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Life Hacks

What To Do With Leftover Coffee Grounds: 13 Brilliant Uses That Save You Time & Money

Solve everyday problems for less with these helpful hacks!

A cup of coffee in the morning can do wonders for you — and it turns out those used grounds can come in handy, as well! Whether you need to deodorize shoes, freshen up your yard or clean up a kitchen mess, your leftover coffee grounds can help you save time, money and hassle. Below you’ll find tips for what to do with leftover coffee grounds once that cup of joe is finished brewing.

1. Leftover coffee grounds erase a furniture scratch

While giving your end table a quick polish, you notice a small scratch on its surface. To erase it, dip a cotton swab in damp coffee grounds and use it to lightly dab at the mark. The coffee’s tannins will help stain the scratch, concealing it from view. Just allow it to dry for a few hours so the coloring can set before you remove any stray grounds.

2. They make a tough cut of meat tender

To ensure the skirt or flank steak you’re cooking turns out tender, try this: Coat the meat with olive oil, then rub on a mix of ¼ cup of fresh coffee grounds, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, one tablespoon of salt, and 2 tablespoons of black pepper. Let sit for 30 minutes, then cook. Coffee grounds’ tannic acid breaks down tough muscle fibers. (Once you’ve cooked up your steak, discover the best way to cut flank steak.)

3. Leftover coffee grounds ensure healthy plants

Leftover coffee grounds helping plants bloom

The low-cost secret to helping your potted plants burst with blooms: coffee grounds! “They act as a natural fertilizer, enriching the soil with nutrients like nitrogen and potassium,” says Bonnie Von Dohre, who shares homesteading and gardening tips on her website The Not so Modern Housewife. “Simply sprinkle coffee grounds around your plants or mix them into the soil before planting.” When it rains the nutrients will seep out of the grounds and into the dirt. Plus, coffee will help optimize the soil’s acidity to create a healthier environment for developing flowers.

4. They make fireplace cleaning a breeze

You love curling up by the fire on colder nights, but could do without the hassle of cleanup afterward. What can help: After the fire cools, sprinkle damp coffee grounds on the ashes and let sit for 5 minutes before sweeping up. The coffee leftovers will help weigh down the ashes, eliminating the dust that would otherwise make the chore such a mess.

5. Leftover coffee grounds de-puff tired eyes in a blink

The secret to looking bright-eyed after a late night: coffee grounds! Mix used grounds with enough water to form a paste, then use your finger or a cotton swab to apply to the skin under eyes. Rinse after 10 minutes. The caffeine content will restrict blood vessels to reduce swelling in no time.

6. They keep dogs from ‘going’ in your grass

Being creatures of habit, dogs tend to return to the same spot on the lawn to do their business — and that can lead to unsightly yellow patches between your begonias. The fix: Sprinkle the area with brewed coffee grounds. The strong scent is offensive to your furry friend’s sensitive nose, so one whiff is enough to send her off to find greener pastures.

7. Leftover coffee grounds eliminate shoe odors

Leftover coffee grounds being used to deodorize shoes

Getting caught in the rain leave your sneakers soggy and smelly? To dry and deodorize them by morning, cut the feet off an old pair of panty hose and fill with coffee grounds. Tie off the ends and add a sachet to each shoe. The absorbent granules trap the moisture and bacteria causing the smell. And if your shoes need a cleaning, too, click through to see how Bar Keepers Friend can help!

8. They easily sop up cooking messes

Yikes! While whipping up dinner, you accidentally knocked over a bottle of olive oil. Instead of using paper towels to clean up the liquid (which just spreads it around), cover the spill with used coffee grounds, then let sit for 5 minutes. The grounds will soak up the oil, so all you have to do is sweep them up and wipe down the counter with a damp paper towel. Problem solved!

9. Leftover coffee grounds keep kids entertained

On rainy days, the little ones in your life can get a bored and restless. Keep them busy with dough made of coffee grounds! “Mixing coffee grounds with flour, salt and a dash of cold coffee brew results in a delightful dough that’s not only moldable but also sustainable,” says artist Anthony Roebuck, founder of “I’ve witnessed children, especially, get lost for hours, fashioning shapes and letting their imaginations run wild.” To make: Mix together 1 cup of coffee grounds, 1 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of salt and ½ cup of cold coffee. As kids knead the ingredients together, they’ll be able to make all kind of unique creations.

10. They help faded dark clothing look new

If your favorite black jeans have faded, give them new life with a DIY “dye.” To do: Steep ¾ cup of coffee grounds in one gallon of water for 10 minutes, then pour in the washer. Add jeans and run on the gentle cycle without soap. The tannins in the coffee leftovers will infuse the fabric’s fibers with compounds to deepen color. To nix any residue, run the rinse cycle once with one cup of white vinegar, then click through to find out how to dry jeans without shrinking them!

11. Leftover coffee grounds lift food odors from skin

Leftover coffee grounds can remove food odors from skin

Nothing enhances pasta night like your homemade garlic bread — if only the garlic didn’t leave your hands smelling a bit pungent! To eliminated the odor, scrub your skin with used coffee grounds before washing as usual with soap and water. The granules will absorb the strong odors and will remove dead skin cells to soften hands.

12. They make the perfect exfoliating scrub

No need to buy pricey products to get a softer, brighter glow. Enlist the help of coffee grounds instead! “Mix about 2 tablespoons of your favorite cleanser (my preference is a cream cleanser) to 1 tablespoon of coffee grounds and apply all over your face utilizing circular motions,” says Rachel Lee Lozina, New York state licensed esthetician and founder of Blue Water Spa. “I like to work in sections, starting at the forehead for 20 seconds, then 10 seconds per cheek, 10 seconds on your chin and 10 seconds on neck. Rinse with cold water for visibly brighter smoother skin.” Gorgeous!

13. Leftover coffee grounds deodorize a fridge fast

The Sunday night dinner you cooked for your family was delicious, but a few days later, the leftovers have left behind a strong smell in your fridge. The easy solution: Place a bowl of dry coffee grounds inside. The granules will absorb odors so they won’t escape every time you open the fridge door.

Now that you’ve discovered the many uses for coffee grounds, brew yourself a pot and enjoy before testing out these genius hacks! And if you’re looking to upgrade your daily cup, consider these recipes for protein coffee, skinny syrups and vanilla coffee drinks!

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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