By Jill Levy

Not only do coffee beans help produce one of the world’s one most loved beverages, but they’re also full of valuable nutrients including antioxidants, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and many other minerals.

In honor of Earth Week, why not utilize coffee grounds you’d otherwise toss in the garbage every day and instead put them to good use in your garden, home or even on your skin?

That’s right: These leftover grounds actually have a variety of uses you probably never realized.

What can you do with coffee grounds? As you’ll find out below, ways to repurpose them include creating compost, fertilizing plants, melting snow in your driveway, exfoliating your skin, just to name a few.

1. Make Compost

Healthy compost requires plant matter brimming with nutrients, which is exactly what coffee beans provide. Plus, when you add warm grounds to compost it helps them break down even more easily. 

Either mix the grounds right into soil, or better yet, add them to compost with other nutrient-rich ingredients like fruits and veggies, egg shells, nut shells and leftover tea bags.

2. Fertilize Plants

Uses for coffee grounds in your garden include supplying nutrients for the soil that help plants grow. Which plants use coffee grounds? Species that thrive best in acid soil with a lower pH appreciate coffee grounds the most, including: roses, azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, lilies, and blueberries and carrots.

An added bonus is that worms like to eat coffee grounds, and attracting more of them can make for a healthier garden environment.

Which plants do not like used coffee grounds? It’s best to keep them away from plants sensitive to acidic soil (although you can still post the grounds), such as tomatoes, clovers and alfalfa. Unbrewed, whole beans are even more acidic, so used grounds are a better option if you are going to fertilize these plants with coffee.

3. Naturally Repel Bugs

A surprising use for coffee grounds is repelling insects away from your garden or patio, including slugs and ants. The acidity of coffee grounds deters insects without needing to spray chemicals on your lawn, and it can keep them from eating certain plants that you want to protect.

Do this by adding the grinds right into soil, especially in areas where slugs or other bugs seem to lurk.

4. Exfoliate Your Skin 

Can used coffee grounds be used for anything in your beauty routine? They sure can. In fact, coffee ground uses for skin include exfoliating the top layer of skin gently in order to remove dead skin cells and improve tone and texture. 

You’ll want to first dry the grounds before using them on your face or elsewhere. Simply spread out the coffee grounds in a clean dish and leave them out for at least several hours.

Clean your face first with a natural, mild cleanser, then apply a small handful of coffee grounds mixed with a bit of water to your face, using circular motions to exfoliate. Rinse the grounds off well and then moisturize afterwards as you normally would.

5. Get Dirt Off Your Hands

If your hands accumulate dirt, growths or patches of dryness, use coffee grounds to help scour away grime and leave behind smooth skin. You can do the same on the soles of your feet, just like you would with a pumice stone, to remove rough areas of skin.

6. Boost Shininess of Dark Colored Hair and Remove Dandruff

If you’ve got dark hair, coffee grounds are a great way to add richness to your hair color while also improving shine.

Use the grounds just like a natural hair mask, mixing them with some water and letting them sit on your clean hair for about 20 minutes. This can help remove grease and debris from your strands, making them silky smooth.

You can also exfoliate your scalp with some grounds to help get rid of dryness and dandruff.

7. Tenderize and Flavor Meat

Some tasty barbecue sauces, marinades and even chocolate desserts use coffee/coffee grounds for extra flavor. Coffee beans naturally have a smoky flavor, plus their acidity helps to tenderize meat and improve its texture.

Use coffee grounds as a tenderizer in meat rub for meats such as steak, brisket or ribs.

8. Brew Your Own Stouts and Porters

If you’re into making beer at home, try adding some coffee grounds to stouts and porters. Not only does it enhance the dark color of these earthy brews, it also adds a pop of flavor that can make other ingredients even tastier.

9. Scrub Pans with Stuck-On Debris

If you find it hard to get grease, food particles and other gunk off your pots and pans, add a bit of dried coffee grounds mixed with water to them and scrub with a sponge. 

You can also use the same method to clean junk off of your kitchen counter, sink, refrigerator or cabinets.

10. Clean Out a Clogged Drain

A clever way to clean out a clogged, smelly drain is by pouring some used coffee grounds with boiled water down the drain, which acts as a natural de-clogger and deodorizer. Let the mixture sit in the drain for 20+ minutes, then run warm water and soap through the drain for several minutes.

11. Improve the Smell of Your Refrigerator

How should you store used coffee grounds? One clever way is to keep them in your refrigerator where they can act as a natural deodorizer.

These grounds have the ability to soak up odors, similarly to baking soda, thanks to their nitrogen and sulfur. By keeping them in your fridge you’ll cut down on unwanted smells without needing to use chemical cleaners near your food.

Either leave dried grounds in your fridge in a dish, or tie them up in a porous cloth such as a cheesecloth or handkerchief. You can use the same coffee ground pouches in other smelly areas in your home, too, such as closets, the garage or places you keep your garbage cans.

12. Freshen Up Smelly Shoes

Add some dried coffee grounds to the soles of odorous shoes and leave them overnight someplace dry so the grounds soak up smells. Shake your shoes out thoroughly the next morning before putting them on.

13. Make a Natural Dye for Clothes, Furniture and Art

Coffee beans have a naturally dark color that transfers well to other surfaces, including paper, cotton and wood. You can use the grounds to color fabric, stain paper or for arts and crafts, such as making dye to color Easter eggs.

14. Touch Up Wooden Furniture

If wood furniture in your home looks a bit aged and weathered, try using coffee to touch up the surface and add sheen and color. Mix damp coffee grounds with a bit of water, then apply to any spots that need some refreshing. Let the mixture sit overnight then gently rub the excess off.

15. Melt Ice in Your Driveway or Sidewalk

Just like sand, dried coffee can help melt snow outdoors and prevent ice from forming that can cause slips and falls. Use the grounds like you would sand, by sprinkling them on your driveway, walkway or sidewalks. 

Final Thoughts

  • What can I do with coffee grounds? A whole lot! Coffee grounds are full of nutrients including minerals, and they make a great compost ingredient or fertilizer.
  • The rough texture of the grounds also makes them useful as a natural skin exfoliator or scrub for household purposes.
  • Finally, they have the ability to soak up unwanted smells, so use them around your home in place of products with fragrances or chemicals.

Jill Levy has been with the Dr. Axe and Ancient Nutrition team for seven years. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Fairfield University, followed by a certification as a Holistic Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Jill takes a “non-diet” approach to health and really enjoys teaching others about mindful eating, intuitive eating and the benefits of eating real foods.

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