10 Creative Ways to Use Leftover Coffee Grounds

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Water pouring onto ground coffee in filter, Oakland, California, USA
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It's hard to imagine mornings without the rich flavor and caffeine jolt of coffee. Even the smell of it brewing makes mornings more enjoyable. Once the coffee is made, most people just dump their used grounds into the trash. That's short-sighted, though, because your used grounds have plenty of surprising uses around the home. In fact, after you try a few of these suggestions, you might find yourself cadging more at your local coffee shop.

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Refrigerator full of food
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Deodorize Without Chemicals

Coffee is notable for its rich and pleasant aroma, but it's also remarkably good at absorbing odors. If strong cheeses, onions, fish or other pungent scents have taken up residence in your refrigerator, a shallow bowl filled with dry leftover coffee grounds can help conceal the evidence. Replace the grounds every day or two until the smell has permanently dissipated. Scrubbing your hands with coffee grounds can also help remove the smell of garlic, fish, onions and other pungent ingredients.

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Midsection of man washing sauce pan with scouring pad at sink
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Clean Stuck-on Food From Pots & Pans

Cleaning stuck-on food from pots, pans and casserole dishes is always a tedious and disagreeable chore. Even worse, a lot of the tools to help speed the process — scouring pads, harsh chemical cleansers and suchlike — can damage the environment, your skin, or even the surface of the pans. The next time this happens, soak your pan first with a bit of dish soap and then use a handful of used coffee grounds to scour it with. They're abrasive enough to remove the stuck-on food, but they're gentle on your skin, the environment and the pan's surface.

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Woman in Shower Washing her Hair
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Cleanse Your Hair and Scalp

Over time, hair products can build up and begin to make your hair feel heavy and lifeless. Grooming and styling products, hair-nourishing shampoos and leave-in conditioners are all potential offenders. The gritty texture and mild acidity of coffee grounds can help strip away the buildup, leaving your scalp and hair clean and fresh. Just bring a cup or two of leftover grounds into the shower with you and massage them into your scalp and hair after you shampoo. If your hair is dark, following up with a rinse of dark, strong, cold coffee can help restore luster and highlights.

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Close up of a carpenter wearing protective gloves, applying varnish onto a wooden surface with a cloth.
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Add Instant Age

Steeping your grounds in water again creates a weaker coffee solution that wouldn't be much fun to drink, but works very well indeed as a light dye or stain. Use can use it to lightly "antique" white or pale fabric for sewing projects, or good-quality paper for crafts. It works equally well on wood and furniture, giving an antique appearance to anything from furniture to cupboard doors to trim, moldings and other architectural details. Stronger coffee can even be used to mask scars and blemishes on dark wood furniture.

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Welldressed man with snow shovel and copyspace
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Walk Safely in Winter

Icy steps and walkways are a serious injury hazard if you live in an area where cold winters are common. There are plenty of commercial ice-melting products, and you can always put down salt or sand, but those can be hard on your lawn and garden. This year, start drying and saving up your used coffee grounds before the snow flies. Then, after you've cleared away the snow, sprinkle coffee grounds wherever you'll be walking. They provide grit and traction, but they're totally biodegradable and will help, not hurt, your grass.

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Man's hand planting tomato plant in a bed
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Nourish & Protect Your Garden

Coffee grounds are high in the crucial plant nutrients nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, so they're a great addition to garden soil either as a direct mulch or as part of your compost. Carrots love them, and so do tomatoes, potatoes and many other edible and decorative garden plants. Even better, they're a great deterrent to pests. Coffee grounds will keep out ants and the aphids that come with them, and they make a gritty, protective surface around your plants that slugs and snails won't want to crawl across. The smell of coffee even repels cats, and will discourage them from leaving – ahem – "surprises" in your nicely cultivated beds.

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Candle with cozy home decorations
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Freshen the Air

There are only so many cups of coffee you could (or should) drink in a day, but that doesn't mean you can't continue to enjoy that comforting, invigorating coffee aroma. Just save up the used and dried grounds, and add them to your next batch of homemade candles. As they burn, they'll infuse your home with a light and pleasant coffee smell. For a combustion-free alternative, which is always safer if you have kids or pets, fill a cloth bag (or a clean sock, or a cut-down piece of pantyhose) with grounds, tie it off, and hang it as an air freshener.

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Hydrangea Flowers
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Give Hydrangeas a Pretty Blue Hue

There aren't many common garden flowers with a truly blue blossom, which is why hydrangeas are so prized. You'll see them in varying hues of white, pink and pale purple, but the blue is especially showy. Oddly, it's the pH of the soil that creates this desirable effect. Hydrangeas need an acidic soil to push out billows of blue blossoms, and the mild acidity of your coffee grounds can do the trick. Just work the grounds into the soil around your hydrangeas until your soil reaches a pH of 5.5 or lower. The effect only lasts a few weeks, so you'll have to re-apply the coffee grounds periodically, but that's not a problem as long as you're still drinking coffee.

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