I don’t mean to be alarmist, but you really need to stop throwing your coffee grounds away. Like, now. Do you know how wildly versatile they are? How many glorious, non-intuitive ways you can repurpose the remains of your morning cup of joe around your home, your garden — even your body? Their microbial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties, combined with natural odor-absorbency and rough texture make make them one of the most useful things you’ve ever tossed into the garbage day after day. Give your grounds new life by repurposing them in one of these ingenious ways.
Deodorise your hands, refrigerator, or shoe closet
Coffee grounds can be used in a variety of surprising places to help absorb and eliminate odours. Try filling a jar with used grounds and placing it, uncovered, at the back of your fridge to neutralise food odours. Keep a stash on your kitchen counter to rub on your hands after chopping garlic or onions. Create a makeshift “sachet” by placing used grounds in a sock, tying it, and placing it wherever funk tends to accumulate — from your gym bag and shoe closet to your laundry hamper or the floor of your car.
Clean your kitchen
Coffee grounds are naturally abrasive and can help remove grease and grime on your cooking tools and surfaces. Sprinkle them onto a scrub brush or scouring pad and use them to remove tough, caked-on food from pots, pans, utensils, sink, stovetop — even, perhaps, your coffee machine? Just don’t use them on light-coloured granite or marble countertops, as their colour can seep into porous surfaces.
Outside: They can also be effective at removing buildup from your grill and grilling tools.
Coffee is — if you can believe it — also a natural meat tenderizer. Applying salt, acid, or enzymes to meat makes the protein and muscle fibres less tough, and guess what our good friend coffee contains? Natural acids and enzymes. (It also enhances flavour.) Mix used grounds with your dry rub seasoning and apply to the meat at least two hours before cooking. (You can also use the grounds to re-brew coffee and, after it cools, let your meat marinate in the liquid for 24 hours.)
Coffee grounds are excellent sources of nitrogen. They also contain other key nutrients like phosphorus, potassium, iron, calcium, and magnesium — making them an inexpensive boon to nutrient-depleted soil. To make your own fertiliser, mix the coffee grounds with other organic matter, such as dead grass clippings, brown leaves, compost, or dry straw to mitigate the grounds’ tendency to lock together and form a barrier to water penetration.
According to the Lisa Ogden at the University of Wyoming, “Plants that respond well to coffee grounds include blueberries, cabbage, soybeans, fruit trees, tomatoes, corn, roses, camellias, rhododendrons, and azaleas.” Just be careful about spreading them too liberally around seeds and seedlings, as the residual caffeine content may be detrimental to growth.
Attract worms to your garden
Coffee grounds don’t just enrich soil, they also attract nature’s best little garden helpers: worms. (They like to eat them.) Once there, the worms improve soil aeration, water filtration, and excrete nutrient-rich droppings. Just watch quantity here as well; too many grounds will make the soil overly acidic.
Create natural pest repellent
Sprinkle used grounds around individual plants and the perimeter of your garden as a natural deterrent to pests like ants, slugs, and snails. Healthline even suggests that leaving bowls of coffee grounds out (or sprinkling them) around your outdoor seating areas can serve to repel mosquitoes, fruit flies, and beetles.
Boost your compost
If you don’t have an active garden, the grounds can be added to your composting bin for future use. Lisa Ogden writes, “Use no more than 20-35 per cent by volume of coffee grounds in a compost pile” as higher percentages can have negative effects. For composting purposes, coffee grounds are considered a “green” or nitrogen-rich material that must be balanced with enough “brown” or carbon-rich materials like leaves, newspaper, or wood chips.
Use it to exfoliate
Oh coffee grounds, is there anything you can’t do? Save money on expensive skin exfoliating products by making your own DIY scrub with your java remains. The coarse particles won’t dissolve in water, making them great at lifting and removing dead skin cells. According to Julia Watkins, author of Simply Living Well, “To make an exfoliating soap, melt one bar of glycerin soap, add 1/3 cup coffee grounds, mix well, and pour into a soap mould. This can be used in your regular skincare routine — or as a “gardener’s soap” to remove dirt after working outside. (You can also add grounds to water or coconut oil and apply directly to your face. Or make this exfoliating scrub, which you can also apply to those dry winter feet.)
Remove puffiness and dark circles under your eyes
Did you ever notice what’s in certain under-eye “rehab rollers” designed to decrease puffiness and dark circles? Caffeine! According to the Cleveland Clinic, caffeine is a natural “vasoconstrictor” — meaning it constricts blood vessels and reduces blood flow to the skin, making it look tighter and smoother. (Note: It won’t fix baggy under-eye circles passed down through the generations. But it could help with how that hangover is showing up on our face.) Apply some cooled grounds to the area under your eyes with your fingers and let them sit for 10-15 minutes, while being careful not to get any in your eyes.
For an under-eye mask: Mix one egg white with 1 tablespoon coffee grounds. Cut a circular cotton makeup removal pad in half; coat both halves in the egg white mixture. Place under eyes for 10-15 minutes before scrubbing the remains and rinsing.
Shine up your locks
Put coffee grounds’ naturally abrasive qualities to work for your hair. When those follicles start to feel weighed down by residue from conditioner, gel, mousse, and hair spray, massage a handful of coffee grounds into your scalp before shampooing. The coarse particles help remove excess buildup, leaving your mane lighter and shinier. (We haven’t tested this, but this tip could have been very useful when trying to get the gallon of thick, lice removal goop out of my child’s hair.)
Stimulate hair growth
Maybe you don’t need Rogaine after all? Turns out, caffeine is a stimulant in more ways than one; it has been shown to increase blood circulation to the skin and thereby stimulate hair growth. One study even cultivated human hair follicles in balding male subjects.
Clean your fireplace (and make it less smoky)
Removing ashes from a wood-burning fireplace is a messy business. Scattering still damp coffee grounds over ashes will weight them down, making them easier to remove. This technique also prevents the formation of smoke clouds and mitigates how much dust escapes the fireplace, travelling to other parts of the room and house.
Minimise furniture scratches
If your side table’s looking scuffed, try the almighty ground to diminish the appearance of minor scratches. Make a thick paste using coffee grounds and water, then apply them to furniture blemishes with a Q-tip. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, then wipe with a clean rag. Repeat as necessary. They won’t be invisible, but the abrasive texture of the grounds may help even out the surrounding surface, minimising the scratch’s appearance. (Note: Only use on furniture deep brown in colour to avoid creating stains.)
Diminish the appearance of stretch marks and cellulite
Coffee grounds will not cause cellulite to magically disappear. But, according to research published in the National Library of Medicine, “caffeine is used as an active compound in anti-cellulite products because it prevents excessive accumulation of fat in cells.” Make your own coffee scrub (by mixing grounds with water, coconut oil, or the emollient of your choice) and apply it topically two to three times per week.
De-flea your pet
If your pet comes home with some unwelcome friends in their coat — or you’d like to prevent that — try giving them a coffee bath. Fleas, like the other small critters we’ve mentioned, are averse to caffeine. Gently scrub the grounds through Fido’s fur after shampooing, then rinse and dry as usual.