Upcycling for Preppers: Coat Hangers

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There must be 101 ways we can use coat hangers, all over the house, yard, and vehicle. For preppers who can source them for free, they can be a particular goldmine. They’re something to keep an eye out for, both now and in any “later” circumstances.

In many cases we can use them as-is, or pulled with just our hands. To get the most out of them, though, it doesn’t require anything special – just a pair of pliers, and sometimes some decent cutters.

As-Is or Close To It

Hangers can help us out all over with minimal hacks and mods. We can use them for air drying herbs in bundles just as they are, or we can use homemade loops or S-hooks (from other hangers) or things like soda pop tops to create a ladder of hangers for air-drying produce.

Just like we can pinch and twist extra hoops for a hanger to hold gloves, hats, shoes, slippers, or other things in our closets or so they can dry effectively, we can use those hooks to support other hangers and racks for air drying foods instead.

Those little pinches and quick tweaks are handy all on their own, though. Particularly in camping situations or while we’re dealing with all the expenses and chaos of relocating – now or in a disaster – they can save money and make life easier.

Hangers will support things like toilet paper rolls, or suspend our camping or power outage lights, hold clothes or towels more securely for outdoor showers and river baths, and hook to the back of a bag to dry socks or underwear and suspend any mini solar charger we might be toting.

Squeezed tight and quickly bent (like we would cleaning out air ducts, dusting/sweeping under appliances, or fishing something out from behind bookcases, beds and appliances) or with a little more work in straightening and bending, wire hangers can also help keep lightweight cord and threads handy, indoors and out.

The same mechanisms work for keeping electrical cords we’re running temporarily off the ground and out of tripping/clothes lining range for us (and our animals) or, with some of the sturdier hangers in concentration, to run overhead irrigation lines.

Using two pliers at once makes it faster and easier to get bends in, and to control our corners and shapes, but a lot of times, we can manage just with our hands – even old, abused hands – like when we want to pull the loop out and give the hook a quick bend so we can suspend a small trash bag.

The loop frames are also handy combined with a shopping bag that lets us slip one handle over the hook and tie off the other for more security. The resulting bag can be used for campsite wastes, light paper trash in a vehicle, or hung from a belt, garden cart, tree limb, or bucket for harvesting.

The usefulness extends to the bedroom and kitchen, where they can be used to hold tablets or suspend phones for private viewing and listening, or so we can glance at cookbooks or tablets/phones for recipes or while our hands are busy.

The ability to prop up books and devices extends further yet, well beyond “just” entertainment. Being able to hang or prop something, and quickly tweak angles makes it hugely convenient when we’re following step-by-step DIY instructions for everything from vehicle maintenance to learning knots, assembling sheds or hoops outside, or scrolling through the pictures we took as we disassembled something so we can get it back together.

Cooking Aids

Hangers can be super helpful in the kitchen in all kinds of way. Simply pulling a hanger into a loop can help hold stove wood we’re splitting, limiting the bending and reducing the time cutting takes. That loop can also be used to create a Swedish fire log.

With a little more twisting and bending, we can use it to create toast racks, for the actual process of toasting over the stove or even in the oven, or holding that toast (or waffles) upright so it stays nice and crunchy – which can be nice for even moderate-sized families but is especially handy if we’re looking at big families or groups of even 8-10+.

We can also bend them into canning racks, cooling and draining racks, and use them to make or suspend grill racks.

Fence & Cage Repair

Wire coat hangers can work to re-tighten fencing, add a top rail to preexisting fencing, and patch small holes and cuts in fences and cages. Hangers can also be used to fill in gaps where tree roots have bent wire fencing upward, and interwoven or wiggled down into the earth to discourage diggers, whether they’re escapees or intruders.

There’s a nice video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48u308CAFHs that demos repairing wire fences using a claw hammer – not applicable to coat hangers exactly, but it’s a handy hack that limits the tools you’re carrying around and it can be mod’ed for tightening and splicing other types of fencing as well.

Disassembled Wire

Once we enter the realm of actually taking our hangers apart, the world really has no limits. Indoors and out, we can use them for everything from twisting our own baskets to using a chair leg as a frame and twisting the wire into a spiral we’ll fill with seed, leaves or hay to create feeders and enrichment items for birds, rabbits, goats and sheep.

We can also use those feeders to cultivate wild animals like squirrels, take tallies of various small game and bird populations, and help keep bug-eating birds near our properties.

Covered with garden mesh or old socks we add holes to, the loop and box-cage type feeders can be used for small, inexpensive seed like millet and sunflowers, increasing further the animals we can feed from them.

Straightening and re-bending wire also lets us assemble beds for indoors, outdoors, and barn cats, small dogs or pups, and rabbits, using a wide variety of cloth covers and bases depending on need and ability.

The same basic frames can be used in the garden, to hold plastic for cloches or mesh/net to protect crops from insects and birds. Wire hangers can be cut down and quickly bent into the pegs we need to hold down those crop covers or for longer hoops.

We can also turn hangers into trellises a number of ways. For light vines like peas and some flowers, we need very little added. For others, the wire gets combined with sturdier materials to form a heavy-duty cage our plants can climb.

Coat hangers can also be used to help reduce the mouse and rat population (and sometimes other pests), in conjunction with a stick or plank, a can or toilet paper roll, and a slick-sided bucket or tote.

Hooks & Holders

Anytime we’re looking for an S hook or similar, a coat hanger can fill that role with a couple quick snips and twists. That makes it super handy in expanding and organizing our storage in closets and pantries, in the shop or garage, or in the garden shed, or even just throwing coat or towel holders over the back of doors.

We can also use some pliers and small forms (usually available in our kitchen utensil drawers/pots) to turn them into oversized clothespins that can be handy for laundry or for keeping items together.

Knotless gear ties are also more complicated to make, but they’re super handy to have around, especially in cold and wet weather when cordage gets tough to handle and inclined to shrink and harden into the knot we previously tied.

Handy Hangers

Prepping comes with a lot of costs. Anytime we can avoid spending, it adds a little to the preparedness budget. The ability to source them for free or pennies makes hangers pretty big for preppers all on its own.

However, the ability to throw a few in the back of a car, keep a couple somewhere at work, stretch a couple out to include in a bag, and have them compactly under a bed or in a shed and then use them all over, just for ease or for emergency repairs and replacements, is even bigger.

Even bigger still, though, is the make-do mentality re-purposing and upcycling can encourage. Once we start on the path to creativity, we start becoming more adaptable all over. 

Something like a wire hanger that has so many ways we can use them encourages that mentality. Since they’re free or inexpensive and easy to work with, they’re also confidence builders for people who aren’t quite DIY’ers yet.

There’s not much in life that up-cycles and re-purposes in as many ways as a humble wire hanger, or that’s so easy to work with. The sky really is the limit.

We can use them for welding, for preventing pests and increasing the times and areas where we produce food and herbs, and for quick-fix repairs to vehicles from supporting mufflers and bumpers to holding down trunks and hoods or even repairing power windows. They can replace a lost belt keeper or tent/garden pegs, turn regular ol’ bottles and emptied cans into well buckets and lanterns, and make camping and daily kitchen work a bit easier and tidy. The list just goes on and on.

Snag some up, get started today, and keep some stashed (everywhere) for times we need a “now” fix without trips to the store.

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Serious Jon
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Serious Jon

Excellent article – I absolutely love this. Way back in 1983 when I was in basic training one of my drill sergeants dropped a pile of hangers and showed us how to create a simple but incredibly effective gun cleaning tool. While we were cleaning he showed us how to create about a dozen little camp tricks with hangers – some of the ones you mentioned. More articles like this please and Ann, do I see a potential book here? Seriously, a book with about 100 or so of the most useful basic projects with instructions would sell to crafters… Read more »

R. Ann
Guest

Jon,
Thanks for the compliment. I’ll leave the books to others for now. (Although, some of my articles are pretty wordy…)
🙂
Take care!
-RA