Household items and litre measurements

Here is a simple method to find the litre capacity of household items you want to replace when you have lost all sources of information about their capacity. This method demonstrates a clear and simple relationship between centimetres and litres.

Some time ago, my wife looked for a new recycling bin to replace the twin recycling bins that were too small for our needs.

I lost the original documentation and any information about the old bins. I wanted to compare the capacity of new recycling bins, which were expressed in litres, with our old bins. What do you do if you have lost all sources of information about litre-based bin capacity? Get your measuring tape out (assuming it has centimetres on it)!

Let me remind readers that a litre is exactly one cubic decimetre – i.e. a cube that is 10 cm long on each side and 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm is 1000 cm³. By measuring the height, width and depth of the old bin in centimetres, you can easily work out its capacity in litres. For my recycling bin, I would work out its size as follows:

18 cm x 23 cm x 44 cm = 18 216 cm³ = 18.216 L = approx. 18 L

The conversion from cubic centimetres to litres is simple. Just move the decimal point three places to the left.

You can do the same with a small waste bin.

In the case of this bin, I took the average height and depth to take into account different measurements inside the bin and at its top and bottom. Then I calculated its capacity based on its dimensions:

22 cm x 17.5 cm x 14 cm = 5390 cm³ = 5.39 L = approx. 5 L

This is what it says on the side of the bin:

It is still useful to know how to calculate its capacity in litres in case you do not have this information anywhere. When you want to replace it and compare the capacity of new bins with your current bin, it is useful to know how to calculate its capacity in litres.

You can use the same principle for calculating the capacity of your fridge, cupboards, suitcases and other common household items. This is useful to know in cases where you have lost or discarded the original documentation and labels.

One thought on “Household items and litre measurements”

  1. I had to laugh at ITV news yesterday, thinking of this article.
    TV news presenter standing in front of huge water tanker ” this tanker carries 19 LITRES (her emphasis), and its powerful pump delivers 1 LITRE (her emphasis again) every second.” It was repeated on the late news.
    Now surely, even Americans would have some idea that was wrong by some margin? I guess it should have been 19 metres (correctly 18 cubic metres?), but using length to measure volume may have confused someone.
    Another pathetic example of poor metric education and lack of usage from an apparently young and wise presenter. Not sure this country will ever get to grips with SI, it is in just too much of a mixed muddle to ever recover. Sad but true.


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