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Green Living: Five Uses for an Old Dish

Updated on August 20, 2013

Five uses for an old dish

I developed my thing for old dishes and mismatched china when I was five years old. My mother was in charge of the church rummage sale. It was held in my school's cafeteria. Table after table of dishes, mismatched china, Christmas ornaments, and miscellaneous used junk. I was in heaven.  When five o'clock rolled around and the sale ended, Sister Eileen, the school principal, got on the loudspeaker. "Anything you can carry, you can take," she said.

I grabbed a few old 45 RPM records, a long sparkly red necklace, and a pile of mismatched dishes.

And thus a hobby was born.

I have plates in cabinets in my home that came from various thrift shops: Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Salvation Army, garage sales, rummage sales, eBay.  Each one has a pattern or color that caught my eye. In true "Shabby Chic" decorating style, before shabby chic became popular, I loved the look of mismatched china.

When my sister threw out my parent's old mismatched china and bought them a sparkling new set from Macy's, I was heartbroken.

But having all sorts of old dishes around the house is one thing.  What's the good of it, what's the fun of it if all they do is sit in the china cabinet and collect dust?  Yes, I could get lots of plate racks and display them. I have one pretty one with red and gold trim on a plate holder on display in my dining room because I like it so much.  But there are only so many old dishes, cups and saucers you can display without looking like a Bed, Bath and Beyond store.  I needed new uses for old dishes.

I came up with five very practical uses for my old dishes. If you've got vintage china...beautiful pieces you don't quite know what to do with that aren't worth a whole lot of money, but that you really are five uses for them.  Best of all, these uses don't require a lot of dusting each week!

Use One: Soap Dish

I dislike leaving bars of soap on the edges of sinks and tubs. Even those ceramic soap holders built right into the walls of the bathroom leave a lot to be desired. No matter how often you clean, there's a thick wad of soap stuck to the ceramic. And I hate scrubbing soap residue off the sinks!

My solution? A Royal Doulton dish that doubles as a soap dish.  It's gorgeous and the green pattern is very elegant. Plus, it goes with my bathroom. And I can move it from the tub to the shower to the sink very easily.  The dish holds any water that drips off the soap, and I can soak the dish to remove the soap residue, rinse it, then wash it in the dishwasher (I soak it first and remove any bath soap so as not to damage my dishwasher or create too many suds...a good precaution if you choose to use it as a soap dish).

The funniest part of this first way to use an old dish is how many compliments I've received on my "soap dish."  "Where did you get that?" a friend exclaims. 

"St. Vincent de Paul Society," I say, and pull out two others just like it from the cabinet - replacements for when I need to wash the original, or if I break one.

Cost? 10 cents per dish, for a whopping total of 30 cents for this decorative accessory.

Use Two: Kitchen Sponge Holder

I don't like those cheap plastic holders for kitchen sponges. They get dirty fast. And they look ugly. So out came a thick blue saucer with a golden rim.  It's elegant. It's pretty.  And I can put it into the dishwasher to kill all those germs that linger from my kitchen sponge.

Yes, it's my kitchen sponge holder...a blue, no-name plate I found at a garage sale.

If a lot of water collects on it, I just tip it and drain it into the sink. It easily holds a big double-sided scrubber sponge and a Brillo pad.  When I run the dishwasher, I just pop it in to sterilize it.  You can't do that with one of those plastic holders.

Cost? Five cents.

Use Three: Plant Saucer

I love houseplants. I have a room full of them. Unfortunately, they do tend to drip water and moisture onto the windowsills, tops of bookcases and tables where I have them. The solution? My old china.

I use saucers for the obvious, as plant saucers. But I found a use for my favorite white Portuguese china coffee mug by using it as a cachepot. A cachepot is a fancy name for a decorative pot. You keep the plant in its utilitarian plastic pot, but slip the plastic pot inside a fancy pot. The fancy cachepot stays clean and puts a lovely face on an unlovely plastic pot.

So in my plant room today, I have three saucers and my favorite large Portuguese mug with the fruit motif on it.  The mug's handle broke and could not be repaired, so it is now a cachepot.

Price? I haven't got a clue. The saucers came from my mother in law, and I don't know how old they are. The mug is at least 15 years old, and I can't remember the price.

Use Four: Pet Dishes

I have two pets, a dog and a cat. My cats have always eaten their crunchies and drank their water from my china dishes. My gray tabby was born in the back of a machinist shop amidst cardboard boxes, newspaper and lawn mower parts, but I still named him Pierre, and he eats off of old pressed glass plates I found at a garage sale.

If your pet is rough on food bowls, stick with plastic or metal. My cats have been good about eating and drinking from uses dishes acquired at garage sales.

Pierre's water dish is a pressed glass dish acquired from a friend who was moving and who wanted to get rid of it. Price? Free. His food plate is a fancy pattern I just loved, purchased at Goodwill for a quarter.

So there you have junkyard cat eats in style.

Use Five: Jewelry Holder

Like many women, I have a lot of costume jewerly, but I tend to wear a few pieces regularly. My faux pearl earrings, some long beaded pieces, and several pairs of hoop earrings used to land in a jumble on my dresser. Then my cat decided that they made great toys.  She would sit on top of the dresser, push them off, then flip them under the area rug.  I found six mismatched earrings under the rug one day.

Something had to be done...behold: my trusty shabby chic dishes.

I found a pressed glass bowl that was probably a finger bowl in a previous life.  Finger bowls were used to wash the finger tips before eating or between courses. Elegant houses used them regularly as did restaurants.  I found a few at a Goodwill shop for $1 for the entire set.

Now I have a gorgeous green glass dish on my dresser, which is just the right size to hold my earrings and a necklace or two.

Best of all, when kitty gets curious, I can slip the dish right into a dresser drawer until she forgets the fun of plucking out the earrings and batting them around the floor.

Price: $1.

Fun of watching the cat steal my earrings: priceless.

Shabby Chic Doesn't Have to Look Shabby

I love the charm of country style and the elegance of the Victorian era, but with a limited budget and two pets that tend to break or destroy everything, antiques just won't cut it in my house. That's why I love the "shabby chic" style of decorating - finding old things for pennies at garage sales, salvage stores, and online. Sometimes friends hand off boxes of things or I find things through Freecycle, the group that lets people post items to give away. It's all part of the fun to hunt for treasures that match my house. Yes, for big purchases such as furniture, I have to go to a real store...but for those special decorative touches, shabby chic items such as old dishes can be put to clever use. I hope these five ways of using an old dish have helped inspire you to pull out those pieces you inherited from your mom, your aunt or your grandma, or to hit up the Goodwill store this weekend. Hey, you never know what you will find!


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    • kerlynb profile image


      6 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      Now using my old dishes as ornaments. Like the way they look, very vintage, shabby, creative, and unique!

    • tangoshoes profile image


      7 years ago

      My favorite use for old dishes: mosaics! One of the easier crafts and you can spruce up your garden with some great works of art.

    • Jeanne Grunert profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeanne Grunert 

      8 years ago from Virginia

      There are a few possibilities for that creamer with the holes. It may be an espresso pot. Some early coffee sets let the coffee and grounds boil in a top pot, then drain through. The holes were supposed to keep the grounds out. I assume a tea set may have the same thing.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I bought a really beautiful little creamer that was made in Bavaria. Upon examining is closer the top is covered with tiny holes that tells me you set something on top and it drains into the spouted pot. It doesn't have a lid, but I don't think it would have had a lid - there is no groove or irdge to hold one. I would love to know what it's use was for.

    • TINA V profile image

      TINA V 

      8 years ago

      You've got good ideas of how to use old chinaware dishes. Nice hub.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love old tea sets myself so this is the perfect hub for me. I've always wondered what I could be doing with them other than setting them for display. I'm definitely going to try the plant saucer idea. Great ideas.

    • Putz Ballard profile image

      Putz Ballard 

      8 years ago

      A great hub and some wonderful ideas.


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