Introduction: 8 Unusual Uses for Barf Bags

Picture of 8 Unusual Uses for Barf Bags

Worshiping at the porcelain altar. Shouting groceries. Shouting for Hugh. Calling Ralph on the big white telephone. Barf. Blow. Blow chunks. Hurl. Hork. Regurgitate. Lose lunch. Toilet tango. Spew. Puke. Gastrointestinal pyrotechnics. Upchuck. Yak. Airsickness. Carsickness. Seasickness.

Whatever you want to call it, barf bags will catch it. But they can do so much more. From airplane hacks to terrestrial everyday uses, airsickness bags are more versatile than the world gives them credit for. And they're free.

Step 1: Store Leftovers

Picture of Store Leftovers

Not every restaurant provides bags, boxes, or other containers to safely bring home leftovers.

Airsickness bags are lined with plastic, have tabs to seal in the freshness, and fold nicely. You can surreptitiously stuff in all the bread you couldn't finish before the appetizers came. Or carry home the soup of the day. The same properties that hold in food post-digestion can also hold the same food prior to mastication.

Disclaimer: using barf bags from the seat pocket on an airplane for food storage might be sort of gross. People do put their filthy tissues in there (among other things), and I can't imagine that those pockets get a thorough wash very often. It might be a little like eating off of a hotel bedspread. YMMV. I know a woman who swears by barf bags for storing leftovers who has yet to get sick.

Step 2: Barf With Confidence on the Go

Picture of Barf With Confidence on the Go

I have never done the Technicolor yawn on an airplane. I have, however, managed to woof my cookies in a number of other locations. As have many of you, I'd imagine.

An airsickness bag is a great accessory for pregnant women, college freshmen, and young schoolchildren. Anyone susceptible to vomiting while on the go could use an extra couple of bags. Keep them in your purse, in your backpack, or folded up in your back pocket behind your wallet. Never again will you be surprised by an encore performance of lunch, presented in reverse to everyone else on the bus. 

It's the politest way to yak in public. They even sell cute ones: (See what they did there? Get it?)

Step 3: Hydrate

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Getting enough water on an airplane is not easy. You can't bring liquids through security, bottled water is more expensive than gasoline once you're in the terminal, and the in-flight beverage service can maybe get you 8 oz. of liquid at a time.

If flying makes you dessicated and parched, you'll need to smuggle a water bottle on board. Empty. Or frozen if you're prepared to argue that the rules do not prevent you from bringing frozen solids aboard an aircraft.* Once you're aboard the plane, your liquid opportunities have pretty much dried up.

All hope is not lost. Using your airsickness bag as a funnel, you can get water from the lavatory to your water bottle. It's a little hack-y, but it works. You can also just fill the bag up then dump it into your water bottle. Because you won't have the necessary cutting implements to put a hole in the bag. It's better than waiting for the flight crew to wet your whistle.

*The airport is a great place for lively scientific discussion. Argue with them about the possibility of electromagnetic interference causing plane crashes. Let them smell your water to prove it's safe. Explain that an e-ink screen is pretty much an Etch-a-Sketch when the wireless is turned off. Everybody loves learning. The more you know...

Step 4: Throw Stuff Away Stink-free

Picture of Throw Stuff Away Stink-free
Sometimes you need to throw stuff away. Sometimes that stuff doesn't smell so awesome.

Put the following things into a barf bag to seal in whatever scents you don't want wafting out of the trash can:
  • dog poop
  • old perfume
  • used feminine hygiene products
  • used male hygiene products
  • Axe body spray
  • banana peels
  • burnt hair
There are more smelly things out there that fit inside a barf bag. This list is by no means comprehensive. But it should cover many use cases.

Step 5: Airplane Puppets

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On the flight where I obtained my barf bags, a young mother was traveling with her 8 month old child. No toys. No snacks. Just the natural beauty of mother and child together inside a big aluminum tube, just as Gaia intended.

That kid screamed and screamed.* Taxi, scream, take-off, scream, electronic devices back on, child still screaming. Which is understandable. If it was socially acceptable or even legal to articulate my feelings while in the airplane, I would likely yell right along with that small child's stentorian wails.

But I can't do that. Nor can I fire up anything to mitigate the din until we hit 10,000 feet. So please entertain your child. Try turning a barf bag into a puppet. Draw a face on with a pen. Make some funny voices. Everyone around you will appreciate the effort, even if its unsuccessful. Anything's better than listening to your child scream past your increasingly frantic, embarrassed exhortations to please be quiet.

*I was once a colicky baby who flew from Stapleton to JFK. Sorry 1985 PanAm passengers. I get it. You and your baby need to go places. Airplanes are uncomfortable and upsetting. Babies aren't designed to seethe inwardly like the 6'5" dude trying to simultaneously put his feet someplace and protect his elbows from the drinks cart.

Step 6: Mailing Envelope

Picture of Mailing Envelope

My dad is an envelope recycler. You know those windowed envelopes they stuff with junk mail addressed to "Your Name or current occupant"? He carefully opens them to get the free envelope. Write in the address to the right of the plastic window. Tape the whole thing shut.

For a similarly classy letter with the added bonus of water-proofitude, use a barf bag. They're usually the right size for 4x6 pictures, you can affix labels and stamps to the outside, and the recipient will appreciate your creativity.

Bonus homework assignment: The Wikipedia article for airsickness bags mentions that this is a thing. But apparently it's only a thing in Australia. If this is something you do in your country, edit the Wikipedia entry. If you are Australian, your homework is already done. Good for you. You may read quietly while the other pupils work.

Step 7: Hold a Seat

Picture of Hold a Seat
Open seating on an airplane is a blessing and a curse. It's great when you want to save some cash, but the press of humanity struggling to get adjacent seats while avoiding weirdos and the middle seat can be unsettling.

Be one of those weirdos by using the barf bag early in the flight.
  • Fill the bag up so it looks puffy and full.
  • Set it on the seat you'd like to keep empty.
  • Look ill. Point at the bag occasionally.
  • Watch other passengers sit next to crying babies to avoid you.
This won't work on full flights, but it can be nice when there are 13 open seats and you want to have elbow access to two armrests for the duration of your journey.


RobH114 (author)2017-06-17

First off, love the hand puppet idea (pre-use only, mind you). FYI, a 6.2% abv is about half that of wine.

Ethan1023 (author)2016-05-17

That's disgusting.

ElenaQ1 (author)2016-02-28

great for throwing out used cooking oil.

kim.schellenberg.31 (author)2015-06-14

You are hilarious! Tried to read this aloud to my hubby & he could hardly understand my words as I was laughing (snort, bahahahaha) so hard!

grannyjones (author)2015-03-12

I've never sung the Rainbow Chorus on a plane, but when sick at home, I have done a passable impression of a bazooka!

audreyobscura (author)2014-05-22

I use barf bags as flash diffusers for my camera!

bo88y (author)2014-04-14

For some of these uses, coffee bags would work.

evacooper (author)2011-10-06

why not just put your water bottle under the tap?

TN777 (author)evacooper2012-03-04

Because if you bring a barf bag to the bathroom, most people will assume your going to go toss your cookies into the bag when you get in the bathroom. If you bring your water bottle, people will think your up to something.

Shut Up Now (author)evacooper2011-12-27

You can always also put an empty water bottle in your bag at the time of security (or empty yours right beforehand) and then fill it up at a water fountain after security. My cousin led me to this epiphany recently.

wilgubeast (author)evacooper2011-10-06

They tend to not fit under airplane faucets. (The picture is misleading, as it was taken in my real-life, normal-sized bathroom.)

Mig Welder (author)2011-12-11

You forgot "Yawn in Technicolor"!

Mutantflame (author)Mig Welder2011-12-27

No they didn't. In step two it says ''I have never done the Technicolor yawn on an airplane''

I3uckwheat (author)2011-12-07

Hell Ya Kim Chee!!!

wilgubeast (author)I3uckwheat2011-12-08

Right?! That's the fancy organic stuff from the farmer's market, too. Love the username, sir or madam.

I3uckwheat (author)wilgubeast2011-12-09

That would be a sir!

And all i know about Kim Chee is that its a Korean food. And it was traditionaly made by using a wide array of natural things (fish oil ect..) and it was buried in the ground for a few years before eaten to let it ferment. and i love the stuff.

Mr.1911 (author)2011-11-25

Interesting 'ible.

geckomage (author)2011-11-21

that my dear sir is an EPIC win. baha

PsycoPyro (author)2011-10-25

I have actually had the puppet use come in handy before haha

supermall (author)2011-09-28

Would also be nice to use the bags as pay out slips. haha

winniekate (author)2011-09-26

i've always grabbed them since i was little. My dad was a pilot, and we used them for playing stewardess at home. When my son was in grade school, i would pack his lunch in them once in a while, and he and his friends always liked that, too.

sweetweaver (author)2011-09-26

lulz on the axe.

anyheck (author)2011-09-26

In my opinion, the most important secondary use for barf bags is as a photographic flash diffuser:

chaitanya.vedak (author)2011-09-26

This is an Absolutely Awesomely Cool Use of Any Barf Bag i have had the chance to lay my 4eyes on... Awesome Writing too.

kalmurat (author)2011-09-26

imho the last use is unethical

artdreams (author)2011-09-25

Cosigning on not drinking the airplane water. No smuggling necessary, an EMPTY water bottle isn't contraband. I carry one every time and fill them inside security, but I also choose not to be picky about water from the drinking fountain (or even the restroom sink from most countries). Has saved my comfort on many a flight.

Local water might have a bit of chlorine taste, but you could also bring a filter bottle. I whined about the funny taste in water once and was reminded of the people in countries who are lucky to getting anything like clean water. Got over it.

But you can still use the bag as a trash bag for the fiddly bits that collect during a long flight, esp if you bring your own food.

Your hurling descriptions made me laugh loud enough to scare my cat.

mikephx (author)2011-09-25

Yes, I second that about avoiding the "non-potable" water.

As an extremely frequent flier, I've noticed that most people don't realize you can bring an EMPTY water bottle through security. Better yet, bring along an empty reusable canteen or nalgene-type container with a carabiner clipped to your carry-on bag, and refill it at a drinking fountain, typically found outside a restroom.

lyonpridej (author)2011-09-25

My husband's an airline mechanic & he says he wouldn't drink lavatory water even if it was marked potable. Some other good ideas & I've even used some of them when I've had to travel with babies/toddlers. But they don't re-stock those bags after every flight & it's no fun to be airsick, or have your kids sick (or even worse,be one of the people who has to sit next to someone barfing all over the place) & not have a bag in the seat pocket when you need it - so please don't take all of them in your aisle, ask the flight attendant for a couple please. :)

medionlvr (author)2011-09-25

You can get'em for nearly free at the grocery store. i do it all the time. when you are buying the grind your own coffee double or triple the bag and grind just a half a pound . do it again. now you have a pound of coffee and six bags with a decorative motif. you will be paying about $6.99/pound for the empty bags but they weigh so little you wont notice.

SeattleBagLady (author)medionlvr2011-09-25

Coffee bags are NOT waterproof barf bags. Just pour some water in them and you will quickly find out for yourself... Barf bags are specialized bags that are lined with a waterproof polyethylene plastic lining to hold fluid and prevent messy leakage. You cannot buy these in a grocery store. Kelli Lee - Owner of The Barf Boutique

medionlvr (author)SeattleBagLady2011-09-25

but they are wax coated inside to help keep the fresh ground coffee as fresh as can be. i did not specifically say you could buy them at the store. my intent was to explain that if you buy a tripled bag with coffee in them you are going to pay for the minuscule weight of the bag as it will be the total weight including the three bags and the ground coffee in them. that wax coating will last a couple of uses and you will have to judge how many times you can use each one before you toss it and get another.

berky93 (author)2011-09-25

I cut holes in them and hang them from the tray table to use as a smartphone stand so I can watch movies.

abigdeal (author)2011-09-25

I would not drink water from an airplane's water system. Usually it is marked as "non-potable", and even if it is not marked this way there have been a number of reported incidents where passengers have gotten sick. Especially not a good way to start a vacation!

agis68 (author)2011-09-25

I think you can do much more things....1/ simple hat of desktop lamp, 2/ add some heat source open it and you've made a flying lantern 3/ temporary ice fresh box for sensitive foods and much more

JAGGIE (author)2011-09-23

Just a caveat...check to be sure the water on the plane is potable. I've been on planes where it wasn't!

wilgubeast (author)JAGGIE2011-09-25

Smart. Ask your flight attendant.

Thank goodness Qantas has potable water. I ran into a bit of the dysentery after a trip down under, and the flight from Sydney to LAX to DIA was (to put it mildly) uncomfortable. Water in, water out.

SeattleBagLady (author)2011-09-25

Really enjoyed your “8 Unusual Uses for a Barf Bag.” Especially - #6 mailing envelop & #7 seat saver. Very creative. As a professional “barf bag designer,” I thought we had thought of everything. Thanks for the new ideas! Kelli Lee – owner of the Barf Boutique

dwream (author)2011-09-25

I returned home on a commmerical airliner yesterday. I wish I had seen this Instructable before that flight. Not knowing when I'll have a future opportunity to collect "free" bags, I found that you can actually buy them! See, for example,

cgcanada88 (author)2011-09-25

Never again have I seen this much euphemisms about barfing all put together... Kudos!!! Other than that, excellent 'ible! :D

askjerry (author)2011-09-25

There is something odd and sick about mailing someone something in a barf bag.

Gotta do that now. (evil grin)

mizzoufan96 (author)2011-09-25

#Winning! :D

Z.Backas (author)2011-09-22

Wade, I'd argue that gasoline is less expensive than most bottled waters anywhere!
Another admirable Instructable though, from the "Unusual Uses" Master!

hammer9876 (author)Z.Backas2011-09-25

Gasoline here as of yesterday was $3.38 a gallon or about $0.026 an ounce. An 8 ounce bottle of water is $1.00, or about $0.125 an ounce. Even 32 ounce bottle of water at $1.00 is still about $0.031 an ounce. When you do the math, bottled water is very expensive and a total rip off.

babssteele (author)2011-09-25

I may never buy another envelope again...thanks for the tip!

RoosterSocks (author)2011-09-24

I don't know where to get them other than robbing the next airplane Im on

lauren4004 (author)2011-09-23

I love the fact that you included Axe Body Spray in the stinky things list. :)

PixyMcCrafty (author)2011-09-22

#9. Keep them in the diaper bag for... well... the stinky ones, because sometimes 'it' happens and there are no garbage cans around.

wilgubeast (author)PixyMcCrafty2011-09-23

I wasn't sure that diapers would fit. Great suggestion!

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm an English teacher and former Instructables staff member.
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