-hand or don't feel like an upcycle project, you can also purchase polyethylene plastic sheets. They vary in thickness though and, since I have never used them before, I can't vouch for their performance.

materials needed:
clean milk jug (once you cut away the bottom and handle, one jug should make one votive)
scrap paper for template
cheap scissors (to cut the milk jug)
clear silicone adhesive sealant (I used this one)
battery-powered votive lights
acrylic paint (optional)  i used this multi purpose paint in gold since it adheres well to many surfaces. i also used this glitter paint to add some dimension.

The first step is to make a template for your petals. I cut-out eight (small) 2.25-inch petals, six (medium) 3-inch petals and 6 (large) 4-inch petals. There aren't any set rules for this. I wanted a lotus-like votive so I made my medium and large petals wide.

Cut out your petals from the milk jug as well as a round piece for the center. The round piece should be about the same size as your votive. You obviously don't want to use your best scissors for this project. I used a cheap pair and it worked fine.

Bend the end of your petals. Luckily polyethylene is very flexible and doesn't crease (at least my jugs from Trader Joe's don't). You can later add more "bend" to your petals when the project is complete.

Now it's time to glue everything together. Start with the circle and adhere the smallest petals first. You can wait a bit for the sealant to dry a little... or if you're impatient like me, you'll just plow ahead.

I then attached the medium-sized petals, followed by the large petals. I perched it upside-down on a acrylic paint bottle to dry. Let the sealant dry overnight. It will be clear when dry.

 During the day...

And at night...

Ready to add some ambiance to our back yard...


p.s. Here's a similar milk jug tutorial that you might like!

sharing with...

craftberry bush

homeworkThe Shabby Nest


  1. So pretty and such a clever project! The gold one is really gorgeous! Pinned it! Thanks for an easy to follow tutorial as well!

  2. Saw these at the linkup over at homework and just love them! They are so elegant. Would love to have you stop by my place on Friday and link up at my weekly link party.

  3. Just to give some options, if you lay tin foil over the plastic and then iron them you can add some texture to the petals OR use scrap cotton fabric and an iron to warm the plastic slightly and then bend the petals to add some extra curve .

    1. Great ideas Jessica! I'm still playing around with the polyethlene and will have to try the iron. Have a wonderful weekend.

  4. So pretty!! I love that they are so simple. Stopping by from the Shabby Nest.

    Angela Says

  5. So creative and pretty! I made ghosts out of milk jugs before but this is something you could use other than just one season a year ;) I listed this post in my Share Saturday #spreadbloggylove today. If you want to check it out it's here:

    1. Aah.... ghosts! Will have to remember that for Halloween. Thanks for stopping by :)

  6. are these flame-less only? and do they float?

    1. Since all plastics are flammable, I wouldn't recommend real candles. They do float (tried mine in the pool), but I would cut a bowl like piece and attach it to the base to make sure that water stays out. I wouldn't recommend putting them in water unless you have battery powered waterproof tea lights-- did a google search... they exist!

  7. This is such a lovely project and it looks great both during the day and at night.

    1. Thank you Katja. I hope you are having a wonderful weekend!

  8. Love this idea me & the little ones rare going to have do much fun

  9. Great pattern! I linked to you from a magic explosion box project I made:



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