The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

September 24, 2009

A Tale of Two Plastic Laundry Baskets

I received the coolest email this morning from Fake Plastic Fish reader Ellen Simpson, who was inspired by this blog to figure out a way to repair her old plastic laundry basket instead of trashing it and buying a new one. She, in turn, inspired me to fix my own broken plastic laundry basket this morning. Here then, are the tales of two baskets, complete with pictures. First, Ellen’s:

from: Simpson, Ellen
to Beth Terry
date Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 7:23 AM
subject Laundry basket repair

Hi Beth,

I’m a big fan of your blog, and I wanted to let you know you inspired me to do a little green repair this past week. I have a plastic laundry basket that my husband and I have used for years. It’s cracking in a few places, and a few weeks ago one of the handles broke off completely.

My first inclination was to throw it away and get a new one. But then I thought, what would Beth (and her dad) do? I decided to try to repair the handle. Gluing the old handle back on wouldn’t work, because it would be too weak to hold a load of laundry. I thought that I might be able to drill holes on each side of where the handle had been, and insert a new handle made of a wooden dowel or something similar. I didn’t want to buy new materials to make this fix, though.

Well, Tuesday is trash day in our neighborhood. While I was walking home from the train station, I saw an old umbrella sticking out of a trash can. I snagged the umbrella and brought it home. I used a hacksaw to cut off a portion of the metal rod, then I drilled holes in the laundry basket where the handle used to be. By bending the basket I was able to insert the rod segment, and then when the basket went back to its usual shape, the rod was securely held in by plastic brackets (part of the original basket design) that prevent it from sliding out.

I’ve attached a picture of the repaired basket. I’m so happy with it and I wanted to thank you for providing inspiration for little and big changes your readers are making. Thanks Beth!

Ellen Simpson

How many others of us have broken plastic laundry baskets in our homes? And I wonder how many broken plastic laundry baskets are sitting in landfills. Plastic isn’t easy to fix. Or is it? Inspired by Ellen’s story, I looked at my own laundry basket and figured out a way to fix it too.

The break in my basket is in the corner:

Instead of an old umbrella, I used a piece of wire hanger to fix mine. I drilled holes through the ribs under the rim to slide the hanger through and then twisted it with pliers to keep it in place:

It works!

Now, what can I do about the hole in the bottom where the plastic melted onto a floor heating grate in our old house?

Do you have any simple fix-it stories to share? You never know whom you might inspire!

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wendy jane austin
6 years ago

I have the washing basket dilemma to .. now off to repair

7 years ago

Another repair uses drilled holes and a zip tie:

7 years ago

A hot glue gun and some fiberboard would fix your Holy laundry basket.. and the glue gun would also be appropriate for the wicker.. I’ve turned to using cloth bags as liners in mine. Recently faced the prospect of having to dispose of a few because of heat warping my thinner baskets.. Instead I threw the baskets in my dryer to heat them just enough to make them pliable.. Once in a decent shape from that and a little moderate heat gun use, I soaked them in cold water to make them retain that shape…

12 years ago

Ellen and Beth, those are clever fixes to common problems! Great reuse!

I have had a wicker clothes basket for almost 30 years, but it is finally drying out enough that the strands or reeds or whatever they are called are starting to break. Wish there was an easy fix for them. Any ideas out there?

I love the sound wicker baskets make as the strands rub against each other when you carry the basket. Plus cats LOVE wicker too, with or without clothes in the basket.

Amanda Mulvaney
4 years ago
Reply to  Sherry

You could try giving the wicker some love with a little oil rubbed into it for rehydration! A quick Google search turned up suggestions like using Murphy’s oil soap, boiled linseed oil, or lemon oil!

13 years ago

Great idea! As for your broken basket, I would drill small holes around the perimeter and weave strong nylon string or fishing line through it (think along the lines of darning a sock). that would keep anything small from falling through yet wouldn’t cause any bumps for delicate clothes to catch on.

Cousin Yellowstone
13 years ago

I applaud Ellen’s and your ingenuity.

When I needed a new laundry basket, I repurposed a big bucket that was once the packaging for kitty litter. I never buy such buckets, but a neighbors does, and the buckets get left in our shared recycling bin. The recycling contractor accepts only bottles, not plastic in any other shape, so I feel no guilt about taking the buckets out of the recycling bin and using them for laundry or other purposes.

One nice thing about kitty litter buckets is that they’re good for soaking clothes before washing them. Since I retrieved the bucket from the recycling bin, there have been no complaints about me leaving clothes to soak in the bathroom sink.

13 years ago

I hate plastic laundry baskets – I have been a big fan of the nylon mesh with the metal flat wire frame sort of baskets that fold down like those sun shades for cars. You can use them forever and ever and they make really excellent cat toys ("I'm in the basket, nobody can see me!" "I'm outside the basket, he'll never see me pouncing… RAWWR!")

Btw, I did that melt-on-the-floor-heater trick with an Electrolux vacuum once… vacuuming, phone rang, shut off vacuum – forgot where it was sitting… yuck. Only do that once!

13 years ago

We've got an old laundry basket that has been taped beyond recognition. I swear on a good roll of packing tape!

13 years ago

Rather than patch just the hole, it might be simpler to glue down a new bottom. That would also avoid the lumps and "catchiness" of screws. I was thinking something like an old flexible cutting board or a piece from a retired storage bin. Failing that, a piece of corrugated cardboard covered with plastic (old shower curtain or tarp, packaging from a blanket?) might do fine. Fixing things is very satisfying, even beyond the green (environmental and financial) benefits!

Terry Mehlman
13 years ago

I was thinking that baskets are generally made either of plastic or woven from some natural material — small sticks or grasses. I wonder if you could repair the hole in the bottom of your basket by drilling small holes on each side and weaving in a new piece made from natural materials. I realize this might (or might not) be in your current skill set but it might be valuable to learn. In this way, you could eventually re-do the entire basket.

Condo Blues
14 years ago

I agree with everyone who suggested some sort of patch for your basket.

Last weekend I saved my husband's bedside lamp by replacing the socket that holds the bulb because the pull chain came off and he couldn't repair it. "Let me try" I said and had the socket apart in no time and determined that I needed a new part. Bought it, installed it, saved a lamp from the landfill and impressed the heck out of my husband. I'm sooo thankful that my middle school made girls take shop class & make pop can lamps. :)

14 years ago

I don't have any tips, but I'm definitely making more of an effort to repair my existing household items and clothing these days. I really think 'repair' should be the 4th R, since it's so important. If we keep the stuff we've got we're making the greenest choice possible.

Hooray for laundry basket repairers!

14 years ago

Ok Beth Here I is with your plastic free fixit. Drill some small holes- around the hole, Then with Michael's Cordless Drill, screw some 3/4" drywall screws to a piece of ply wood. I would put ply wood in side the basket. OR leave the basket out for soots to eat for care free disposal! (j/k soots- don't nom plastic!)

14 years ago

I second including your kitties in all future photos.

(oh, and uh, nice fixing of teh laundry baskets…)

14 years ago

This one, especially, is a remarkable use of old plastic ;-)

14 years ago

i hrt this post. not sure why.

as for fixing your basket… duct tape!!! JK

I can't think of a fix it story right now…but this definitely warrants a vist to this site dedicated to just that sort of thing – if not in the same spirit:

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Anonymous, it really is melted! It happened before the plastic-loving cats ever came to live with us. We had one heating device in the house… a furnace in the floor with a metal grate over it. And of course one of us set the basket down on that grate and then forgot about it when the heat came on.

We've been using the basket as is with the hole in the bottom ever since. So far, nothing has fallen out.

Oh, and the kitties were VERY interested in my project this morning. Sorry I didn't include them in the photo.

14 years ago

Did you really accidentally melt the basket? It looks suspiciously like your plastic-loving cats gnawed a hole in it! And why aren't they in the pictures? Most cats love lounging on laundry.

Anarres Natural Health
14 years ago

Dear Beth,

I'd go with drilling little holes around the hole, then attaching a plate of plastic with matching holes, then weaving wire or string through to attach it.

Nice repair jobs!

Love & RRRevolution, Tracey

Lisa Sharp
14 years ago

Could you glue something to the hole? Cardboard if you don't put wet clothes in the basket, a piece of plastic you still have laying around, fabric?

14 years ago

Thanks for the ideas. I have a laundry basket with a similar break that I've been trying to figure out how to repair. Right now it lives on the floor collecting dirty laundry but can no longer be carried to the laundry room or the clothes' line.