Do you like to start the day with a cup or two of coffee or tea? But what to do with all those spent coffee grounds and tea bags? Sure, you can compost these common morning leftovers, but why not find a few clever ways to reuse them first? From cleaning your furniture to shining your shoes, here are 10 creative ways to reuse coffee grounds and tea bags.
1. Remove cooking odors from your hands
Both coffee grounds and tea bags are excellent deodorizers and can work wonders on your hands after chopping stinky foods like garlic, onions, and fish. After prepping your nightly meal, simply rub loose green tea leaves or tea bags onto your hands before washing with warm water and soap. Use spent coffee grounds the same way to remove food odors and leave your hands feeling smooth, soft, and rejuvenated.
2. Make wood floors and furniture shine
Looking for an all-natural way to keep wood floors and furniture shiny and clean? Look no further than your morning cup of tea! Due to its tannin content, twice-brewed tea is perfect for adding extra luster to your wooden decor on the cheap. As a bonus, you’ll also ditch the cleaning product smell and still get results you’ll love.
For a shiny finish, boil five to 10 used tea bags in a gallon of water. Use the tea to mop your floors as usual, or apply to wood furniture with a clean washcloth and buff dry. Keep in mind that this method is best used on darker wood finishes, as twice-brewed tea also acts as a mild dye and may slightly discolor lighter wood grains.
Tip: Only teas containing tannins are suitable for use on wooden surfaces. Herbal teas and other concoctions may not contain tannins, so check the original product packaging to be sure.
3. Keep pests out of your garden
Noticing ants, slugs, and other pests hanging around your garden? Sprinkle coffee grounds around problem areas to keep pests at bay. Spent coffee grounds are also fantastic cat repellents. So, if your kitty is using the garden as a restroom or fiddling with indoor houseplants, add a few tablespoons of coffee grounds around your plants to solve the problem.
4. De-grease pots and pans in a snap
For squeaky clean pots and pans without the elbow grease, rub spent coffee grounds onto dirty cookware using a scouring pad. The added abrasion will help to remove stuck-on messes without harsh chemical cleaners. For a clean that’s even easier, soak greasy dishes overnight with warm water and one or two spent tea bags. The tannins in your tea will remove grease and food residues for a one-step cleanup in the morning.
5. Nourish your houseplants the natural way
Both coffee grounds and tea bags have loads of nutrients that help houseplants thrive. Due to high acidic content, coffee grounds are perfect fertilizer for acid-loving plants such as tomatoes, carrots, roses, rhododendrons, and azaleas.
Tea is slightly less acidic, especially when combined with water. So, to nourish houseplants that prefer less acidic soil, simply tear open a tea bag, and add the contents to a watering can before watering your houseplants. The bits of tea will nourish your plants without adding too much acidity to the soil. If one of your plants looks especially sickly, make a twice-brewed tea by steeping one or two spent tea bags in boiling water. Allow the water to cool, and use it on your houseplants for a healthy boost.
6. Boost your next pedicure
The antibacterial content of tea bags helps to gently clean while wafting away odors and perking up your skin – making these common kitchen leftovers perfect for your next mani-pedi party. Before your next DIY pedicure, steep one or two tea bags in warm water for 10 minutes. Then soak your feet to soothe and soften skin while eliminating any odor for tootsies you’ll be proud to show off.
Tip: The antioxidants in green tea are especially beneficial to your skin, so opt for green tea bags if you have them.
7. Deodorize your fridge
Skip buying baking soda for deodorizing your fridge, and use a small container filled with coffee grounds instead! For best results, allow your grounds to dry overnight on a baking sheet. Then pour into an open cup or food storage container and place it in your fridge to kiss icky odors goodbye.
8. Whip up a coffee dye
You already know a splash of coffee can stain light-colored clothes. But have you ever thought of using your morning cup to create a homemade dye?
To whip up a simple, natural and waste-free dye, steep used coffee grounds in hot water for 10 minutes or until the water turns to a medium-brown color. Then remove the grounds with a mesh strainer, reserving your dye for later use. Use finished dye to add a lovely light brown color to white clothing and linens, or craft it up by coloring paper and even Easter eggs with your DIY dye. A similar concoction can also be used to darken your hair over time for a subtle change that’s as easy on your tresses as it is on the environment.
9. Treat your skin to something special
Both coffee and tea are loaded with beneficial properties that soothe irritated skin and brighten a dull, tired complexion.
For an instant pick-me-up, combine used coffee grounds with honey or mashed avocado, and apply to your face in slow, circular motions like a face scrub. Grounds will act as a gentle exfoliant, buffing off dead skin cells while the caffeine perks up tired skin.
And you can’t beat the tried-and-true tea treatment for sleepy, puffy eyes. Simply cool two used tea bags in the refrigerator, and place them over your closed eyes while you relax for 10 minutes. Remove the tea bags to reveal brighter, younger-looking eyes — without chemical-laden beauty products.
10. Shine your shoes with zero waste
We’ve heard of using citrus scraps and even banana peels to shine your shoes. But what about the leftovers from your morning cup?
Clean your dark-colored dress shoes by rubbing a damp tea bag in circular motions across the entire surface. Tea bags are especially beneficial to dark-colored leather, as the tea gently cleans while keeping your shoes moisturized and preventing cracks.
Feature image by kevberon from Pixabay. Originally published on January 4, 2013, this article was updated in August 2020.