11 Ways to Reuse Those Coffee Grounds, From Skincare to Gardening

By: Molly Apel
June 25, 2020

11 Ways to Reuse Those Coffee Grounds, From Skincare to Gardening

  • Here’s a great way to reduce waste: With a little effort, that pound of coffee grounds you dump in your garbage each week can be easily reused and recycled.
  • Abrasive and absorbent, coffee grounds contain caffeine and nutrients, making them a useful tool for multiple household uses.
  • Put your used coffee grounds to work as a body or dish scrub, a hair, clothing and furniture dye, a useful garden tool or a household air freshener.

Each morning, we dump a lump of coffee grounds in the garbage. Shouldn’t there be something we can do with all that waste? As a matter of fact, coffee grounds are one thing that’s easy to reuse and recycle. The coarseness of the grounds, their residual caffeine, their pigment and their nutrients still offer lots of potential uses.

Brew up a pot of clean coffee and save the grounds. Below, you’ll find ways to put them to good use.

How to reuse coffee grounds

Hand holding portafilter with espresso coffee

1. Make your own coffee scrub

Coffee grounds are a natural exfoliant. They’re easy to mix into a face or body scrub that gently removes dead skin. Plus, caffeine has antioxidant properties.[1]

Mix 1 cup coffee grounds from freshly brewed coffee, 6 Tbsp. coconut or jojoba oil and 3 Tbsp. sea salt or white sugar into a jar. Combine until everything is thoroughly incorporated. Apply to your face (like a mask) or anywhere you’d like to exfoliate. Then gently rub the grounds into your skin.

Note: Unless you like clogs, avoid washing coffee grounds down the drain. Place a fine mesh sieve over the drain to catch the grounds and toss them in the trash.

2. Scrub-a-dub pots and pans

Dry, used coffee grounds are abrasive and acidic, giving them the power to scrape the burnt-on gunk from pans. Soak pots, pans and dishes in hot water for 30 minutes. Then, gently rub coffee grounds onto the surface to grind off the stains and residue.

Note: You don’t want to use any abrasive cleaners on glossy or nonstick surfaces. Avoid scrubbing with enough force to damage your cookware. Use coffee grounds in situations when you’d feel comfortable using steel wool, like gunky baking sheets and grill grates.

3. Take a coffee ground bath

The residual caffeine left in your coffee grounds can activate your body’s own processes of repairing cellular damage.[2] This makes the bath a great place for a second-use of your coffee grounds.

Here’s how: Place 1 cup of used grounds in a nut milk bag, or wrap it into a cheesecloth pouch and secure with a string or rubber band. Draw a bath and place your “coffee ground bath bomb” in the warm water. Add ½ cup epsom salts for extra relaxation.

4. Get rid of puffy eyes

Studies have found that caffeine can help reduce the puffiness around your eyes.[3] To try this at home, apply used coffee grounds to the area beneath your eyes and gently wash it off once it’s dried. As a bonus, a study also showed that caffeine applied to the skin helps eliminate the dark circles that appear under your eyes and make you look tired.[4]

5. Make a hair rinse

Some say coffee can add a deeper, richer tone to your hair. To try this, soak your hair in a bowl of wet coffee grounds until thoroughly damp. Wrap hair on top of your head and put on a shower cap. Wait until your hair is almost dry before you rinse. Besides the rich color, you’ll also notice increased shine because the acid in the coffee grounds can also strip hair of buildup.

6. Tint clothes and fabric

Want to add a sepia tone to a light or neutral top? Coffee stains cotton, as many of us have discovered on our way to work while wearing a crisp white shirt. Dyeing any light fabric with coffee adds a beautiful antiqued look to any fabric (when it’s intentional).

To do this, soak your cotton item in water in a pot. Add enough leftover coffee grounds to make the water opaque. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Wash in the washing machine before wearing.

7. Hide furniture scratches

Small scratches tend to leave light streaks on wood furniture. The color of coffee can hide these scratches and bring back the beautiful, uniform color to wood. Simply apply wet coffee grounds to the scratch, being careful not to leave them on unscratched areas or they may be dyed a darker color than you want. Keep applying coffee grounds and wiping them off until the wood turns the rich, wood brown you want.

8. Toss them on plant roots

Acid-loving plants thrive with your coffee grounds. Plants such as lily of the valley, blueberries, carrots, radishes, hydrangeas, rhododendrons and azaleas will love when you leave coffee grounds on the soil at their base. Be careful where applying them because coffee grounds can actually inhibit growth of some plants. Ask your nursery plant specialist about your specific plant needs.

9. Compost your grounds

An abundance of nutrients makes coffee grounds an incredibly valuable addition to your compost bin. Over time, microorganisms will go to work turning your grounds into super rich and nutritious soil for your garden. Sunset Magazine offers a full explanation of how coffee grounds break down to add nutrients to your soil, as well as instructions on how to put them to use.

10. Repel slugs, cats and rabbits

Seattle grocer Puget Consumer Coop suggests that if you sprinkle coffee grounds in your garden, you’ll have fewer slugs. If you’re growing lettuce, spinach or even strawberries (some of the slug’s favorite foods), this is definitely worth a try. More good news for your garden: Some also say that the smell of coffee grounds will repel cats and rabbits as well.

11. Eliminate smells

Food & Wine recommends baking your used grounds to dry them, then keeping a cup of them in your refrigerator to absorb smells. You can use them to eliminate odors in other areas of your home. One idea is to put them in a low, flat plastic container with several small holes in it. Leave the container inside your garbage can beneath the garbage bag, or under a seat in your car.

We’re all trying our best to find ways to reuse and recycle. Try these tips and feel even better about your morning cup of coffee. Next, find out how to choose coffee beans that taste delicious.

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