Introduction: DIY - Single Use Antibiotic Ointment Blister Packs

Picture of DIY - Single Use Antibiotic Ointment Blister Packs

The ongoing trend in the consumer market of providing small, ready-to-go, individual size packages of consumables has been a win-win for the lightweight and ultralight backpacking communities. Always looking to shave a few extra ounces or grams off of our overall pack weight, these individual servings are the perfect fit for trail snacks, drinks, condiments - you name it.

However, these nicely packaged individual servings can come at a premium. They can often be pricy or difficult to find without going online and ordering in bulk +shipping. That's when the creative types among us come up with ingenious solutions that lets us make our own alternatives using things we usually have lying around.

Step 1: What You Will Need

Picture of What You Will Need

I've carried a few of the Neo-to-go (Neosporin) packets with me as part of my first aid kit for quite some time. They're small, handy and easy to use, but they have some downsides. Firstly they are quite expensive, secondly each packet contains way more ointment than I need for a small cut or graze - an awful lot more and once it's been opened it shouldn't be reused or saved.

So here is really clever solution to this problem that involves a tube of antibiotic ointment (generic), a plastic drinking straw, a Bic lighter and a pair of needle-nose pliers. We're going to make very small, single use packets of antibiotic ointment using a generic alternative to Neosporin and a clean (unused) drinking straw. If you're like me and have kids, chances are very good that you have an open tube of antibiotic ointment in your medical cabinet already. On its own it is too large to carry on a backpacking trip, so we're going to re purpose it.

Step 2: Filling the Straw With Ointment

Picture of Filling the Straw With Ointment

Place the straw over the opening of the ointment tube and carefully squeeze in a small amount of the ointment that is approximately one quarter of an inch in length. You'll notice that transparent straws work best for this.

Use you fingers to squeeze the end of the straw so that it pushes the ointment further up inside the plastic straw. This will provide a clean area for sealing the end of the straw without having the ointment ooze out while you are holding it with your pliers.

Step 3: Sealing the End of the Straw

Picture of Sealing the End of the Straw

Hold the end of the straw with your needle-nose pliers so that a small amount of the straw is protruding. This will be used to melt and seal the end of the straw. Take your Bic lighter and carefully melt the end of the straw so that it forms a seal. I like to quickly pinch the melted end with my pliers to ensure a good seal.

Step 4: Cut and Seal the "packet"

Picture of Cut and Seal the "packet"

Turn the straw around and find the point where the ointment went up to inside the straw. Pinch just past that with your needle-nose pliers and cut off the excess straw with a pair of scissors making sure to leave a small amount of the straw protruding for sealing with your lighter just as you did in the first step.

Step 5: The Final Result

Picture of The Final Result

Now you have a single use packet of antibiotic ointment that you can carry with you as part of your UL backpacking first aid kit. These are also perfect for EDC carry in a pocket or even your wallet.

I've yet to have one of these burst or fail on me. Simple, affordable, and very convenient. A great way to make use of those open tubes that are lying around with just a small amount of ointment left in them. Pretty clever idea that can be used for a myriad other purposes, what do you think? [Re-published from Brian's Backpacking Blog]

Step 6: Vote for This in the Pocket-Sized Contest!

Picture of Vote for This in the Pocket-Sized Contest!

If you liked this instructable or found it useful, please consider voting for it in the Pocket-Sized Contest. All you have to do is to click on the "Vote" button in the upper right corner of this page. I would greatly appreciate it :-)


ScottyGS (author)2012-08-06

Hi: What I'D like to know is --is there somewhere I can send my (MANY) empty pill bottles of various shapes and sizes? It's bothered me immensely that I can't recycle them or use them for other purposes--whenever I suggest it my husband gets annoyed, removes the labels and dumps them.

Now --I have a great site to show him a reason for us to save a few --but is there a place I could forward some on so others like you can benefit from them? I actually have a couple which are HUGE --5-l/2x2 which I might keep for myself (unless I get more) to fit actual tools (small screwdrivers and the like-- since I work on my harmonicas when I travel). But I also quite frequently get the fatter bottles: 2-3/4 x 2" which would fit a bit more and still be lightweight and waterproof. Those might be just the thing for those interested in creating 'kits' to send on to troops in the field if anyone wants to start this up as an idea? I'm sure there are many more people out there like me who'd be happy to forward on our empty bottles although having a foolproof way to remove the labels without leaving sticky residue would be great.

LaserDave (author)ScottyGS2015-02-11

I realise that this response is two years too late, but I felt that
my contribution would be helpful to lots of people who face this
side-issue you've mentioned.

In this day and age where the issues
of environment and identity theft are forefront, many people are faced
with the problem of being able to recycle their medication bottles but
cannot easily remove the labels. Having to choose between recycling and
privacy, the solution most people choose is to dispose of these bottles
in the garbage. Some people will spend the time and energy it takes to
remove the labels, but it becomes a daunting task when it involves more
than a few bottles.

The solution I came up with was out of
necessity, having to de-label more than 30 bottles from the
prescriptions of three people each month. Soaking them in a bucket of a
mixture of water and WD-40 worked well, but there had to be a better
way. After devoting an entire afternoon to find an easy, reliable and
fast method to do this, I settled on the following...

A square
piece of cardboard, twisted and taped it into a cone like a funnel, I
used a $10 hair dryer (or a heatgun) and directed hot air into the pill
bottles one at a time. After a few seconds, the bottle would be
sufficiently warm and the labels peeled off cleanly once the glue
relaxed. I found that I was able to do twelve or so bottles in about
four minutes. In fact, I was amazed at how well the method worked once I
got the timing figured out, and now those 'welded-on/permanent'
prescription labels are no match for me.

Now the bottles can be
put into the recycling, or repurposed for use in crafts, or even as
storage for small nuts and bolts or other tiny parts. Hope this helps!!

ratgirl13 (author)2013-11-23

Just made a few of these to go into an emergency kit that I am making for my mom for Christmas. In addition to the hydrocortisone cream and Neosporin, I also filled some with honey, as she is diabetic. Thanks for the awesome 'ible!

TheHumanWhiz (author)2013-09-07

I absolutely LOVE the idea, but one question, how do you open it? I tried squeezing on the sides of the melted part but that didnt work. Anyones feedback is highly appreciated!

cassandrabutt (author)2013-06-10

How do you open them? Do they rip open like a candy bar, etc?

This is an amazing idea, the only hangup for me is I'm trying to cut out as much plastic from my life as I can. Would you be able to do this with a paper straw and then seal it in wax? Or do you have any biodegradable ideas you can share?

Thanks so much for the ideas! Love it!

bpfh (author)2013-04-14

Excellent idea :) Be careful when heating the end not to melt the straw on the other side of the pliers though !

Trigonography (author)2013-03-22

You know what this would also be good for? Holding pills in a tamper-evident, low-volume way. If they're large pills, you could find those large straws they sometimes use for milkshakes.

bakdrft (author)2013-03-16

BFG, I was being nice, But please remember that you are "teaching" here and you have a responsibility to be accurate in the information you post. Not mentioning is assuming- and you know what that leads to.

bakdrft (author)2013-03-16

Scissors, pliers.... You did not mention that the scissors and pliers Shall be cleaned or sanitized before use. GERMS on the pliers and scissors are NASTY!

bfgreen (author)bakdrft2013-03-16

No I didn't mention that you should always clean your tools, I figured that was common sense and you'd know to do that. Do I need to remind you to breathe while you're doing this too?

C'mon, be nice and be constructive with your comments or please don't leave any.

Thorsword (author)2012-09-14

This is a 'slap the forehead' type of instructive. Great Job

john0214 (author)2012-08-16

do you think you can use coton with a bit of alchol or hydrogen peroxide?

mttrout (author)2012-02-22

This is one of the best instructables I have seen. I made some of these for an upcoming trip to California.

-Hydrocortizone Cream
-No Crap / No Nausea / Dramamine Pills
-Allergy Pills
-Shaving Soap

It cut down my bathroom kit to a sandwich ziploc bag. Quick question...anyone gone through TSA security with these?

ScottyGS (author)mttrout2012-08-06

Hi: I'm always looking to cut down my travel weight and since I take a bag of harmonicas through security (they'll never go in the cargo hold again)--am always questioned. I've learned to label EVERYthing: using a Brother label maker. Not sure it would work for these--but perhaps labeling the outside of the bottle with: 'antibiotic ointment': 'sunscreen', etc. and sticking those on in a row around the outside of the bottle might help? I've routinely done this for smaller travel bottles I use for skin cream and the like to fit in the quart-size zip-lock bag. You 'could' print out a copy of this tutorial and pack it in your carry-on bag just to show as well. I call out 'bag of harmonicas coming through' with a smile since mine can look like weapons on the scanner and after a look-see I'm usually passed through quite quickly. I've only once been asked to play them as proof they're real. As long as you're upfront and honest about what's in your bags I doubt you'll have a problem.

ejarrell (author)2012-07-30

This is my favorite instructable ever. I've always gone hiking with groups, so I've never need my own first aid kit, but this helped relieve a lot of the anxiety of putting the kit together and keeping it UL. I made some of these with triple A and hydrocortisone. I don't like to spend money, especially not more money for the same thing but smaller. Thank you thank you thank you.

firefly2 (author)2012-04-26

make a small nozzle to insert ointment.....several years ago, I needed to spray insulating foam from red or blue cans into some small spaces during some remodeling. The factory nozzle was too large and put out too much foam! I used 2-3 different sized plastic tubes/insulin syringe barrels/pen barrels/ballpoint pen ink tube to create a much smaller nozzle. I was able finish with 1 can versus 3.

Perhaps another way to "make" the straw package.....seal the first end of the straw (without ointment ) since you ultimately have to seal a short length anyway. Clean the tubing, trial fit it in advance. Ointment would probably move through a syringe w/o a needle or through a big needle. Deposit the ointment in the far end next to the first seal, making it easier to complete the final seal. I can't tell what size tubes to get or where to get them from. Just keep them when you find something useful....Creative Engineering! Hope it works. Thanks for all the other ideas.

Terri1ND (author)2012-03-28

looks like a great idea. I think I will try this but first I think I will flatten the straw & use a ball point pen label what it is I'm putting into the little pack.

cdltpx (author)2012-02-07

This is a great idea especially for them gram weenies that want to be as light as possible.

Papillon9 (author)2012-02-01

Thanks! Great idea, I think for keeping some sugar on hand these will be awesome.

myckro (author)2012-01-31

You can use this for many different things... here is mine:

bfgreen (author)myckro2012-01-31

That's a cool use for these. Thanks!

louloubell (author)2011-11-20

Very cool. Could you tell some other ideas that people have shared with you that they use this technique for?

myckro (author)louloubell2012-01-31

KwartzKitten (author)2012-01-26

I nearly scared my mother into thinking the house was on fire because I had to try this just now. No regrets.

amandaggogo (author)2012-01-16

Hey, i referenced your instructable in one of mine!
This was such an awesome idea and worked out great when I tried it! :0)

The survival dude (author)2012-01-11

Awsome! It's PERFECT for Altoids tin survival kit!

Shadow13! (author)2012-01-03

You could also use the whole straw or just larger sections and some cool aide mix to make your own pixie sticks.

aje127 (author)2012-01-02

I see that you are a first prize winner. You definately deserve it. These are Freakin AWESOME. You reek of AWESOME SAUCE

amandaggogo (author)2011-12-29

This is brilliant! I was just making a new pocket survival kit the other day and was annoyed because my neosporin tube was too big to fit in there. But I gotta have my antibiotic ointment!
Thanks so much for this! Favoriting it for sure.

bfgreen (author)amandaggogo2012-01-01

Glad it will work out for you. I use this for backpacking all the time and save an incredible amount of space in my first aid kit using this. Let me know how it goes!

amandaggogo (author)bfgreen2012-01-01

It went very well, I made several, was super quick and easy to do, and saved me so much space. Very pleased with the result. Thanks again!

jsawyer (author)2011-12-12

Brilliant! Made some with antibiotic ointment, and hydrocortisone cream. Rebuilt my first aid kit!

I had a heck of a time getting the ointment to stay out of the seam, but they are holding.


bfgreen (author)jsawyer2011-12-13

Yeah the trick is to not overfill the straw and use the pliers to push it back as much as you can. Also note that you will find it very hard to make these without a small air bubble at either end. Give the ointment some room to move and that will help. A little practice and you'll figure it out. Glad it was useful for you.

_fatguy (author)2011-12-09

These are brilliant. I'll be making a few for sure!

mkslocomb (author)2011-12-03

i use little baggies and Crystal Light (used to come in tubs) to make to-go packets of flavor. i will try these instead. the baggies don't seal really well. the premade packs tend to be too expensive and i can buy the 2 qt size on sale more often. great -ible. love the idea.

hashim (author)2011-12-01

This indeed a clever idea!

Airth (author)2011-11-30

I recently posted my EDC, and included your idea! Don't worry, I was sure to give credit where do :)

Here's the link to mine:


Airth (author)2011-11-22

Great idea! I'll certainly be including these on my EDC kit and bug out bags--thanks!

bfgreen (author)Airth2011-11-28

I keep these in my bug-out-bug too. Not just antibiotic ointment but several other types too. I also usually EDC 2-3 of these with me on my person having small kids around :)

usarswagg (author)2011-11-27

FANTASTIC! I will def be adding this to my pack. Thanks!

bfgreen (author)usarswagg2011-11-28

You're welcome. If you come up with any variations or clever tweaks be sure to let us all know! :)

henhouse17 (author)2011-11-23

going to make a whole bunch of these and send to my solider friends over seas. what a great idea

bfgreen (author)henhouse172011-11-25

This would be a great project for everyone to do. Make a few of these and send them to our soldiers - I think you may have started something.. :)

Libahunt (author)2011-11-16

I have been wanting something like this for a long time to carry toothpaste. I have a foldable toothbrush anyway in my daily backpack in case I might not go home to sleep. This will be a good addition in case I have a toothache while at work or school or eat something sticky.
Have you noticed that some (most of) toothaches go away if you put some toothpaste on the poor tooth?

bfgreen (author)Libahunt2011-11-16

This works great for toothpaste and is especially handy for using with small kids. You could also consider making toothpaste "dots" for the ultimate in lightweight toothpaste solutions, although those won't help you with the toothache problem. Just an idea.

Toothpaste dots are small blobs of toothpaste, squeezed onto some parchment paper and dehydrated until they are hard. To use simply pop on in your mouth, chew and brush! Easy to make, carry, and use!

OrIsIt (author)bfgreen2011-11-18

Do you think its ok to use these on a normal basis?

bfgreen (author)OrIsIt2011-11-18

Sure why not? All they are is dried toothpaste. When you chew them for a few seconds you soften them up and you're good to go. In fact, just recently a company started making these for retail and is not selling them by the bottle pre-made!

OrIsIt (author)bfgreen2011-11-19

How much time does it take to dehydrate them? And teqniques

bfgreen (author)OrIsIt2011-11-19

I believe it took about 6-8 hours to dehydrate the dots I made, but I only made a handful as shown. The clever thing about a dehydrator is that it wouldn't have taken much more time to dehydrate twice as many, so the more you make the more efficient it is.

Technique? I'd suggest even sized blobs of toothpaste that are not too tall, that way they will dry out faster. The more even they are the more likely it will be that they are all ready at the same time.

I've learned to use several small sections of parchment paper instead of one large sheet that covers an entire tray. I use small sections so that I can leave gaps between the parchment paper for the warm air to circulate better.

OrIsIt (author)bfgreen2011-11-23


About This Instructable



Bio: Brian Green is an avid lightweight backpacker and author of the popular Brian's Backpacking Blog. Originally from Southampton, England, Brian has lived in the ... More »
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