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8 Amazing Uses for Coffee Grounds

Upgrade your garden, get softer skin and more


By Sara Schwartz

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Coffee grounds

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Coffee grounds always seem like a waste. Once the coffee is made, the grounds end up in the trash and are never seen again. But what if there was a way to utilize those old, used grounds? Try these eight ideas to repurpose those grounds:

(This article previously appeared on Grandparents.com)

Crisper drawer

1. Deodorize Your Fridge

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After your coffee is brewed, put the grounds to work again — this time as a powerful odor absorber inside your fridge. Leaving a bowlful of used grounds in the fridge overnight will rid it of icky odors, according to Apartment Therapy. Repeat as often as you'd like. If you're battling particularly potent odors, feel free to leave the grounds in the refrigerator until the job is done.

2. Scour Your Household Items

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Eliminate stubborn, stuck-on grime by scrubbing with a couple spoonfuls of coffee grounds. The gentle abrasion provides extra scouring power to clean the dirtiest of dishes and pans.

"You don't need to mix in soap, just use a thin cloth to get the abrasive action working," says Melissa Maker, host of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube and founder of a Toronto-based cleaning service of the same name. Before scouring the whole pan, test a small area to make sure the grounds don't stain the surface — and never use on delicate ceramic or non-stick surfaces.

Garden

3. Attract Earthworms to Your Garden

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Just like sleep-starved teachers and long-haul truckers, earthworms L-O-V-E coffee. And you know what happy earthworms do to soil? Make it a whole lot richer! "They're attracted to organic material like coffee grounds, and they help distribute it through the soil," says Melinda Myers, a gardening expert, author and host of the How to Grow Anything DVD set.

A healthy worm population enhances the quality of garden soil by stimulating microbial activity, churning the soil, improve water-holding capacity and water filtration, providing channels for root growth and burying plant residue, according to the USDA.

For optimal results, sprinkle your soil with a 1/2-inch-thick layer of coffee grounds, says Myers.

Washing hands

4. Clean Smelly Hands

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Rub your hands with a scoopful of spent grounds to eliminate odors from fish, garlic and other strong-smelling foods. "There's no need to mix with soap," says Maker. "Your hands may have a coffee smell, but it will remove the more unpleasant odor, and you can wash with soap after rinsing the grounds off your hands."

living room with wood floors

5. Cover Scratches in Wood

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The rustic look is all the rage, but not everyone appreciates scratches on their wood floors or furniture. While buffing with a shelled walnut works best for repairing light-stained woods, experts agree that coffee grounds are a better match for darker woods. First, mix used coffee grounds with a few drops of water to create a thick paste. Then rub the paste into the scratches, and let sit for 10 minutes before wiping away the excess, says Mr. Coffee.

6. Exfoliate Your Skin

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Did you know the solution to your rough elbows is sitting in your coffee machine? "Coffee grounds make a great body scrub," says Dawn Davis, beauty director at TotalBeauty.com. "They're the perfect size and shape for exfoliating rough elbows, knees and feet — you get a lot of scrubbing action, but they're still fairly gentle."

Application method: Combine equal parts coffee grounds and coconut oil (for added hydration and easier application), and rub onto rough skin in a circular motion. Rinse away grounds and pat dry. Note, this treatment is not recommended for your face — "the irregular shape of the grounds can be too rough on sensitive facial skin," warns Davis.

Fire wood

7. Tame Fireplace Ashes

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Sprinkling damp coffee grounds onto fireplace embers can help you sweep up ash without kicking up dust. "The damp grounds act as a binder on cool ashes to help contain the dust and particles," says Maker. Two things to remember: Always let the fire go out completely and don't dump the grounds from a high distance.

8. Enrich Your Compost Pile

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With many states starting their own government-sponsored composting programs, it may be time to consider the quality of your contribution.

Coffee grounds improve compost in two ways. First, they typically contain about 2 percent nitrogen (the same amount as manure), which feeds the micro-organisms that digest plant debris and turns it into compost, says Myers.

Second, as they decompose, coffee grounds have been shown to suppress common fungal rots and reduce the growth of E. coli and Staphylococcus spp, according to research published by Washington State University. For optimal compost disease-suppression, shoot for 10 to 20 percent coffee grounds per total compost volume.

3 Uses That Don't Work

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Well-intentioned DIY bloggers offer many creative suggestions for how to recycle used coffee grounds, but we checked with the experts, and the following three ideas don't hold water:

Cultivate blue hydrangeas  Truth: Acidic soil allows hydrangeas to absorb more aluminum from the soil, which turns their petals blue. Truth: Coffee grounds are highly acidic. Lie: Adding coffee grounds to your soil will make hydrangeas turn blue. "The problem is, coffee grounds' impact on the soil is very short term," says Myers. "It's very difficult to change soil's pH."

Unclog drains  Plumbers agree, nothing will clog a drain faster than the combination of coffee grounds and cooking grease. Even if you flush them down the drain at different times, cooled grease catches on the inside of pipes, lying in wait to make a gluey mess.

Use as roach bait  You may have heard that roaches are attracted to the smell of coffee grounds, which makes them useful as bait for homemade traps. Orkin entomologist Ron Harrison says the cockroaches would certainly be trapped by the tape, but they’re not particularly attracted to coffee grounds.

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