15 Household Uses for Coffee Grounds

Don’t let used coffee grounds go to waste. Use them around the house, in your garden or in homemade body-care products.

coffee beans

Add used coffee grounds to compost, natural cleaning and beauty products.

Photo by Fotolia

Content Tools

The average American drinks three cups of coffee a day—that’s about 400 million cups of coffee consumed each day in the United States alone. For many, the morning ritual of brewing a hot cup of coffee is a necessity as well as a treat. But instead of creating landfill-bound waste by tossing out used coffee grounds, put these caffeinated soldiers to work. Coffee grounds are surprisingly versatile and can be reused nearly everywhere, from your home to your garden.

Break Ground

1. Odor Eater: Just like baking soda, used coffee grounds can absorb unpleasant odors. Combine a week’s worth of used coffee grounds in an open jar, then place it in the back of your refrigerator or freezer to naturally deodorize the space.

2. Hearth Helper: Before cleaning out your fireplace, sprinkle used coffee grounds over the ashes to dampen the dust and keep it from flying everywhere.

3. Scratch Remover: Reinvigorate scratched wood surfaces: Mix 1⁄4 cup coffee grounds with 1⁄4 cup warm water and 1⁄4 cup vinegar, let steep for an hour, then apply mixture to scratched wood surfaces using a washcloth. (For smaller scratches, use a cotton swab.) Let the stain sit for about five minutes for light-colored surfaces, or up to an hour for dark-colored surfaces, before wiping away. Note: If you are worried about the stain getting too dark, apply in small increments until you achieve the color you want.

4. Hand Savior: Rub coffee grounds into your palms after handling smelly foods such as garlic, onion or even fish. The grounds will absorb the smell, as well as any oil that may have hitched a ride on your hands.

5. Disposal Cleaner: For a better-smelling garbage disposal, pour a tablespoon each of coffee grounds and baking soda down the drain to clean the blades. Note: This works best with newer disposal units. If you are unsure about your drain efficiency, consult your owners’ manual for tips.

6. DIY Candle: Want the warm scent of a coffee shop in your home without roasting beans all day long? Repurpose used coffee grounds into a homemade candle: In a small jar, place a metal-based wick in the center of the container, then fill the jar with alternating layers of coffee grounds and melted beeswax. (Allow the beeswax to solidify between layers.) This candle will release a subtle coffee scent that will help perk you up after a long day—without the caffeine.

7. Dish Cleaner: Mix a handful of coffee grounds with your dish soap to add abrasive grit that can help scrub away tough bits stuck to pots and pans.

8. Meat Rub: Combine 1⁄2 cup coffee grounds with 1⁄4 cup ground pepper and 3 tablespoons kosher salt for a savory coffee meat rub. Sprinkle the rub on your favorite raw meat before grilling. (For best results use fresh, finely ground coffee.)

9. Worm Compost: Coffee grounds make a phenomenal fertilizer. They are slightly acidic, which is great for acid-loving plants such as blueberries, tomatoes, roses and hydrangeas. Plus, they attract worms, who love this gritty material. Coffee grounds help worms’ digestion, yielding great soil in return, and give worms a boost of caffeine, helping them work at double the speed. Dump used grounds into a compost bin or straight onto your garden.

10. Color Boost: Thanks again to coffee grounds’ acidic nature, you can deepen the blue color of your hydrangeas—or even turn pink hydrangeas blue—by composting with coffee grounds. Hydrangeas’ color is dependent on the pH of the soil. 

11. Control Pests: Although there wouldn’t be enough caffeine left in used coffee grounds to kill snails, slugs and other unwelcome garden pests, the pungent aroma will still deter these guys from disturbing your garden. Sprinkle around the perimeter of your plants. You could also use coffee grounds inside the home to repel ants. Sprinkle the grounds where ants commonly enter your house.

12. Seed Starter: Use coffee grounds to help start seeds. With a high carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (almost 20:1), used coffee grounds will release nutrients, including nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, into the surrounding soil as they break down. This is great for young seedlings.

13. Sugar Scrub: Gently exfoliate skin with used coffee grounds: Mix 1⁄2 cup used coffee grounds and 1⁄2 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons coconut oil. Rub all over dry skin. This scrub can help reduce the appearance of cellulite as well as tighten and tone skin while feeling great and smelling wonderful. Add a few drops of vanilla extract or essential oil for a vanilla-latte version.

14. Exfoliating Soap: Add coffee grounds to melted soap (either from a homemade soap bar or from scraps of soap bars around the house) and allow hardening to make a light exfoliating hand or body soap with a subtle coffee scent. Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of coffee grounds for every 1 pound of soap.

15. Hair Treatment: Massage a mixture of 1⁄4 cup coffee grounds and 1⁄4 cup coconut oil into your scalp for a luxurious but deep clean. The caffeine can stimulate hair growth and give your locks fresh luster while dispelling build-up. The coconut oil will moisturize your scalp and hydrate dry strands of hair. Rinse out with an apple cider vinegar rinse. Note: This works best on dark hair, as coffee grounds may stain lighter tresses.