25 Uses For Coffee Grounds

25 Wondrous Things to do With Your Coffee Grounds. Photo © Liesl Clark

25 Wondrous Things to do With Your Coffee Grounds. Photo © Liesl Clark

We all love our coffee here in the Northwest, but where I live, on Bainbridge Island, we love our coffee grounds perhaps even more. Nowhere else will you see farmers, home gardeners, landscapers, and vermiculturists fighting over the grounds produced by local cafes. Let’s face it, coffee grounds and plants go well together. I can assure you they’re all using them for #2 and #3 below as coffee grounds fertilizer and worm food, but the other 23 uses are also worth looking into. Some might even surprise you:

1) Turn Your Hydrangeas Blue: Hydrangeas can be blue or purple depending upon your soil Ph. Acidic soil begets blue hydrangeas. Coffee grounds, when brewed, are acidic. Use them as a top dressing on the soil around your hydrangeas, making sure to scratch the coffee grounds into the soil and you’ll enjoy blue bursts of color. I prefer purple, but my soil is acidic anyway, so we get blue.

2) Feed the Worms: We have a worm bin and those squirmies tend to thrive on 80% coffee grounds 10% eggshells and 10% dried leaves.

3) Coffee Grounds in Your Compost: Everyday, we use our coffee grounds as fertilizer. Most people put them in their compost along with their kitchen scraps. They’re a great source of nitrogen, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.

4) Coffee Grounds Provide Shine to Your Hair: I haven’t tried it, but word is out that if you work some wet grounds into your hair they’ll help create a beautiful shine. They’ll also give you some great brunette highlights. Cover up the grays? Let us know.

5) Coffee Grounds Construction Play: This homeschooling family uses coffee grounds for play with small construction vehicles. The grounds are an interesting replacement for sand or dirt.

6) Coffee Grounds Abrasive Dish Scrub: Use grounds as your scrubbing agent for dirty dishes. I’m serious. When we ran out of scrubbies one day, I just used some grounds to get a scrambled egg pan all cleaned up. It’s like when you’re camping and use sand as your dish-cleaning abrasive.

7) Deodorizer: If your freezer or fridge are smelly and you can’t find the source, put a bowl or 2 of dried coffee grounds in there and the grounds will absorb the odors. Add vanilla for a different scent.

8) Facial Scrub: Just apply slightly wet coffee grounds to your face and exfoliate. Coffee grounds are found in some skin care products. I haven’t tried this yet, but I think my daughter and I will try it on our next natural spa day and post the results.

9) Furniture Scratch Remover: Cover up furniture scratches by rubbing them down with wet coffee grounds that match your furniture’s color. I’ve done this and it works!

10) Easter Egg Dye: Dye your eggs with coffee grounds for a pretty rust brown color. “But they’ll just look like our brown eggs,” you might say. Nope, this brown color is really pretty and looks great when you use it on eggs that have had crayon designs drawn on them.

11) Ant Repellant: Ants don’t like coffee grounds. Sprinkle them along their path. We do this under our deck where the ants live and it really bugs them. (See what I did there?)

12) Coffee Grounds Body Scrub: Scrub them over your body as a gentle exfoliant. But be sure to cover your drain with a mesh drain catcher or towel.

13) Drain Cleaner: If you dilute them and let them go down the drain every once in a while, they reportedly make an excellent drain cleaner.

14) Tool Cleaner: Coffee grounds can help clean up your tools as an abrasive rub and gunk remover. I love this one. While my husband is away, the kids and I are going to do some tool cleaning.

15) Coffee Ground Fossils: Here’s a great tutorial for making cool fossils or pretty imprints with the kiddos.

16) Ice Remover: Use grounds to “salt” your icy sidewalks. Then take your shoes off before treading on your fancy carpets.

17) Blueberry Food: Save your grounds in a bucket all winter long, then make a soup to cast the lot over your blueberries. They love coffee grounds! Spruce and evergreens do too.

18) Dust Buster: Another fave of mine — Sprinkle over your fireplace ashes when cleaning them out to dampen down the ashes.

19) Seed Spacer: Add dried coffee grounds to your tiny seeds like carrot seeds when sowing as they help spread out your seed dispersal when doing it by hand.

20) Slug Repellant: Some slugs are reportedly coffee ground haters. Not ours. But I don’t want to deter you from trying to put a ring around your favorite slug-devoured plants. You don’t likely have enormous slugs like we do that’ll slime their way through a fire pit filled with ashes. They don’t call them banana slugs for nothin’.

21) Mosquito Larvae Killer: I can’t verify this one either but some people say if you pour some grounds into your puddles it’ll kill mosquito larvae. Hmmmm….kill? Doubt it.

22) Vintage Wood Stain: Here’s a simple wood stain recipe using coffee grounds. Good luck.

23) Cockroach Trap: This Old House has an interesting-looking coffee-bait roach trap for you.

24) Treasure Map Paper: Dip some blank white paper into a bowl or sink-full of grounds and some water. Pull it out and let it dry. Then have fun with your map-making.

25) Cat Repellant: Cats apparently don’t like coffee grounds so you can put them around your spots (like your sand box?) where you don’t want cats to, um, do what they do in dirt.

Don’t stop at 25!

26) Meat Marinade: Add a teaspoon of coffee grounds to your steak marinade and impress your favorite coffee lover.

27) Secret Brownie Ingredient: If you’re the boss, add a few grounds to your brownies to give everyone (not for kids!) a boost at work.

Lastly but definitely our favorite, my friend Rebecca’s Grandma Inge’s best coffee grounds reuse tip is to put a bowl of grounds in the car to keep you (and the car) refreshed and perky throughout the day.

How do you use your grounds?

15 Reuses For Your Live Christmas Tree

Each year's Christmas tree is reused on our property. © Liesl Clark

Each year’s Christmas tree is reused on our property. © Liesl Clark

Before you send your live Christmas tree out on the curb for yard waste pickup or to the Boy Scouts for recycling, there may be another use that’s perfect for you and your tree.

  1. Kindling: Throw your live tree in your brush pile, let it cure, and then cut it up for kindling for next fall.
  2. Save Your Perennials from Freezing: Cover your perennial beds with your cut up pine boughs to either insulate them from future sub-zero weather, or for preserving the piled up snow that’s already on them. Repeated freeze-thaw cycles can kill your best perennials.
  3. Trivets and Coasters: Cut 1” disks from the trunk to make trivets or coasters. It’s a fun project for the kids
  4. Bird Feeder: Prop up your tree outside in the back yard and trim it with strings of popcorn and birdseed ornaments so your wild birds can have a winter feast.
  5. Do Something Really Cool With Your Tree: Fabien Cappello fashioned stools from abandoned Christmas trees on the streets of London.
  6. Plant Stakes: If you don’t have access to sticks in the woods near you, strip the branches of their needles and use them to stake your indoor plants that need some extra support.
  7. Pea Sticks: You can use the stripped branches as pea sticks later in the spring. Criss-cross them to make a trellis for your peas to grow up.
  8. Marshmallow Sticks: Those same pea sticks can then be used as marshmallow-roasting sticks in the summer.
  9. Garden Edging: Cut the trunk into disks to use as a garden border if you line them up on their sides and dig them 2” into the soil. These look really pretty on the garden’s edge.
  10. Fire Starter: We save some of our needles to use in our homemade fire starters.
  11. Potpourri: Use the needles for a homemade balsam potpourri.
  12. Garden Path: Use the disks cut from your tree trunk as flat stepping “stones” in your garden path. If you have a chipper, the wood chips from your tree can make nice garden path material, too.
  13. Erosion Barrier: We have used past trees along a slope on our property to help prevent a slope from slipping. This is our ongoing brush pile that is stabilizing the slope and holding up our lawn above it nicely.
  14. Habitat: If your tree ends up in your brush pile, or out in a spot on your property, it provides cover for birds and little rodents, making a safe habitat for plenty of critters. Some experts claim that throwing a tree into your pond can provide safe cover for your fish.
  15. Save the Blue Herons: In Illinois a special Christmas tree recycling program reuses the trees as nesting materials in a blue heron rookery.
    Our Elves © Liesl Clark

    Our Elves © Liesl Clark

    What do you do with your tree? Are there any other reuses that we didn’t include?

Easiest Prettiest Ornament You’ll Ever Make

As we’re just two days to Christmas, I’ll keep this brief. But suffice it to say, this is a great children’s activity in the days before Christmas.

Items Needed:

1 Plastic Lid

Non-stick cooking oil or spray


Leftover beads, sequins, glitter, sparkly stuff

We even used some beach glass and small shells from the beach

Piece of ribbon or yarn

All you need is to pull a plastic dairy tub lid out of the recycle bin, like a large yogurt container lid. The 4″ wide version works well but you can use a small one, too, for a smaller ornament. Spray or lightly oil with non-stick cooking oil. Then pour glue into the lid. Start placing your items in the glue spaced nicely around and don’t be shy just throw it all in there. Be sure to also stick a loop of yarn or ribbon at the top to act as your hanging ribbon. Wait for a couple of days for the glue to dry. If you place your lids in the sun or in a warm place the drying time goes faster. When it’s dry, just flex the lid around a bit and the ornament will come off easily! You end up with a pretty ornament that glows and sparkles with Christmas lights behind it. Easy!

Easy Peasy Pretty Ornament From a Plastic Lid Mold

Easy Peasy Pretty Ornament From a Plastic Lid Mold

Doll Ornaments

Most of our ornaments are handmade or free finds we’ve rescued from the landfill. That’s not to say our tree looks like it’s decorated with junk. Quite the contrary. Each little piece has a story to it: where was it ‘recovered’ or who created it.

We love to find small dolls the children are finished playing with and turn them into ornaments. This one’s so easy it takes all of 30 seconds to make…er…once your glue gun is heated up.

Doll Ornaments, Photo © Liesl Clark

Doll Ornaments Look Like Angels, Photo © Liesl Clark

All you’ll need is:

An assortment of dolls

A glue gun



All you need to make your dolly-ments, Photo © Liesl Clark

All you need to make your dolly-ments, Photo © Liesl Clark

Glue the ribbon together into a loop. Then glue the loop to the back of your doll. Ours have hats which make the gluing really easy. Now hang your dolly-ments onto the tree! Other toys lend themselves to ornamentdom if you’re so inclined. We’ve made lego ornaments, matchbox carnaments — you get the picture.

Garlic Press Gingerbread Hair

Plate of Gingerbread Cookies for the New Year, Photo © Liesl Clark

Plate of Gingerbread Cookies for the Holidays, Photo © Liesl Clark

As we’re in the heart of the holiday season, baking gingerbread men is a tradition our family has endured since I can remember. True to form, my mom, “Grandma,” has come up with yet another innovative reuse for an everyday kitchen tool: Use a garlic press to make gingerbread people hair!

Squeezing Dough Through a Garlic Press for "Hair," Photo © Liesl Clark

Squeezing Dough Through a Garlic Press for “Hair,” Photo © Liesl Clark

Use a knife to cut the hair off at the length you’d like and then press the hair into the top of your gingerbread person’s head.

Applying Hair, Photo © Liesl Clark

Applying Hair, Photo © Liesl Clark

Adding Decorations, Photo © Liesl Clark

Adding Decorations, Photo © Liesl Clark

Bake your cookies and you have a more 3D cookie for your family to enjoy!

Gingerbread Man with Hair, Photo © Liesl Clark

Gingerbread Man with Hair, Photo © Liesl Clark

Gingerbread People Love to be Decorated, Photo © Liesl Clark

Red Haired Gingerbread Girl, Photo © Liesl Clark

Yum! Photo © Liesl Clark

Yum! Photo © Liesl Clark

What cool reuse traditions do you have in your home over the holidays? Please share.

Trash To Treasure Christmas Ornaments

Every year a few pieces of trash are pulled out of our bin and gleefully turned into ornaments for the tree. Call it a family tradition for waste-minded children. This year, we started with a couple of CDs that I have been meaning to drop off for recycling at Green Disk in Seattle. But then I noticed how shiny the discs are and got an idea.

Shiny CD Ornament

Take some pretty scrap paper (even wrapping paper will do) and have your kids trace a circle around the edges of your CD and then let them cut the CD-sized circle out. Glue the pretty paper to the non-shiny side of your CD, but be sure to glue a little looped ribbon as an ornament hanger at the top. We also glued some tin foil over the hole in the middle so the CD looks like a perfect shiny circle with no hole.

Scrap Paper Glued to Backside of CD with Ribbon for Hanging Ornament

Then, get out your glitter glue or puffy glue and let the kids make designs on the shiny surface. My children love symmetry so they both tried to create symmetrical patterns on 4 sides of the CD.

Starting in the Middle

Finished CD Ornament


Finished CD Ornament, His.

Scrap Paper Star Ornament

This one is almost as easy. First, we pulled some paper out of the trash that had printing on one side and white on the other. We threw it in the printer and went to our favorite paper craft site, The Toymaker. This site, created by artist Marilyn, is full of fantastic fold-able paper toys that are perfect for small hands. We’ve made gift bags, small puppet theaters, animals, toy airplanes, perfect building blocks, and gift boxes using the beautiful hand-drawn designs on this lovely site. For the 3D star ornament go to the Christmas page and scroll down to the star.

Free PDF Printable Star Ornament at TheToymaker.com

Print out your template for a fold-able star from Marilyn’s downloadable PDF file. Her templates are all free and very easy to understand.

Cut Your Pretty Scrap Paper Into Strips

Next, cut out strips of scrap paper! We used colorful tissue paper we got from a freecycler so that we could still see the PDF template through the tissue.

Felines Like Ornament-Making, Too

Glue your tissue to the star in any design you’d like. Simply cover your PDF printout with colorful paper scraps. Next, cut out your star template.

Cutting Out the Star

Cutting Out the Star 2

Finished Star Cut-Out. Now Ready For Folding.

Start folding along the dotted lines (Marilyn indicates which folds are “mountains” and which are “valleys” and where to put glue.) It’s really easy!

Folding a 3D Star

Your finished star took about 15 minutes to make.

Star Girl

Finished Scrap Paper Star Ornament

What are you making this year for your tree?

The Last Plastic-Free Places on Earth: The Land of Reuse

Sometimes you have to travel to the other side of the planet to find reuse inspirations you had never considered before. Following the banks of the Kali Gandaki River, we’ve finally entered the land of reuse, one of the most challenging places to live, yet innovation and creativity with the things one would normally throw away can be seen at every bend in the road.

Reuse, here in remote parts of Nepal, is simply a matter of necessity. Goods that are carried up into the hinterlands are here to stay, forever. There’s no garbage truck to carry off the refuse and little resources available to make and fix things. But the people who live here are incredibly resourceful, repurposing what they have into useful things for the home. For thousands of years, the Himalayan people here, currently the Loba, Thakali, and Magar, have made do with what they have and have reused the items in their lives with fervor. The following images are a few garden and farming reuses we’ve come across in lower Mustang.

Garden and Farm Reuse, Thakali-Style:

Construct a garden fence from scrap wood tied together with elephant grass reeds.

Wood is precious in Mustang so if a fence is needed, scraps are found to create it and lashings are adhered to hold the wood scraps together. These fences are made of sustainable materials.

This Thakali family tied a bamboo fence together with electrical wire

Anything that can hold something is turned into a planter in Mustang. Since the landscape is so harsh, container gardens are very successful here.

Bucket planters are the rage in Mustang

Lettuces and Herbs are Planted in Large Styrofoam Boxes that would Otherwise be Thrown by the Roadside

Some of the most beautiful handmade brooms can be found in Mustang.

Even sticks are repurposed into brooms and garden rakes

First Chapter in Our Book of Reuse

Chapter 1: An On-going Photo Essay of the Things We’ve Upcycled or Repurposed into New Iterations for Family Reuse

Repurposed window, now mirror

Repurposed window, now mirror

1) The old window turned mirror. This 6-pane window was found inside our 200-year-old barn and looked about the same vintage. Glass was broken on the floor and there was no caulking to speak of. I cleaned the cobwebs off, scraped the glass shards from the grooves, used a wire brush on the wood frame mullions to remove old paint and gunk, then took it to a window shop and asked them put mirror into the frames instead of glass! It was cheap and the results were exactly what I envisioned.

Sea Glass Frame

Sea Glass Frame

2) Sea Glass Picture Frames: The fun part was exploring our new beach when we first moved to our little island. The multicolored glass told a story of many inhabitants coming here long before us.

Home made candle

Home made candle from freecycled wax

3) A post on our local Buy Nothing group brought us an abundance of unwanted and half-burned candles. Added some of our own wax from our honey bees and, voila, new candles!

Pallet Playhouse

Pallet Playhouse

4) This pallet playhouse in the trees was built entirely out of 2 wooden pallets and branches from around the property. The “slide” access to it was left on the property by the timberframers who made our home: another reuse of construction debris.

Note, in the next picture how HUGE the tree trunk is on the right side of the frame. You’re only seeing half of it, too. This tree was cut down a century ago by loggers on the island who downed the first-growth trees to help rebuild San Francisco after its great fire.

Another view of the play palace/pallet in the trees

Another view of the play palace/pallet in the trees

5) A button valentine kid-creation for friends at school.

Buttons on clear plastic retrieved from trash = valentine

Buttons on clear plastic retrieved from trash = valentine