Coffee is the most popular beverage worldwide. But, if you’re a coffee drinker, you may shutter every day when you toss out the old grounds after you’ve created your brew. It seems so wasteful. There has to be a better way. Are there any practical uses for old coffee grounds? Can they be put to good use instead of just tossed as yesterday’s garbage?
The answer is yes, yes, and yes! There are so many creative uses for old coffee grounds! After you’ve learned even just a few of them, your waste worries will be gone. Even if you (or your family or co-workers) drink gallons of the brew, you can rest calmly, knowing old coffee grounds can now be used for good. Here are some of our favorite uses…
19 Uses for Old Coffee Grounds
Garden Uses for Old Coffee Ground
1. To support soil health: If you garden at all—even with a small indoor container garden—you may already have found a good use for old coffee grounds as a fantastic fertilizer. As plants grow, they take the nutrients they need from the soil, which leaves the soil depleted. As a result, the plants don’t get the nutrients they need, and they stop growing as well. Old coffee grounds to the rescue! They provide nitrogen, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, chromium, and other key minerals your plants need to grow. 1
And when used outside, coffee grounds also improve drainage as well as water retention, and they attract worms, which aerate the soil. Just let them cool down and sprinkle them on the ground around your plants. Then work the old coffee grounds into the soil.
Old coffee grounds can also be used as mulch to help plants retain moisture, contribute to soil health, reduce winter injury, help with weed control, protect against erosion, and repel unwanted pests like slugs and snails, ants, mosquitos, fruit flies, and beetles. 2, 3 This use can go beyond the garden. To help repel pests, you can set out bowls of used grounds in outdoor seating areas or just sprinkle them on the ground in areas to discourage pests.
While cats are certainly not pests, many folks want to keep cats out of their gardens as well (so they don’t use them as a litter box), and coffee grounds may help keep them away too.
2. To build better compost: For even better results in the garden, many folks combine their used coffee grounds with food scraps and yard waste and compost it to use later. The result is a dark, rich material that provides nutrients as well as helps the soil better hold water and produce less greenhouse gas. A high-quality compost can be made up of 40% coffee grounds with the rest consisting up of fruit, vegetable, and herb trimmings, eggshells, grass clippings, leaves, and even bark. 4 Just make sure you leave out any meat or fish scraps, dairy products, grease, oil, or diseased plants or weeds.
3. To grow mushrooms: There are so many beneficial properties of consuming mushrooms, yet few gardeners are willing to take on these difficult-to-grow fungi. Mushrooms can’t just grow in ordinary soil, so many people choose to start with a mushroom-growing kit or use hardwood logs or shredded straw as their growing medium. However, these methods can take a while and a lot of trial and error to master. Plus, you need to pasteurize the straw first to ensure it’s resistant to other microorganisms.
Many mushroom farmers suggest using used coffee grounds instead. What’s great about coffee grounds is that they’re already pasteurized by the brewing process, and if you are a regular coffee drinker, you have plenty of grounds that are going to waste, so they are a great medium for making mushrooms.
Kitchen Uses for Old Coffee Grounds
4. To get rid of odors: Kitchens can pick up funky smells for a number of reasons. Fortunately, due to their nitrogen content, old coffee grounds may help absorb and neutralize various odors. For example, you can keep a bowl of grounds in the refrigerator or freezer or under the sink to absorb odors. Replace with a new batch of used coffee grounds every two weeks to help keep your kitchen smelling fresh.
If you notice your hands still have a strong smell after you’ve cut onion or garlic, you can also scrub your hands with old grounds to help remove the smell.
5. To deep clean: Coffee grounds can also be used as a natural cleaning scrub to remove build-up without harsh chemicals. They can be used to deep clean your sink, polish pans and cookware (just make sure to test it first to ensure it doesn’t scratch or stain the surface), and even clean the grill. Coffee grounds are a natural degreaser. Simply use 2/3 teaspoon mixed with water and a bit of dish soap to scrub your dirty pots and pans and remove caked-on food.
6. To tenderize meat: A simple way to help make meat more tender is to use coffee grounds as a dry rub about two hours before cooking. The coffee is naturally acidic and also provides enzymes to help tenderize the meat. It also adds a delicious smoky flavor. The grounds form a crisp crust, so if you don’t like that effect, you can also simply rebrew the used grounds to make a coffee marinade. Soak the meat for up to 24 hours before cooking. You also don’t want to eat your coffee grounds regularly. So, if you do love a good coffee ground rub (instead of brewed coffee), just remember to enjoy it in moderation and only occasionally.
Household Uses for Old Coffee Grounds
7. Fight odors: If your laundry room or gym bag have picked up some funk, you can also use an old, clean sock, stockings, or tights filled with old coffee grounds and tied off to place in your laundry room, the closet with your gym bag, shoes, or work clothes. You can also keep it under your car seat or over a heat vent to help spread the scent. You’ll soon find the air is easier to breathe without harsh chemicals.
8. To clean fireplaces: Do you put off cleaning your fireplace due to the tremendous mess? Coffee grounds can be used to decrease the mess. Just scatter the used coffee grounds over the ashes in your fireplace, wood stove, or insert, so you can weigh down the ashes and prevent the light particles from becoming a cloud that covers every surface in your home with a layer of ash.
9. As a stain or dye: Coffee grounds can also be used as an inexpensive natural dye for cotton, rayon, linen, and paper, giving these fabrics a lovely vintage look (that could also be used to disguise previous stains).
If your dark clothes are starting to look a little dingy, you can even add some freshly brewed coffee to a dark load. (Just make sure you separate out all of the light and bright clothing so they aren’t stained as well.)
10. To repair scratched wood: No matter how careful you are, it seems like scratches and scuffs just appear, marring a beautiful wood finish. Of course, there are plenty of chemical-laden, expensive products claiming to help you reclaim your wood furniture. But before you head out to the store, you may want to give coffee grounds a try. Start by making a thick paste with the grounds mixed with some water or oil. Use a test area to make sure it works with the color of your wood. Then, rub the paste into the scratches and scuffs using a cotton cloth or ball, swab, or paint brush. Wait for about 10 minutes and wipe off. Repeat every few hours until you achieve the color that matches your finish.
11. To polish furniture: Even if your furniture is in good condition, you may just want to make it look clean and shiny. Old coffee grounds can be used for that too. Just let your coffee grounds cool, and using a soft cloth, rub them into the wood. Wipe off and enjoy the fresh shine and the subtle smell of coffee. (Again, test a small area first.)
12. To deter fleas: If you’ve ever had a pet come home with fleas, you know what a costly, time-consuming, and uncomfortable pest they can be. Sure, you can buy flea removal products, but they typically contain harsh chemicals and may cause serious side effects. Coffee grounds have been used as an alternative treatment as these pests don’t like coffee. Start by shampooing your pet, and then rub the grounds into your pet’s fur. Then rinse off and dry as usual. Just make sure your pet doesn’t lick their coffee-coated fur or drink the water as coffee can be toxic for dogs. In addition, it may not work for severe infestations and may instead be best as a preventive measure or when you notice the first signs.
Spa-Like Uses for Old Coffee Grounds
13. To exfoliate skin: From time to time, it just feels (and looks) good to remove dry, dull, dead skin, and the coarseness of coffee grounds is an easy and inexpensive way to do so. Just mix a half-cup of coffee grounds with a quarter-cup of brown sugar and a quarter-cup of coconut oil for an amazing body scrub. Store it in an airtight container and then use about three or four tablespoons to scrub your entire body. (Just avoid your face, as it may be too harsh and could clog your pores.) Then rinse off and wash your body as usual.
14. As soap: If you love the smell of coffee, then why not bathe in it? Just mix 1/3 cup of grounds and add it to a melted bar of glycerin soap. Pour it into a mold and allow it to cool. Now you have a daily bath bar that’s great for scrubbing your skin. Or, keep it in your kitchen to scrub away the smell of garlic and onions off your hands.
15. To smooth cellulite: If you want to reduce the appearance of cellulite, coffee grounds may help. Just use the scrub you made above and rub it into your “trouble areas” for 10 minutes twice a week to see if it works for you. 5 Cellulite is, of course, completely normal, and it affects up to 90% of women. Coffee grounds may or may not do much, but they will smooth the skin and improve blood flow, so it’s probably worth a try.
16. To relieve acne: Can coffee really soften and clear the skin? Yes. Because coffee is both an astringent and antioxidant-rich, it makes a wonderful cleanser for skin. To help clear up acne, make a paste by adding just enough milk. Then, rub the combination into your skin very gently, let it sit for about 20 minutes, and rinse.
17. To brighten up dark hair: If you want to bring about the richness of the darker color of your hair, then coffee grounds can also be used as a non-toxic hair dye as well. (It may even help cover some gray.) Mix a half-cup of coffee with 2 tablespoons of your coffee grounds and a cup of leave-in hair conditioner or an almond and coconut oil mixture. (You can also make your own leave-in conditioner if you’d like.) Apply the coffee ground mixture to clean, damp hair, starting with the scalp in circular motions to exfoliate. Then, leave it for at least an hour before washing it out. While the results are subtle and only last for a short time, they can make dark hair look richer and healthier.
Used coffee grounds will also help remove residue left behind your usual shampoo or styling products. If you aren’t looking to change the color, you can just rub the grounds into your hair and rinse immediately. You will still likely notice your hair looks brighter and shinier.
18. To promote hair growth: Some research suggests that used coffee grounds may also help reduce shedding and help hair grow by blocking the effects of DHT and testosterone, which may cause hair loss. It can also increase blood flow and stimulate hair follicles, which can also encourage hair growth. 6 If you’re not trying to dye your hair, just massage a handful of used coffee grounds into your hair, massaging into the scalp to exfoliate for a minute or two. Then rinse and wash as usual. For best results, repeat once or twice a week.
19. To decrease the signs of aging: The skin under your eyes is the most delicate skin on your body. And there’s little fat in this area, so it’s one of the places that first shows signs of aging. Because coffee grounds supply antioxidants and caffeine, which helps stimulate blood circulation, they may help reduce the appearance of under-eye discoloration and puffiness. Just combine coffee grounds with some water or almond or coconut oil to create a paste. Apply the paste to the area under the eyes for about 10 minutes but avoid rubbing it in. Rinse off and complete your skincare regimen as usual.
Before you discard your used coffee grounds, consider all of the amazing ways you can put them to use—whether it’s in the garden, the kitchen, or as part of your beauty routine (or all of the above). As if we needed another reason to indulge in that next cup of coffee…