Going Green: 21 Ways to Reuse Coffee Grounds

My grandmother's coffee grinder on FlickrIt’s the first Friday of the month, which means it’s time again to talk about Going Green. Last month we discussed green cell phones and cell phone recycling, and today we’re moving on to another way to recycle and reuse.

And we’re talking coffee. Coffee grounds, actually.

As you well know, I drink coffee, and apparently so do many of you; coffee is the most consumed beverage worldwide with 400 million cups downed each year. Now that creates a lot of used coffee grounds!

Did you know there are lots of ways you can reuse coffee grounds instead of just throwing them in the garbage? Here’s a short list:

21 Ways to Reuse Coffee Grounds (and Coffee)

In the garden:

1. Organic fertilizer: Sprinkle them in the soil of plants that love acidic soils, especially rosebushes (my roses *love* coffee grounds!), rhododendrons, camellias, evergreens, carrots, and radishes.

2. Organic pest and ant repellent: Sprinkle areas where ants, slugs, and snails hang out and destroy your garden.

3. Organic cat repellent: Yes, I love cats, but if you want to keep them out of your plants and garden, coffee grounds will do the trick.

4. Mushroom growing soil: Inoculated mushroom plugs nestled into moist coffee grounds can mean a great mushroom crop for you. Put grounds in a glass container and press a mushroom plug into them, repeating with more grounds and mushroom plugs until you run out of room. If you see mold, just remove it.

5. Bait worm life support: Add coffee grounds to soil to help keep bait worms alive longer.

In the house:

Caffé on Flickr6. Closet deodorizer: Old pantyhose plus coffee grounds equals a sachet to keep your closet free of odors.

7. Refrigerator and freezer deodorizer: Place ground in a small cup and in the fridge or freezer much as you would baking soda.

8. Pin cushion filler: If you still use pin cushions (like I do), dried coffee grounds are a great filler for the cushions.

9. Abrasive cleaner: For stubborn grease and stains on pots and pans, coffee grounds really get in there and do the job.

10. Dust deflector: We’re talking about the fireplace here; sprinkle coffee grounds on ashes before you start collecting them to minimize the dust. I *love* this tip and use it often.

11. Furniture scratch toucher upper: Use a Q-tip and coffee grounds to fill in scratches on wooden furniture–remember the coffee will stain the wood a bit, so don’t use it on something that won’t match.

12. Drain cleaner: Be careful with this one as you don’t want to clog your drain with coffee grounds! *But* to counter odors coming from your drain, you can pour about a half a cup of coffee grains down the drain followed by boiling hot water to get the grounds through. No more smells!

13. Meat tenderizer: This is one for leftover coffee as opposed to coffee grounds; soak steaks in coffee to tenderize and for an interesting added flavor.

14. Chocolate cake flavorer: Used grounds and fresh grounds both give a little kick to chocolate baked goods, including brownies.

In your beauty routine:

Caffé Vaniglia soap from Saponissimo15. Hand soap: Rub grounds on your hands to get rid of stubborn odors like onion and garlic. In fact, the soap I use in my kitchen is made with used coffee grounds–Caffè Vaniglia soap from Saponissimo.

16. Face mask: An egg white mixed with 1/4 cup grounds makes a great exfoliating face mask.

17. Hair rinse: After washing your hair, rub in coffee grounds for shine, softness, and even a bit of color for those of you who are dark-haired; remember coffee grounds act as a dye, so if you have light hair, unless you want highlights, this one isn’t for you.

18. Cellulite rub: Mix one tablespoon of olive oil with 1/4 cup moist, warm coffee grounds and spread on cellulite hot spots. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, leave on for a few minutes, and then remove wrap and shower as normal. For best results, do a couple times a week. If anyone tries this, you *must* let me know how it turns out.

For fun:

19. Dye: Use a mix of coffee grounds and water to dye clothing, paper, or even Easter eggs.

20. Tattoo base: Make homemade temporary tattoos using coffee grounds and henna.

And finally, on your doggie:

21. Dog flea dip: I haven’t had the nerve to try this one yet, but next bath time, my dogs are getting some coffee grounds rubbed into them after the shampoo and rinse routine.

By the by, even if you don’t drink coffee, you can ask your local coffee shops and other places that serve coffee for their grounds, and start reusing them. The environment will thank you!

Do you currently reuse coffee grounds? How?

If you don’t reuse coffee grounds, which of these suggestions might you try?

Buon weekend & Happy Birthday Dad!

53 Beans of Wisdom to “Going Green: 21 Ways to Reuse Coffee Grounds”
  1. be careful with the puppies though – when using coffee grounds in the garden, it’s best to use it on plants that the dogs are not attracted to or have your garden fenced off where they cant get into it (unless you’re one of the lucky ones and your dogs dont dig up your garden). Dogs can make themselves very sick on coffee grounds.

    coffeejitters (Judy Haley)’s last blog post..The Best Thing

    I was under the impression that the presence of coffee grounds there would make animals turn the other way so they don’t eat the plants or go to the bathroom on them. Sorry, do other dogs eat dirt? Mine don’t so I didn’t know that mixing in coffee grounds would somehow make it appealing?

  2. awedree

    Buon venerdi, Michelle. Thanks for those cool suggestions. With the weekend coming (TG!) I’m in the mood for some pampering, so I’d like to try the face mask and maybe even in my hair.

    I haven’t done the face mask yet, but it sounds lovely. The hair rinse can be a bit messy so be sure to position yourself well 🙂

  3. 03.06.2009

    Buon giorno Michelle! Thanks for all of the great ideas! I will definitely be trying some of these.

    Sonia P’s last blog post..#58’s very own… Fred Mertz

    Enjoy! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  4. Gil

    Hi! Thanks for the wake up call on coffee grounds. For years we saved them for the garden and all of a sudden we stopped. We have a flower bed that has lousy soil and you woke me up on how to improve it.

    Think Spring!

    Excellent point…spring is coming!

  5. fuzion

    Some of these tips are pretty brilliant! I have a few strays to try #3 on…

    fuzion’s last blog post..Firefox 3.0.7

    Hopefully it will work to keep them away!

  6. 03.06.2009

    Lots of helpful information in this post. I shall be trying a few, but you won’t catch me with coffee grounds and clingfilm round my thighs. (Sorry to disappoint.)

    casalba’s last blog post..Pollo alla Cacciatora

    And here I was even hoping for photographic evidence 😉

  7. 03.06.2009

    Oh, what great job you did, my wise neighbour!Very interesting and useful.

    Irene’s last blog post..Vassili Zoulias’ Old Athens

    Glad you like the tips, Irene 🙂

  8. 03.06.2009

    Really great tips, Michelle! We have a little mountain of coffee grounds in the kitchen that we usually throw out but I’m definitely going to reuse them now, especially for cleaning the fireplace and in the garden. We have a lot of neighbourhood cats visiting our place so hopefully the grounds will keep those pests away. I’m tempted to use grounds for cat flea dip but I’m afraid of what would happen.

    milanese masala’s last blog post..Eating guitar strings

    I love the tip about the ashes in the fireplace…definitely useful! Enjoy!

  9. 03.06.2009

    Who knew? I just throw mine in the compost.

    That works too 🙂

  10. 03.06.2009

    I had the most amazing coffee ground soap that I just finished. I used it in the shower and although the grounds made it rough, it was the best exfoliating soap I’ve ever used. Dry, flaking, bumpy skin from a harsh winter, gone! I may have to try some of your soap and try and keep the cats from using my herb garden as their litter box! great tips.

    karen’s last blog post..The Mainland

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen kitties squatted in plants around the village…I may just have to start sprinkling random plants as a neighborly deed 😉 And YES the grittiness of the coffee grounds is a great exfoliator…another reason why I do want to try that face mask….

  11. good tips Michelle! Chris and I have been talking about this recently too…he’s been using them in our garden…but I love #3, b/c we always need something to keep our cats out of our houseplants 🙂 I’ll definitely try it.

    erin :: the olive notes’s last blog post..weekends

    Hope it works out for you Erin!

  12. 03.06.2009

    Oh my gosh, this is really interesting. I can see myself trying quite a few of these ideas actually. Thanks for posting this Michelle!

    Amber’s last blog post..Desert Horned Toad

    Some of these I use quite often…let me know which you like!

  13. 03.06.2009

    RE: # 13 – a girlfriend of my swears by this little trick: When pan frying a steak (seasoned steak fried in butter), she pours a little black coffee over the meat and in the pan when it’s close to done. Her steaks are delish!

    #18 – This should really help!! I used to work for a skin care company based out of France (Lierac). Their cellulite reducing lotion was almost always sold out. The lotion contained a good amount of caffiene.

    bella’s last blog post..it doesn’t take much to make me happy

    Ooh excellent Bella, thanks!

  14. I had no idea you could do so much with coffee grounds.

    molto interesting.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Flashback Friday –Cherelle & Alexander O’Neal – Saturday Luv

    Glad you liked it 🙂

  15. 03.06.2009

    These are all great ideas… maybe I need to start drinking coffee so I can reuse the grounds. 😉

    Aimee’s last blog post..More from Russia

    Hah, well, that’s certainly an option…or you can just go to a local coffeeshop and ask them for their grounds 🙂

  16. 03.06.2009

    Thank you for posting such useful tips. 🙂

    And thank you for reading 🙂

  17. 03.06.2009

    For a wake me up scrub in the shower, mix 1/4 cup olive oil, fine sugar and used coffee grounds. Apply in a circular motion to scrub off dry skin and reveal soft, smooth skin all over. Breathe in the scent of coffee as you shower — great in combo with a mint body wash, you’ll feel refreshed and awake!

    cherilyn’s last blog post..Just arrived – Beautiful Holiday Mineral Makeup Sets

    Sounds great!!!

  18. 03.07.2009

    I use them in my sink. I put them in the garbage disposable and goodbye odors. I will definitely try them in my roses this year. Thanks for the tips.

    Grace’s last blog post..Whenever You Get Impatient With Technology, Watch This Video

    Definitely works on odors!

  19. 03.07.2009

    Oh, and I almost forgot. Last week I had a steak in a restaurant that was marinated in espresso. Yum.

    Grace’s last blog post..Whenever You Get Impatient With Technology, Watch This Video

    I’d love to try that, especially in a restaurant where I can’t screw up my steak!

  20. 03.07.2009

    Ciao Michelle! Thanks for the great tips! I am especially excited about the garden uses for coffee grounds. I think I was a bit overzealous in my pruning of two lovely hydrangea bushes in my garden earlier this month (the adventures of the amateur gardener continue!), and I think some coffee grounds might just give them a little push. I remember reading somewhere that they like acidic soil. The rosebushes will be happy, too! I also had a problem last summer with ants in the garden, and I had no idea those coffee grounds I was throwing away each day would do the trick. Oh, and don’t get me started on cats in the garden! 🙂 Thanks for all the great tips!

    Laura’s last blog post..The Tour of the Winds

    I hope the tips help your garden! I don’t know about your house, but we go through quite a bit of coffee grounds, so it’s nice to have different options for using them 🙂

  21. 03.07.2009

    Always tossed grounds on the compost pile, didn’t realize they were good for snails and slugs. How much happier my last garden (and I) would have been! I used to go out and pick the suckers off by hand they made me so mad. And I’m about the most squeamish person you’ve ever met!

    I’m definitely going to try the fireplace ash removal method.

    And I’ve never heard of using them in personal grooming, although their use as an exfoliator doesn’t surprise me. But the hair thing, really? And as a meat tenderizer? I don’t think I could try that last one.

    anna l’americana’s last blog post..No smoking in the dark….

    I wouldn’t have thought of it either, but others here have praised the use of coffee with steak…who knew?!

  22. 03.07.2009


    I’ve heard of some of these ideas for used coffee grounds but most of them are new to me.

    Thanks for such an interesting post.


    Katey B’s last blog post..Hawaii Tripping

    Glad you enjoyed, Katey!

  23. 03.07.2009

    Hi thank you for the tips.

    I have a big problem with the neighbours cats digging up my garden so shall be trying 3.

    Also, my new holiday flat in Calabria has a wardrobe which smells, so when I’m next in Italy I shall try no 6. Now as I don’t drink coffee how do I ask my neighbour for her coffee grounds in Italian?

    I believe coffee grounds is “caffé usato”…mi puoi dare/posso prendere il vostro caffé usato? Be ready for strange looks, I’d say 😉

  24. Brilliant tips. Neither of us have heard of 3/4ths of them. The roses have always been the luck recipients of our used grinds, but now they might have to share a bit. Especially with the lettuce, the snails’ favorite snack. Thanks for such an informative post. Todd.

    White On Rice Couple’s last blog post..Club Med Bahamas- Green Flash Cocktail

    So happy you found some useful tips, Todd! And thanks for stopping by 🙂

  25. 03.08.2009

    I’m a coffee drinker too and I do appreciate this post.

    Paul U’s last blog post..Announcing my contest

    Glad you enjoyed, Paul 🙂

  26. 03.08.2009

    Michelle, what excellent tips. I’m a heavy coffee drinker so I always have coffee grounds. Instead of just tossing them out, from now on I will find a use for them I like the ant repellent, the abrasive cleasnser and the cellulite buster! I’ll let you know how it works out. 🙂

    Teresa’s last blog post..Shamrock Cookies

    Yes, keep us posted!

  27. 03.09.2009

    As soon as I saw your title I was jumping up and down like a kid in class that know s the answer…then I got to number 15 and saw you had already thought of it!!! Thank you for the link xxx

    charlie’s last blog post..

    Hee hee…prego 🙂 I really do use that soap several times a day. LOVE it!

  28. 03.09.2009

    I heard about coffee grounds being good for acid loving shrubs and started using mine around my rhododendrons a few years ago. The shrubs never looked better and the grounds also seem to keep the leaf biting ants away from the leaves!

    I’m tempted to try the cellulite cure..lol!

    Pat’s last blog post..Katz’s Delicatessen ~ Where Harry Met Sally

    I’m definitely tempted too Pat….thanks for the report on the rhododendrons!

  29. 03.09.2009

    I usually put it in the compost pile or mix it into the soil directly.

    I think you have to use a LOT of coffee grounds for it to be effective against snails and slugs.

    The meat tenderizer tip is interesting. May have to try it.

    Nate’s last blog post..Broiled Salmon Collar Recipe

    Thanks for the info on the snails/slugs…yes it does make sense that you’d need to add a lot to the soil otherwise they could probably figure out a way to avoid it pretty well….

  30. 03.11.2009

    My critters have not found coffee grounds very repellant. I love to use them in the garden and my animals love to lie all over them just like everything else.

    Chickens are really turned on by coffee grounds. Try it! I allowed my chickens in WV free access to the compost pile and coffee grounds were the reason for a shrieking fest, with every girld ruffling herself up trying to be first at them.

    Judith in Umbria’s last blog post..Ooops and double that

    Interesting! I’ll have to let P know about that one 🙂

  31. sonelyn

    I tried the coffee ground in my face and it works! tt’s like a mud pack..my skin becomes clear and soft…but is it advisable to use it everyday?

    Oh I definitely wouldn’t do it everyday…probably once a week is plenty, like many masks 🙂

    Giny Reply:

    A good exfoliating mask should only be used once or twice a week and then followed by a serum or good moisturizer. Can’t wait to try this one!

  32. Connie

    I’ve been remodeling an apartment – days and days of using latex and oil-based paints and more days of layering polyurethane on countertops. I keep a large can of coffee grounds in the rooms to absorb the strong odors.

    I have used coffee grounds for the fridge but found I had to be careful to tightly wrap everything because some items began to absorb the coffee smell. But – in an empty fridge between arriving tenants/clients – it is great.

    I’ve also used grounds in my houseplants and in my garden but am anxious to try the coffee grounds for the repelling cats trick. What an excellent idea! Grazie mille…

    So glad you enjoyed the tips, Connie!

  33. 09.05.2010

    SkippyJon Jones, our cat is going to meet our cafe’ grounds thanks to you & I am sure he is going to REALLY appreciate it! I have always used olive oil & sugar for a body scrub but I will try #16. Great post & Grazie mille!

    Hope you enjoy the tips, Maria!

  34. 09.05.2010

    I love these. In fact, I am printing it out. I just throw them in the flower beds, but I like the hair conditioning, soap like, refrigerator deodorizing qualities you speak of. You are a virtual plethora of information (that sounds perverse).

    I had fun preparing this because like you, Diana, I had always just thrown them in the dirt…but now we can spice it up a bit 😉

  35. I finally tried the coffee-grounds-as-hair-rinse tip. While it took FOREVER to rinse it all out, (& based on the black dots in the sink as I brushed my wet hair, I still didn’t get all the grounds, haha) it was worth it! My hair was soft without using conditioner, no frizz even, & I liked the subtle color difference.

    Yes yes the mess! Totally agree. That said, I also agree that it’s so worth it…I mean not every day or even once a week, but I like to do it about once a month 🙂

  36. karen i

    My husband still smokes (he stops and restarts every year)
    and I dislike the smoke and ashtray smells. I put used coffee grounds in his ash tray and in open decorative containers around the “smoking” area.
    In the ashtray, the grounds help extinquish the cigarette and really eliminate the smell of the butts. I think the open containers help eliminate any lingering smoke odors.
    After reading these comments, I’m going to use any leftover coffee to flavor a pot roast and put the grounds out for my roses. Thanks.

    That’s a great tip, Karen — my OH smokes too, although not in the house. Still, I think the grounds could help absorb whatever sneaks in!

  37. I use coffee grounds for garden, for hiding the spot on household furniture and for losing weight (i’m still doing this, rub the grounds along your thighs and legs, haven’t seen any results yet).

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  38. 04.09.2011

    I once couchsurfed with a guy in Hamburg, and he had bags filled to the brim with coffee grinds, generously donated by his local cafe. The most beautiful, thick head of hair you ever did see. He swore on coffee grinds.
    Haven’t tried it myself yet, but I have a coffeepot in the kitchen with yesterday’s grinds… so, I’ll give it a go.

    It’s messy, but I really love what they do my hair. Good luck, Tess!

  39. THANK YOU!!!! Oh my goodness we have this pesky cat that keeps digging up my plants in my garden and for some reason my front lawn has started growing mushrooms (I think from all the rain) I am DUMPING coffee grounds in my garden. Not really but I will be using some 🙂

    michelle Reply:

    Hope it works for you! I’ve never tried them to keep out cats.

  40. Giny

    These are wonderful ideas, Michelle! Thank you. I’m living in Norway now and we will def. try the one for ashes as we heat the cottage with wood burning stoves.

    I know in the States, some car dealerships will place coffee beans and/or grounds in containers under the seats to remove odors and freshen the cars before a re-sale.

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Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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