The accoutrements of the thinking writer Without dwelling too much on the negative side, as is normally our tendency under our 68% Vitriol Policy, we would address the issue of the popular Altoids peppermints. It is a frustrating thing that when purchasing Altoids, you are forced to pay for yet another little Altoid tin canister. Whether it is true that this is because Callard and Bowser, a British company dating back to 1780, desires to spite Americans in its own petty way for winning the War for Independence, we cannot be sure; we are told that Altoids are available only in tins even for fellow consumers in the U.K. So we do not lend any credence to this theory. We wish, though, that C&B would offer some alternative packaging, such as burlap sacks for bulk buyers.

The bottom line is that any regular Altoids ingester soon acquires a small mountain of little tins. What is to be done with all these little metal boxes with the rounded edges? We have here compiled a comprehensive list of 94 Ways to Use Empty Altoids Tins. Some are humorous, some almost practical, others are just barely alive, but there are none of the obvious cop-out items which tend to creep into lists like these (such as “Use it to think of 94 ways to use it, har har”).


  1. Use them to catch the fat grease from your grill
  2. Kitchen and bathroom decorations
  3. Holds all that loose pocket change - increases jingling sound
  4. Tray for computer screws during an upgrade
  5. Line your garden with Altoid tins instead of bricks
  6. Archive old sales receipts
  7. Insert in soles of shoes to make yourself look taller
  8. Don’t attach blinking lights and leave them laying around suspiciously at airports. Attach blinking lights and leave them suspiciously at other places, but not airports.
  9. You could, however, attach a little handle and check it as luggage on your next flight. The best part comes in the claim area when the tiny Altoids suitcase comes down the chute…
  10. Target practice for gun owners
  11. Tape them together to create a suit of body armor
  12. People named “Al”: cover up the T-O-I-D-S and use as a name badge
  13. Better yet, if your last name happens to be Altoids, tape it to your mailbox.
  14. Short-term piggy-banks — easy to open, 0% APY
  15. Makes for some good-looking ham radio electronics
  16. Punch holes in them, use for keeping insects and small animals such as hamsters
  17. Leave them on the street downtown and watch people foolishly pick them up and find that they are empty. (Even better: glue them to the sidewalk.)
  18. Fill with plaster, fasten shut: hockey puck
  19. Return to your local grocery store for a nickel (your mileage may vary)
  20. Tie them to your fingers to help you remember things
  21. Test the theory of evolution: place two unmodified paper clips inside, and shake vigorously for two billion years. See if they ever link together as a result of this process.
  22. Fill with hand lotion and carry it in your purse.
  23. Great candidates for subjects of modern surreal art (in fact, do any of these and take some photos; you should have no problem obtaining grant money from the NEA)
  24. Insert in boxes of wrapped gifts; the added noise when shaking the present will confuse the recipient as to what’s inside
  25. Tape to your dog’s tail for interesting effects when it wags
  26. Just married? Tie them to your car’s bumper instead of tired old Campbell’s soup cans
  27. About to get married? Drop on one knee and present the engagement ring to your girl in an Altoids tin! [Turns out this has been done! See the Addendum.]
  28. Use as spacers for table or chair legs on very unlevel surfaces
  29. Has anyone tried seeing if they do anything nifty in a microwave?
  30. Callard & Bowser would like to keep this a secret, but these little tins can actually hold M&M’s too!
  31. If you’re camping and you catch a small animal such as a rabbit, fish or ferret, you can cook the raw meat by putting pieces of it in Altoids tins and placing the tin in the glowing hot embers of your campfire for awhile.
  32. When hiking through the forest, leave a trail of tins to prevent getting lost.
  33. Great for housing that tiny new web server (more info)
  34. You could place a microphone inside an Altoids tin and use it for espionage; it is likely, however, that the tin will be picked up and opened if seen.
  35. While it’s still full of mints, stick it inside your tennis shoes or gym bag to offset the odor.
  36. Goldfish coffin
  37. Cry into them when you realize you’re paying almost 3 cents per mint.
  38. Such a simple tin; / It could surely inspire / many a haiku
  39. Fill with emergency spare cash and tape securely behind your knee or under your arm
  40. Open the tin and look inside the lid: handy low-resolution travel mirror!
  41. Use as bookmarks in heavy volumes such as the Yellow Pages
  42. Stress reliever for the kind of people for whom those little spongy balls just aren’t enough
  43. Enhance your clarity of speech by placing an Altoid tin inside your mouth while you repeat simple phrases
  44. Create your own checker board 2′ 8″ on a side (each location 4″ square) and use them as checker pieces (use tins from cinnamon or wintergreen Altoids for the black pieces).
  45. Fill them with sand and stack them up to mitigate flooding
  46. Tie them together to create a wind chime
  47. Pop the tin into a scanner, scan it into your computer, fool around with it in an image program, and put the results on your web site.
  48. With the red and green colors, they are excellent Christmas ornaments.
  49. Find anagrams for “Altoids”: TAIL SOD, SO TIDAL, SODA TIL, IS A DOLT, SAD TOIL, and SAIL DOT
  50. Status symbol
  51. Put some wheels on them, fill with metal weights and have an Altoids Derby Race.
  52. Tie on the end of a long string to create a plumb line; you can hang it from the top of a building to see if the building is tilted at all.
  53. Carry case for the Pentax Optio S digital camera._
  54. Use them to store small condiments such as olives or chopped onions when you run out of Tupperware
  55. Show that you support halitosis research by wearing one on your lapel
  56. Find anagrams for “Callard & Bowser”: A SCREWBALL ROD, BOLD EAR SCRAWL, and LARS BE RAW COLD.
  57. If you work at a bank drive-thru and for some reason those plastic tubes break or are lost, use Altoids tins instead!
  58. Learn to juggle them and balance them on your chin for parties
  59. Altoids tins stay wrinkle free without ironing!
  60. Make the top halves of the tins into light switch and outlet cover plates
  61. Put it up to your ear: you can hear the sea!
  62. If, like many in my extended family, you accidentally lop off a finger in the workshop, keep it in the tin until you get to the clinic.
  63. Makes excellent, durable roofing material
  64. Tape them to the back of your telephone handset to make it easier to rest it on your shoulder while talking.
  65. Casually take the tin out of your pocket and look at the reflection in the lid to see if there’s anyone suspicious behind you.
  66. Find out the depth of a cave pit or the height of a building by dropping the tin from the top and counting the number of seconds until it hits the bottom. Like other physical objects on Earth, the tin accelerates at 9.8 meters/sec/sec.
  67. Use it as a hopscotch thingie. It can even hold the chalk when you’re done.
  68. Ever notice those hip, tiny new backpack/purses? Take this fashion trend to its logical conclusion and strap an Altoids tin to your back for those trips to the mall.
  69. Saw off one end and make a pocket protector
  70. FBI agents: instead of those little wallets, put your badge and ID inside an Altoids tin. Looks great when you flash it at people for whose houses you have a search warrant.
  71. Hide them inside snowballs for an added punch
  72. If you’re shipwrecked and on a deserted island, why not send a message-in-an-Altoids-tin, rather than a message-in-a-bottle?
  73. Or, use the underside of the lid to reflect the sun and signal to passing ships and airplanes.
  74. Create a weekly pill organizer: label seven Altoids tins with the days of the week.
  75. Bake muffins or other pastries in them! (Talking of which, has anyone explored the culinary possibilities of the Altoids themselves?)
  76. Look for cultish insignia or other signs of conspiracies on the tin
  77. Punch holes through them and stick them on the spokes of your bicycle’s wheels
  78. Spook a friend by placing a tin under their sheets (this only works for very excitable people)
  79. Rumor has it that placing a pile of three or four on your electric meter will slow it down, lowering your electric bill
  80. Sniff the leftover dust for a “high” almost as invigorating as that of Kool-Aid
  81. Fill them with ice, and place them in your pop cooler; they help keep the cans cold for longer lengths of time and the cooler doesn’t get all full of water when the ice melts.
  82. Plus, if someone gets injured at the picnic, you can use them as ice packs to reduce swelling.
  83. If you filled them with something hot, such as Cream of Wheat, you could use them to warm your feet on cold winter nights.
  84. Put them in the food-shelf bin at your grocery store. (Mean and cheap, you say? I don’t think so! Look how handy they are!)
  85. If you attend a small church, have the ushers pass Altoid tins down the aisles instead of offering plates
  86. They sure beat spoons for digging your way out of prison
  87. They won’t hold your sunglasses, but they work great for monocles
  88. Separate the top and bottom halves, tape them together on one of the short edges, and use as a sleep blinder for bus and airplane trips.
  89. Use them to scratch off your lottery ticket (if you actually buy lottery tickets)
  90. Start your campfire by striking pieces of flint against it
  91. They make good phylacteries
  92. Use as a makeshift ruler (they are about 2.25″ by 3.75″)
  93. Make and sell doll furniture. And stay away from me.
  94. Walk around with them balanced on your head to improve your posture.

Altoids Addendum

Since the original issue of this finite set, our mercurial readers have submitted a number of supplementary suggestions and anecdotes regarding further uses of the indefatigable Altoids Tin.

  • Chris W. writes with a suitably dubious and fairly obvious addition: “Cover up the -OIDS and mount it onto your keyboard creating an easy access ALT key! With convenient storage unit!" Why didn't I think of that? If only there was a brand called CTRLOIDS, we could make a keyboard all those old emacs users would just love.
  • Eclectus posted another good idea to the message board: "We have a white board that was not metallic, and we needed it to be able to stick magnets to it, so we superglued 81 altoids boxes to the back to the board, making it quite useful, if not quite heavy." Not to mention that it will now float if you accicdentally drop it in a lake.
  • Shawn Rutledge, a true hardware hacker, alerts us to the feat of his power supply housed in an Altoids tin

In another message board post, Sugarboots responds to my query regarding Cooking with Altoids in item 75:

“I was on a Slim Fast diet about four years ago and thought my chocolate shake could use a peppermint altoid zip as I am quite fond of the chocolate/mint combo. I used the blender to mix everything, but was disappointed with the taste. I drank it anyway, because as you can imagine I was pretty hungry and grouchy. At that time cinnamon was not available, but I think cinnamon would be tastier since they seem to be sweeter (Werther’s hard toffee candies taste pretty good in the shake though).”

This is disappointing news, but perhaps there are other approaches, such as leaving the Altoids unground and using them in pastries, or in place of crutons in salads. After some other comments, Sugarboots adds another idea: “If your sinuses are tightly closed from a cold or allergies, eating about 10 peppermint altoids at one time will open them up in no time.”

Says Graham Bartlett:

“And where do you get cinnamon Altoids from? I’m in the UK, and it’s hard enough finding somewhere that sells mint ones. I think it’s actually all a conspiracy run by the French, who hate both of us…”

Altoids As an Aid in Matrimonial Aspirations

It turns out I was not being as original as I thought when in item #27 I suggested using a tin to present an engagement ring. Mark Pettigrew writes:

“You may be amused to know that I actually did # 27 on your list. It helped to create a perfect surprise when I proposed to my wife (of course, she loves Altoids too). I proposed at an eventin Providence, RI called the ‘WaterFire’. They lit small bonfires in the middle of the river cutting through Providence, music in the background, etc. Very beautiful at night (see Anyway, I brought her out on a bridge overlooking the fires and asked her if she wanted an Altoid. She said yes to the Altoids and me.”

In a seperate message, Mark noted that the Altoids tin was not actually empty at the time; but we are willing to overlook this. Note that if you plan on imitating this example, take extra care not to drop the ring in the river as he almost did :-)


“First things first, but not necessarily in that order.”
— Doctor Who

My little sister is in third grade and she had to make an instrument for music class. We wanted to do something that was small and unique. So I came up with taking sand paper and putting it on two tins. Then as a double I put rice in it to be a shaker. So in the end we had a shaker/scraper.

Stephanie ·