Budget Living

10 Unusual Alternative Ways To Use Instant Coffee

Coffee is the life blood that keeps many of us going throughout the day. There are hundreds of studies out there claiming the various benefits of drinking coffee beyond it giving you a much needed energy boost when you were awake at 4am, again, because there were foxes playing with a dog toy in next door’s garden (no? Just me?). From claims of pain relieving benefits to reducing the risk of some cancers, there’s a lot to be said for our favourite caffeinated tipple. But, coffee is so much more than the fuel that powers many a person. Here are 10 things you can use instant coffee for, and none of them involve drinking it!

Instant coffee exfoliator

The texture of instant coffee grounds make them an excellent exfoliator. Caffeine is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, so when you use it on your skin, it can reduce redness and puffiness. Plus, as an exfoliator, it’ll get rid of dead skin to wake up a tired complexion. Try making an exfoliating body scrub by combining coffee granules with a little coconut oil and some raw sugar. If the coffee smell is a bit too much for you, add vanilla for a sweeter aroma.

Cat repellent

instant coffee

Just as vampires are supposedly repelled by garlic, it seems the same is true of cats and instant coffee. We love a catty companion as much as the rest of the world, but there are some places we wish they wouldn’t go and things they wouldn’t do. Like digging up our houseplants. Or climbing the curtains. Adding a little instant coffee, or used coffee grounds, to the soil of your houseplants could help to deter your cats from going near them. No more plant sacrifice!

In the garden

There are so many ways coffee can help your gardening, beyond giving you the energy to keep going! Adding instant coffee or used coffee grounds to compost adds nitrogen to the soil. Nitrogen rich soil means your plants will be better able to convert sunlight into the energy they need to live and thrive. And, the caffeine can help to stimulate your plants to grow. Plus, worms love coffee, and slugs and snails hate it. Worms attracted to your flowerbeds by coffee will add more nutrients to the soil, and aerate it by creating tunnels to move around in. Slugs and snails on the other hand, aren’t such fans and tend to stay away from soil with coffee in it.

However, as coffee hasn’t been tested as a pesticide, do be careful how you use it. Take guidance from the Royal Horticultural Society to make sure your garden use of coffee stays within regulations.

Drain cleaner

instant coffee drain cleaner

Now, coffee isn’t likely to help unblock a clogged drain, but it can help to keep the pipes fresh and avoid them getting stinky. Pouring coffee grounds down the offending drain, followed by boiling water, can help get rid of any unwanted odors without replacing them with the smell of coffee! Now you just need to work out if you can face pouring perfectly good coffee literally down the drain…

Wood stain

We all know that coffee stains, and is a pain to wash out. But, when you want it to leave its mark, that’s a useful property to have! And for wood, which you likely want to be brown, coffee is perfect! To stain wood with coffee, simply combine 1 part instant coffee with 1 1/4 parts boiling water, stir it up and leave it to cool. While your coffee is cooling, sand down the wood you want to stain. Then, apply the wood stain with a paint brush. Repeat until you achieve the colour of wood you want. This cheap and cheerful method is an easy way to upcycle home furnishings that need a fresh look!


instant coffee to use as paint

Using coffee as a watercolour paint is a great, budget friendly way of producing beautiful sepia-toned artwork to display at home or give as gifts. Simply dilute instant coffee in water, adding more coffee or more water to achieve darker and paler shades respectively. It’s a great option for children to use in their painting as you likely have coffee around the house anyway, so don’t need to buy them any special equipment before they can get crafty.


As we learned from pouring coffee down the drain, coffee has de-odorising properties that quickly neutralise bad smells. As well as down the drain, you can use coffee in your fridge or freezer to absorb bad food smells. Simply fill a bowl with coffee grounds or granules and pop it in the fridge overnight to get rid of the smell. You can even wash your hands in coffee to wash off clingy smells like garlic and onions after cooking.

Household cleaner

use instant coffee to clean your kitchen

Instant coffee granules are mildly abrasive, so they’re great at getting stubborn, dried on food marks off your counters and hob. They’re not abrasive enough to damage your surfaces, though, so you can scrub away without fear. Simply apply a spoon of instant coffee to a damp cleaning cloth and get cracking!

Ant repellent

Like many garden creepy crawlies, ants also dislike coffee. Since they can become a problem for many during the summer and have a nasty habit of biting, coffee can be a friendlier alternative to ant poisons and powders. Simply sprinkle some coffee grounds where they seem to be coming from, and it should keep them at bay. It’s not certain why, exactly, but it’s thought that the size of the granules might be off-putting for them! After all, a coffee granule is a decent sized rock to an ant…

Growing mushrooms

grow mushrooms in instant coffee grounds

Used coffee grounds are the perfect environment for growing mushrooms. For a first go, you can buy kits that come with all the equipment you need pretty cheaply online. But, if you’re determined to DIY, you’ll need a decent size bucket, mushroom spores from a reputable source, lots of coffee grounds, cling film and a plant spraying bottle.

To grow your own mushrooms, fill your bucket about half-full with coffee grounds. Break up the mushroom spawn and mix it well into the coffee grounds, and gently compress down. If you have enough coffee and mushroom spawn, you can repeat this process until the bucket is almost full. Don’t overfill, though – you need to leave about an inch clear at the top. If you’ve used all your spawn and coffee, though, drill a few holes in the sides of your bucket near the top. This will prevent carbon dioxide from building up near the top of the bucket. Once your bucket is full, cover the top with cling film and pierce a few holes in it. Spray the top of your bucket with a little water a couple of times a day. Within 1-2 weeks you should see mushrooms appearing!

Can you bear to use coffee for anything but drinking? Give these tips a go!