11 reuse ideas for coffee grounds

Filed in Blog, Reuse by on January 7, 2010 41 Comments
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whitney Kakos, cafedirects impact and sustainability manager

whitney Kakos, cafedirects impact and sustainability manager

Whitney Kakos, Cafédirect’s Impact and Sustainability manager has put together some fantastic reuse ideas for your coffee grounds. She says “When you’ve finished your coffee, don’t throw away the grounds without trying some of these eco friendly reuse ideas first!”

Whitney is responsible for developing and implementing a framework to assess and report the economic, social and environmental impact of the business model.  She has also developed the company’s first comprehensive environmental strategy and is charged with integrating it across the business.  Her role includes supporting projects like AdapCC, Cafédirect’s three-year public-private partnership with GTZ to assist smallholder coffee and tea farmers in adapting to climate change. 

Eco exfoliant

Used coffee grounds are a great natural exfoliant for the skin! Simply apply, massage onto the skin and rinse.

Because you’re worth it

Who’d have thought it? Coffee actually makes a great hair rinse! If you have darker hair, use leftover coffee as a final hair rinse to add super shine.

Slugs and snails

Used coffee grounds can you help keep bugs at bay by acting as a repellent for snails and slugs.

Compost

Used coffee grounds put nutrients back in to the soil, which means they’re a great ingredient for your compost pile. They enhance the acidity of your soil while acting as a natural fertiliser.

Cat be gone!

Tired of the local cat using your lovely flower bed as a litter tray? A healthy scattering of used coffee grounds and orange peels around the base of your prize begonias will keep even the most persistent moggie away.

Odour control

Freshen up your home the eco-friendly way; place a bowl of used coffee grounds in the freezer to remove unwanted odours.

Neutralise nasty niffs

Try this hand cleanser for the eco-conscious cook: Simply rubbing old coffee grounds on your hands is a great way to get rid of smells from chopping or cutting up pungent foods.

Furniture care

Now you see it…now you don’t – remove small scratches on furniture with wet coffee grounds.

Fairtrade funghi

Rich in nutrients, old coffee grounds make the perfect soil in which to grow your own mushrooms.

Send them marching

Pest control the natural way; ants apparently hate coffee and won’t cross a line of coffee grounds.

Indoor gardening

Add some old coffee grounds to your houseplants; most will love the boost of acidity.

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (41)

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  1. Brilliant tips, thank you! I had no idea about some of these but will definitely be employing these ideas.

  2. Compact UK says:

    These are very handy tips as we use a lot of ground coffee and never sure what to do with them afterwards.

    Thank you :)

  3. That’s so weird, I was just wondering what to do with coffee grinds and BAM, here’s 11 different things! Amazing!

  4. H0gg1t says:

    Hi, Have been using coffee grounds for over a year now to add to my compost bin to enrich the “mix”. I get a weekly amount from my local “greasy spoon” cafe, who save their grounds for me! It improves my compost AND reduses the amount they throw away, so a win-win situation.

    First used this idea when my sister (a Starbucks addict) told me that they (Starbucks) give away their groundshowever I never witnessed this when I went in to their coffee shops with her!

  5. I sometimes pick up my grounds from Starbucks, but you have to ask for them and they then package them up in an old coffee bag, per request. They have indeed been great for preventing slugs and snails :-D

  6. Great tips! I have been composting them for years. I never heard of using them to shine up your hair. Guess what I will be doing tomorrow? lol
    Last summer I hit up my local Starbucks and grabbed a ton of coffee grounds. I threw it all in my garden and tilled away. What a difference it truly did make. I also use them to sprinkle in my bark by the front door. My cat thinks its her cat box. I have yet to see her back.
    I will be passing along your info, thanks for the inspiration!

  7. Mrs Green says:

    I love these tips too – thanks to Whitney for putting them together for us., H0gg1t; I think it’s great that you are saving stuff from landfill by collecting them from your local cafe and surviving, I can’t wait to hear how your hair turns out. I’m inspired to hear about the difference it made to your soil. We could really use some help on ours, but it’s already very acidic, so I’m a bit concerned about adding any more …

  8. That is a really interesting list. I’ll definitely try some of those – cat and slug repellant being the foremost. One of my new year’s resolutions is to grow more veggies, and slug patrol is a chore. And the neighbours have 11 cats!

  9. Naomi Sandoval says:

    This is great! Neighborhood cats are taking over and peeing on my outside furniture. Disgusting. Any idea how to get cat pee out of a stroller? On using coffee in veggie gardens, I heard that plants become addicted and wither if you stop. Any experience with this, anyone?

  10. Mrs Green says:

    @Devon eco holidays at Wheatland Farm: 11 cats is quite something to contend with. Although I love my feline friends, there are certain places I prefer them to do their business, and on my salad patch is not one of them!

    @Naomi Sandoval: Hi Naomi; I don’t have experience of either of these scenarios I’m afraid :) But for getting rid of odours I tend to favour bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and fresh air.

  11. Hazel says:

    Mrs G,
    I found this http://faq.gardenweb.com/faq/lists/soil/2002015354019975.html which says the used grounds are actually pretty much neutral. HTH. I can’t find anything on plant caffeine addiction :0)
    I compost my ground coffee, but I did read somewhere Cindy Crawford was/is supposed to have used it as an exfoliant and to help against cellulite. I think they put caffeine in expensive anti-cellulite creams. Anyway, never tried it and no idea if it works or even if it’s true- any volunteers?!
    Another use I read years ago is that if you make sure they’re very dry you can stuff pincushions with the used grounds and your pins will never rust….

  12. Mrs Green says:

    @Hazel: Hi Hazel, thanks for the resource. It’s interesting to see what people have to say on the subject. Ah yes, I remember the anti cellulite claims now you have mentioned it – well it has to be worth a go, right?! LOL!
    Interesting about the pincushions – I bet they smell wonderful too!

  13. FredNytters says:

    Tea bags are also great for composting. I compost my ground coffee and it works great!

  14. Ben says:

    I know cats normally hate the smell of citrus, but I’m not so sure they dislike coffee. I often catch my cat licking out coffee cups I’ve left on the table (I probably shouldn’t say that, it makes it sound like I live in a right mess – I really don’t!).

    I wonder if the perceived plant addiction was in fact too much nitrogen from coffee grinds, which in my experience when provided alone without other plant nutrients causes rapid, but flimsy growth which tends to wilt quickly. Like all good things, you can have too much of it.

    I’ll definitely try it as an exfoliator. Most these products come in non-recyclable tubes, and with a few exceptions contain very fine plastic exfoliating beads which are now being associated with marine pollution as they’re small enough to pass through sewage treatment plants unhindered (assuming you’re not still in an area where sewage still goes straight out to sea), and they never degrade. It seems that fish are eating the plastic particles on purpose because they mistake them for food.

  15. Mrs Green says:

    @FredNytters: Thanks Fred! We use tea bags for composting too.

    @Ben: Your comment made me laugh about the cats. I have to confess when I first moved out of home my cats were invited to clean my plates after use. I was young and naive then :D The amount of plastic in the ocean is very concerning for us, so let us know how you find the coffee – I’m an oats and yogurt gal myself ;)

  16. Tyler says:

    @Ben:

    I agree, the alleycats at my place don’t care what I sprinkle on the dirt, they crap all over the place. I wish that coffee repelled them. I’ve also tried broken plastic forks that I’ve collected over time, as well as pieces of old chainlink fence buried in the soil. I’ve just come to accept that my yard is where cats will do their thing.

    Nonetheless, my worms love me for feeding them coffee grinds every morning, i think it’s what keeps them in my compost pile.

    tyler
    http://www.weaverwastesolutions.com

  17. Mrs Green says:

    @Tyler: Hi Tyler, welcome to the site. Broken plastic forks – You’re rotten LOL!

  18. Linda says:

    Thanks for this advice.

    How about chicken bones (all meat bones for that matter) – I put them in the bin normally – is there another use. I do mean cooked meat bones.

  19. Mrs Green says:

    @Linda: Hi Linda, what you need for bones is either a bokashi bin or a green cone. The bokashi is an indoor system, so suitable for smaller bones and the green cone will take a complete carcass, but that’s out in the garden – it looks a bit like a plastic compost bin :)

  20. Linda says:

    @Linda: Thanks Mrs G – we will look into this. Glad for the advice.

  21. Alicia says:

    @Naomi Sandoval: This is probably coming at you too late, but maybe not… Scrubbing your stroller with mixture of vinegar & water will get rid of that cat pee smell. Leave the stroller outside to dry in the sun. I’ve been in your exact situation, so I know it works! (Vinegar gets rid of all kinds of nasty smells and it cleans, too!)

  22. Ben says:

    @Mrs Green: I tried coffee grounds for exfoliating, but they were too messy for me. However, I’m now going to try an exfoliating brush, which should make no mess in the bathroom, put no dubious plastic particles down the drain, and hopefully last a long time too.

  23. Mrs Green says:

    @Ben: Hi Ben, I can well imagine the coffee grounds being too messy to use in the bathroom! The brush sounds a great idea. Let me know how you get on.

  24. Pippa says:

    My nana used to throw her coffee grounds to her roses. They were bushy and full of flowers and never had any pests, the best thriving plants in her yard. Dunno for sure whether it was for the coffee grounds or perfect spots in the garden in general, but it might be worth trying!

  25. Mrs Green says:

    @Pippa: Hi pippa, I have heard that too – apparently roses love coffee. it’s worth a try for sure, especially as it has the added bonus of keeping away slugs and cats!

  26. Karen says:

    Have just spread the large bag of coffee grounds my son collected from Starbucks around my garden. The strong smell of coffee was obvious as he travelled home in the bus. Will send him back to get more. It feels lovely and I am sure it will help the soil and warn off the slugs.

  27. Mrs Green says:

    @Karen: I bet that smell was heavenly. Coffee is a weird thing to me; I love the smell but can’t stand the taste so I never drink it. I’ll have a deep inhale of Mr G’s coffee beans though LOL! I hope it works well on your garden; keep us posted.

  28. Poppy says:

    @Mrs Green:

    I know what you mean Mrs G. I particularly dislike the smell secondhand on someone’s breath :(

  29. Karen says:

    I now have a daily stop off at my local coffee shop Sonya’s in Yelverton Devon to pick up a box of ground coffee ground and tea bag waste. I do it on the way home from work so not using extra petrol. I leave a plastic box every day and pick up the full one. The coffee goes straight on the soil . The tea bags on the compost heap.
    Hope you enjoyed trip to Devon.

  30. Mrs Green says:

    @Karen: Fantastic, Karen and yes thank you, Devon was lovely – perfect weather and very relaxing :)

  31. Lisa Jackson says:

    I’ve always put old coffee grounds and tea leaves in the compost bin. My father in law used to chuck his outside his back door onto the bit of lawn outside and the grass there always grew greener and lusher than anywhere else in the whole garden!

  32. Karen says:

    I have my husband involved with collecting coffee grounds now. He brings home a large bucketful from work every week.

  33. Mrs Green says:

    @Lisa Jackson: Love the story about that lush patch of grass Lisa – I think I’ll try it myself!

    @Karen: Fantastic news, Karen. Are you using them for something specific in the garden or for adding to the compost heap?

  34. sorry to come late to the comment trail, but these tips may help someone.
    @karen , i spread one batch of coffee grounds around each plant , add some CRUSHED EGGSHELLS to the mix–it repels snails and slugs- anD-adds calcium phosphates to nourish the plants as well.

    on houseplants, i spread only very dry coffee grounds, as i have had some mildew problems with wet grounds. now i bake them for a few minutes as i warm up the oven for roasts or breads. it smells wonderful..

    lastly; i cut a square of cheesecloth and one of mesh fabric, like tulle or crepe, put the grounds in the cotton cloth with the rougher one on the outside, tie it in a bundle which i use as a bath sponge to exfoliate and induce blood circulation–that reduces cellulite spots.

  35. Karen says:

    I don’t add much to the compost heap. I dig it in around the garden. I put more round the root of roses hostas and vegetables. I don’t seem to have many slugs on the hostas. I do mix it with crushed egg shells round the hostas. It seems to be improving the soil making it easier to weed. I am going to try it as a top dressing on my lawn. I think it may be keeping the cats away too. Thank you Nadine for your ideas. Must try the bath scrub. I believe you can use it on your face too. I would welcome any other ideas.

  36. Mrs Green says:

    @nadine sellers: Nadine, I’ve started crushing egg shells for the wormery and they really HURT my hands! Not surprised the slugs don’t like to crawl over them! Love the bath sponge idea.

    @Karen: I’m going to take your advice and try them on the roses this autumn. Will let you know how I get on :)

  37. Melinda says:

    My grandm other used loose used tea, and I’ve heard of coffee grounds being used the same, to sprinkle on the floor prior to sweeping to keep the dust down. The whole lot can then be put on the garden or in the composter. I recall womrs loved coffee grounds in our worm bin.

  38. Mrs Green says:

    @Melinda: Hi Melinda amazing about putting coffee on the floor to hold the dust. I would have thought that would have left a real mess, I think I would proceed with caution. I have heard of dusting with a damp cloth soaked in a strong tea solution (it kills the dust mite apparently) but never of using the grounds.
    You learn something new every day!

  39. Coffee grounds, and Tea, both make excellent natural dye’s, for fabric, and paper. The Tea/coffee creates a lovely antiquing stain.

    To create the dye just boil the grounds/tea bags, (1pt coffee/tea, to 8 parts water) boil for around an hour, and then mix with binder of choice.
    Non Vegan, Eco binders include gelatin and casein, while vegan alternatives are gum arabic, methyll cellulose and acrylic medium.

    For more information, and eco friendly paint recipies, check out “GREEN GUIDE FOR ARTISTS: non toxic recipies, green art ideas and resources for the eco friendly artist” a fantastic resource book by Karen Michel.

  40. Mrs Green says:

    @Michelle Morgan: Hi Michelle, great ideas on using them as natural dyes – thank you for sharing such detailed instructions and the book recommendation.

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