Nov. 4, 2013 at 12:03 PM ET
Instead of dumping coffee grounds into the trash, put them to work around the house. Here are 20 creative ways to use coffee grounds in your home and garden.
1. Deodorize your hands, fridge, closet or car. Put dried grounds in an old margarine tub with holes poked in the top or in a cheesecloth sachet to absorb odors. Keep grounds in a can near the sink and scrub your hands with them to get rid of fish, onion or garlic smells when cooking.
2. Repair scratches and dings in dark wood furniture. Dip a cotton swab into wet grounds and apply to the damaged area; repeated swabbing will darken the color.
3. Remove grease and grime from stain-resistant pots, pans and tools. Place a few teaspoons of the slightly abrasive grounds on a rag, scrub the object and rinse thoroughly.
4. Contain fireplace ashes. Sprinkle damp grounds over ashes before sweeping them up to minimize the dust.
5. Make your own pin cushions. Fill a scrap of a closely woven wool with grounds and tie off with a rubber band. The oil in the grounds keeps pins from rusting.
6. Fertilize plants. Work coffee grounds into the soil of flower beds containing roses, azaleas, rhododendrons, evergreen, camellias and other acid-loving plants. Bonus: the grounds can help you grow the bluest hydrangeas—increasing the acidity of the soil helps them absorb aluminum, which creates a vibrant blue bloom.
7. Tenderize meat. Add a tablespoon of fresh coffee grounds to meat marinades. Besides tenderizing, it also gives the meat a mild smokiness.
8. Dye paper, fabric and Easter eggs. A soupy mix of grounds and water will give paper an antique parchment look or color fabric or eggs brown.
9. Repel insects. Mound grounds into a ring to create a protective border around plants, or sprinkle old grounds in places you don’t want ants, slugs or snails.
10. Sharpen garbage disposal blades. With the water running, add a tablespoon of grounds to a running disposal.
11. Grow mushrooms. Put mushroom spawn in a bucket of coffee grounds.
12. Make gardeners’ soap. Add one-third cup of coffee grounds to a melted bar of glycerin soap, reshape, then use to exfoliate dirt-caked hands.
13. Build a cockroach trap. Fill a can with two inches of moistened coffee grounds, then line the can’s rim with double-sided tape. The scent will draw roaches into the trap, and the tape will keep them there.
14. Add it as a secret ingredient to recipes. A hint of coffee in chili, ice cream and chocolate cake revs up the flavor.
15. Sow with carrots. Mix fresh grounds with the tiny seeds for added bulk to make sowing easier. The coffee aroma may also repel root maggots.
16. Create rich compost. Coffee grounds add nutrients like potassium and magnesium.
17. Make your own play dough. Mix a couple of cups of dried coffee grounds with a half a cup of salt and 1 to 2 cups of cornmeal. Add in enough warm water to get the dough to the right consistency.
18. Give your pet a flea bath. After shampooing your dog or cat, rub their wet fur down thoroughly with coffee grounds, working the grounds all the way to their skin. Rinse off the coffee grounds—and any fleas.
19. Keep bait worms alive. Mix grounds into the soil in your bait box to keep your bait worms wiggling all day long.
20. Repel cats. Spread in flower beds to keep cats from using them as litter boxes, or sprinkle around houseplants to keep cats from eating them.
Ellen Sturm Niz is an editor and writer working, parenting, and living in New York City. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Google+.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.