Upcycle Your Beverages: 20 Uses for Coffee, Tea, Soda and Beer

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No one wants to drink flat Coke or day-old coffee. But consider these household uses for them before you pour leftovers down the sink.

Americans consume an average of 44 gallons of soda, 27 gallons of coffee, 7 gallons of tea, and 20 gallons of beer per year, MarketWatch says.

The problem is, if your house is anything like mine, not every beverage you buy ends up being consumed. I’m always finding half-full cups of coffee, watered-down tea, or unfinished beer in my house. In a perfect world, that wouldn’t happen, but I’m a realist. Sometimes there’s going to be a little left in the bottom of the cup (or leftover grounds in the pot).

But rather than waste it, I reuse it. I like to think of it as upcycling. Here are some examples:


  1. Stain wood. Dab a washcloth in coffee and run it over a scratch in your wood furniture or hardwood floor. The coffee will stain the scratch and help blend it in.
  2. Kill the garlic and onion smell. After cooking with garlic or onions, rub used coffee grounds on your hands and wash with soap. No more smell.
  3. Keep bugs away. Used coffee grounds act as a natural barrier to insects. Line your garden or potted plants and keep pests out.
  4. Fertilize plants. A friend once told me to mix coffee grounds in the soil for tomato plants. I tried it and grew a crop of gorgeous tomatoes.
  5. Stop fridge odors. Coffee grounds act like baking soda in the fridge. Pour a cupful into a bowl, stick it on the top rack, and the grounds will absorb odors.


  1. Soak pots and pans. For grease and burnt-on food, fill the sink with warm water, drop in two used tea bags and soak the pan overnight. In the morning, the pan will scrub clean easily.
  2. Reduce under-eye circles. Pop leftover tea bags in the fridge. After they’ve completely cooled, place the bags over your eyes for 10 minutes. The cooled tea will reduce puffiness.
  3. Shine your shoes. Gently rub a used tea bag on your dark-colored shoes in a circular motion, then buff with a dry towel. The tea will clean your shoes and add a little shine. Warning: Liquid can damage suede. Use this trick only for leather or imitation-leather fabrics.
  4. Clean glass. Fill a spray bottle with half leftover tea and half water. Spray the mixture on windows and wipe off with old newspaper. You’ll get a streak-free shine without all the chemicals.
  5. Soothe skin. Tea can soothe irritation from poison ivy, sunburns, razor burns or bug bites. Just soak a cotton ball in cool tea and dab on.


  1. Clean stained pans. I recently let an artichoke steam too long; the pan ran out of water, and the bottom of the pan turned black. Scrubbing didn’t work but Coke did. I poured 1 cup of Coke in the pan and put it on low heat on the stovetop for 30 minutes. After, the stain washed right out.
  2. Remove rust. For small rusted items, place the item in a bowl of soda and let it sit overnight. In the morning, clean and polish the item and the rust will come off.
  3. Marinade meat. Soda makes a slightly sweet, slightly tangy marinade for chicken, steak or ham. Just soak the meat in soda for 30 minutes or more and cook as you normally would.
  4. Eliminate oil stains. To remove oil stains from your garage floor or driveway, soak the area with Coke, let it sit for one to two hours, and wash it off with a hose.
  5. Clean windshields. Shake up a can of soda and spray it over your windshield. Let the mixture sit for five minutes and wash with soap and water. Bugs and film will come right off.


  1. Polish gold jewelry. Pour beer into a shallow dish and soak your jewelry for one to five minutes. Take the pieces out and dry them off with a cloth, leaving jewelry clean and polished.
  2. Attract wasps. If you have a wasp problem on your porch, fill a container with beer and place it just off the porch. Attracted to the smell, the insects will dive into the container.
  3. Remove stains. Pour a small amount of beer on a stain on your clothes or carpet. Blot the stain with a dry towel and watch the stain disappear.
  4. Barbecue chicken. Beer makes for the easiest barbecue chicken recipe ever. Simply open a can of beer, place a whole chicken over the can and carefully set it on the grill.
  5. Make batter. Replace the water in a batter recipe with beer for a new flavor. Beer batter works great for chicken, vegetables and even breads.

Do you have other ways to put these common beverages to work in your house? Share them on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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