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6 Ways to Repurpose an Old Swim Cap

Speedo athlete in a white swim cap.

Swim caps are the keychains and branded pens of the swimmer's world. Every event you attend provides you with yet another swim cap – some are one-time uses, some are low-quality, and some are just ugly. If you swim on a team, with a club, or in events like triathlons, you're probably up to your neck in freebie caps. Even if you've managed to avoid a huge cap collection, odds are you've got plenty of ripped caps as well. And, if you're like us, it makes you heartsick to throw all that material straight into the trash. To reduce waste, try these 6 recycling solutions for torn and unwanted swim caps.

1. Keep Grandma's Colored Hair Fabulous

If you have a latex cap or a silicone cap that still has an unbroken bottom edge, you can simply cut the top portion off, leaving 1-2" of the bottom strip. The end result should look something like a big rubber band. This circular band is highly useful for anyone trying to keep chlorine water off their hair. When worn underneath another, intact cap, it provides a better gripping surface than skin, thereby sealing tighter against the head. The band should be worn in the same position as it would be if the rest of the cap was still attached (across the forehead and around to the nape of the neck).

2. Highlight Your Hair

If your cap is just beginning to wear thin in a few places, make the most of the imminent holes. Cut holes in the cap where you'd like to have sections of highlighted hair. When you're ready to do the deed, wear the cap as normal and slide sections of your hair through. The hair under the cap will remain protected from dye splatter, while the exposed portions will soak up the dye. You can also use this method for sprays like Sun-In as well. This is best done with a cap made from non-permeable material, rather than a Lycra swim cap.

3. Hold Plants Upright

For caps that are really on the outs, cut them into strips and use them to tie plants to a stake. We don't recommend using rubber or latex strips for outdoor plants because they are made from natural materials and will wear out quickly. However, Lycra and silicone strips are perfect for this recycling project – they hold up to outdoor weather conditions and won't damage your plant. (Just don't tie them too tightly – plants send nutrients through their stems, so you don't want to disrupt that process.)

4. Strain Fruits and Veggies

Avid campers and foragers: rejoice! A cap that's intact, but unwanted for swimming makes a perfect camping colander. Because it is lightweight and can be folded up, it's ideal for backpackers and minimalist hikers. Use a hole punch (or a pen) to make several small holes in the bottom of the swim cap. When you're on the trail, gather berries or greens and wash them out in fresh water at your camp site. Although silicone is often used in cooking utensils and may stand up to high temperatures, we don't recommend straining hot foods like pasta noodles or boiled veggies.

5. Water Your Dog

If you hike or adventure with your dog, an old swim cap makes a great collapsible water bowl. It doesn't take up nearly as much space as a metal bowl, so you'll have more room for treats (or a tennis ball!). Keep in mind that you'll have to hold the bowl for them since the material is malleable and not conducive to standing on its own. Though, with a little ingenuity, you can probably create a free-standing or hanging version of this handy swim cap bowl.

6. Donate It

For caps that are in decent shape (no rips or holes worn through), consider donating them. If you're on a swim team or swim at a local club, ask the pool manager if they need any extra caps. Or, bring your caps to practice for team members to pick through. A cap that would otherwise be garbage to you might strike a fellow swimmer's fancy. AquaGear seems to find plenty of donation outlets for excess caps like high school swim teams, drug rehab therapy programs, Special Olympics events, and auctions for various swim clubs.

How have you repurposed old swim caps? Leave your ideas in the comments to inspire other swimmers and help remove a bit of burden from landfills worldwide.


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