17 Smart Ways to Recycle Coffee Grounds

By Bethany Johnson in Thinking Sustainably

At my house, spent coffee grounds have graduated from a nuisance to a lifesaver. We reuse them in many ways, and you can, too.

When you recycle coffee grounds, they’re kept out of landfills. This practice doesn’t, just help the earth—it also benefits the air. See, when used coffee grounds are sent the way of the trash, they’re compacted into a space without oxygen. When compostable materials are placed into those conditions, their decomposition creates methane gas, the second most prevalent greenhouse gas, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Join me in the quest to upcycle all the grounds we use. Here are my 17 favorite eco-friendly ways to reuse coffee grounds after enjoying my morning cup:

In Your KitchenRecycle coffee grounds by reusing them as a natural food for earthworms in the compost pile.

  • 1. To deodorize. Recycle coffee grounds by putting a bowl of dried, spent grounds in the fridge or on the kitchen counter. They’ll absorb the space’s unpleasant odors that were generated by long-term food storage or cooking.
  • 2. For a better clean. You can use coffee grounds to increase the “scratchiness” in abrasive homemade kitchen cleaners.

Inside Your Home

  • 3. To retouch furniture. Be sure to test on an inconspicuous spot, first!
  • 4. As an ingredient in homemade candles. Swap out your usual essential oils for a coffee scented candle by using old coffee grounds instead.
  • 5. To discard old meds. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, discarded pills shouldn’t just be tossed. Putting them in a baggie with coffee grounds disguises old medications to deter kids and animals from finding and consuming them.

  • 6. To inhibit dust. While they’re still damp, sprinkle used coffee grounds in and around your fireplace to keep dust at a minimum while you clean the area. Grounds can then be swept up along with the ashes.

  • 7. To rid yourself of ants. My family learned this trick when we lived in the heart of a big city where everyone is in close quarters. Put your used coffee grounds around places in your home that are prone to ants. Apparently coffee repulses the little buggers!

Outside Your Home

  • 8. In landscaping. Our acid-loving plants relish spent coffee grounds as a fertilizer.
    Recycle coffee grounds by reusing them as a fertilizer in your garden.
  • 9. To enrich your compost pile. Round out that pile of yard debris and leaf mulch with kitchen scraps like coffee grounds to encourage the most earthworm activity.
  • 10. As a natural bug repellent. Sprinkle used grounds around the edges of your veggie garden to deter aphids and slugs.
    Recycle coffee grounds by reusing them as a fertilizer in your garden.

  • 11. To add traction in winter. Sprinkle your icy driveway and sidewalks for traction that won’t pose a hazard to your pets’ paws.

In Your Beauty Routine

  • 12. As a natural skin exfoliator. I use the previous day’s coffee grounds every day in the shower to scrub and awaken my skin. No other scent says “Good morning!” quite like coffee.
    Recycle coffee grounds by reusing them as a natural exfoliating skin scrub.
  • 13. As an antioxidant mask. Make a paste of steeped grounds (preferably while they’re still warm), unrefined coconut oil, and raw almond milk. Apply to your face in gentle, circular motions. Rinse away after 10 minutes.
    Recycle coffee grounds by reusing them as a natural exfoliating skin scrub.
  • 14. To freshen hands. Have you ever washed your hands after cutting onions and found they still smell? To return your palms to a neutral scent, scrub those mitts with the morning’s leftover grounds.

For Family Fun

  • 15. As a natural dye. Used coffee grounds make a great stain for many arts and crafts projects. My kids and I make treasure maps often. Before drawing, we distress the paper with coffee grounds to make it look like it has passed between many pirates’ hands.
  • 16. As a salt dough. A quick mixture of salt, coffee grounds, flour, and water yields a moldable dough that can be formed and imprinted. Once dry, your craft can be hung on display or wrapped for gifting. Check out this fossil craft from the California Department of Conservationthat features used grounds.
  • 17. In pet care. After giving your dog a bath, scrub him down with a handful of used coffee grounds and rinse. He’ll love the skin stimulation, and fleas will probably stay far away from him. Like with ants, your used grounds naturally repel these nuisances from your four-legged friend.

Even the U.S. Department of Energy has gotten in on coffee ground recycling. From reducing lead in drinking water to worm farming, our government’s scientists have been working hard to put these earthy particles to work. It only makes sense that we at home do the same.

What do you do with your used coffee grounds? Tweet @TomsofMaine to add to our list!

Image source: Bethany Johnson

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.

Why It’s Good

Cutting waste always feels good, but there's something extra special about reusing what you've already consumed. Recycling coffee grounds benefits everyone involved, including your home and the planet.