When you want a no-waste kitchen, you get creative and learn to improvise, it’s amazing what you can get done with everyday materials that seem to have only a single purpose. Let’s look at coffee filters, for instance.
Yes, I know they are absolutely essential for getting our morning cup of perk out of a drip machine, but doesn’t it seem a little wasteful that they get just one use and then go right into the trash?
When I recently switched to a traditional electric percolator instead of a drip machine, I had a huge case of leftover coffee filters with no reason to exist.
Rather than throw them away, I got creative and found that they are supremely useful for lots of other things. Here are my favorite uses for coffee filters…
1. Improvised Funnel
A coffee filter makes a surprisingly good funnel for dry goods or viscous liquids. It has the right tapered shape already, so all you need to do is gently fold or roll it up into a cone shape, then snip the end off the bottom and you’ll have a perfect funnel.
It’s also soft and deformable, and perfect for getting stuff into narrow-neck bottles.
2. Cold Compresses
If you have puffy eyes, sore spots or just irritated skin a cold compress can be just the thing and the soft but durable fabric of a clean coffee filter can work wonders.
Soak it in tea or just water and then pop it in the freezer for a few minutes to chill. Pull it out, fold it up, and place it where you need a little bit of relief.
3. Oil a Pan
Oiling a pan before you use it is critical if you don’t want your food to stick when it hits the hot surface.
Trying to roll the oil around in the pan takes forever, and paper towels leave lint behind. The solution?
Use a coffee filter! They’re durable, absorbent and lint-free and make them perfect for this regular kitchen task.
4. Buff Leather
Coffee filters are incredibly soft but also durable, and because they are somewhat absorbent this makes them perfect for buffing leather using any oil or leather conditioner that you prefer.
Simply spray or dab the substance on a folded coffee filter, then get to work until your leather is glowing and shiny.
You can easily do a pair of boots with a single coffee filter, or a piece of leather furniture with just a few. They will hold up!
5. Make a Fly Trap
It’s possible to make a quick and surprisingly effective fly trap using a bottle or a jar and a coffee filter. Simply take your container and place a little bit of fruit juice, beer or vinegar inside.
Roll your coffee filter up into a funnel shape (as described above) and then cut the end off to make a tiny opening that a fly can just fit through.
Then set this funnel into the opening of the container and secure it. Flies will easily find their way inside to get the yummy liquid, but won’t be able to find their way out again.
6. Blot Carpet Spills
Coffee filters are highly absorbent, and work wonderfully for blotting up spills on rugs and carpets.
Whatever you spilled on the carpet, if you act quickly and stack a few coffee filters on it they will work great to pull the liquid out of the fibers before you set to work on dealing with the remnants of the stain.
Repeat this process until no more liquid is coming out and you’ll have a much easier time.
7. Polish Metal
The durable, soft and lint-free nature of coffee filters also makes them a great choice for polishing metal, particularly brass and stainless steel appliances.
Just like using them to polish leather above, simply use your favorite metal cleaner or polish, fold a coffee filter or two in half, and then get to work. Pretty soon, your metal will have a beautiful luster.
8. Dust in Nooks and Crannies
Coffee filters work great for cleaning dust out of nooks and crannies, particularly if you need to clean your keyboard or little crevices inside your car that you just can’t reach otherwise.
Just fold up a coffee filter and use the closed or open edges to reach deep into those crevices.
Remember that you can unfold it and fold it in the other direction too to produce another clean edge to use.
9. Wipe Off Eyewear
Whether you’re wearing sunglasses or prescription eyewear, coffee filters work wonders for cleaning them off safely without any risk of scratching your lenses.
You can use them dry to wipe off an errant fingerprint, or give your glasses a spritz of your preferred cleaning solution. You’ll be seeing clearly in no time!
10. Cover Microwave Food
One of my very favorite uses for coffee filters is as a cover for food that I’m putting in the microwave.
No matter how careful I am with the power settings, I always get pops and splatters to clean up inside and I hate doing that.
Coffee filters can form a little tent over a plate or you can flatten them out to place over a bowl or other container. They can certainly stand up to high heat, so no problems there.
11. Absorb Oil and Grease
I’ve mentioned several times already that coffee filters are wonderfully absorbent, and this makes them perfect for lining containers of leftovers to absorb oil and grease from food that would otherwise make it soggy.
Place a couple of filters in the bottom of any container you’re using to store your leftovers before you pop them in the fridge, and they’ll taste much better than they would otherwise when reheated.
12. Sandwich Wrappers
Coffee filters make a great sandwich wrapper, whether you’re chowing down on a burger, a hoagie, a hot dog or any similar foods like tacos and burritos.
They are durable, they will catch any drippings or droppings, and they keep your fingers clean. They’re also completely sanitary. This is another one of my favorite uses for coffee filters…
13. Snack Containers
Another food-based use for these filters, they make the perfect little disposable container for small and sometimes messy snacks like chips, candy, pretzels and so forth.
They will catch the crumbs, can be set anywhere handily, and are easy to hold and eat out of, hoping to keep you and your house clean and crumb-free. When you’re done, just throw them in the trash!
14. Soften a Camera Flash
Every photographer knows that getting your light just right is a big part of producing photos that will wow.
Unfortunately, a camera’s flash and sometimes ambient light from other sources is just too harsh on the subject we’re shooting.
This is where you can use coffee filters, unfolded, to screen your camera flash or other light sources to soften and balance the amount of light that reaches the subject. You’ll notice an immediate difference, trust me!
15. Make a Gift Bag
Believe it or not, a coffee filter can make a wonderful little gift or goodie bag for small presents, party favors or even treats.
They’re easy to fold up and tie with ribbon or string, and you can even paint or dye them to make custom baggies.
Once you start using filters in this way you won’t be spending any more money on those cheap, fragile cellophane bags at the party store.
16. Filter Liquids
Coffee filters are, of course, filters! And they happen to be highly efficient filters that are perfect for getting particulates out of liquid.
If you’ve got any contaminants in a liquid that you’d like to save, perhaps bits of cork in your favorite wine, you can just pour it through a coffee filter and rest assured it’ll come out the other side pure and uncontaminated.
17. Popsicle Shield
Whether you love a classic popsicle on a hot day or an intricate, fancy ice cream bar, coffee filters make the perfect popsicle shield to stop drips from getting on you, your clothes and the floor.
Simply poke the popsicle stick through the middle of the coffee filter and then slide it up under your chilled treat; no more drips, no more mess!
18. Line Your Pots and Pans
If you are going to nest your pots together while storing them, coffee filters are great as liners between them.
Not only will this help prevent scratches and scuffs, but it will also reduce the likelihood that your cookware will rust by protecting them from dust and moisture. Just use as many filters as you need to to make a good liner.
19. Sprout Seeds
For you gardeners out there who like to get your seeds sprouted before you plant them, coffee filters make a wonderful way to do that.
All you need to do is moisten the coffee filter, place a seed or multiple seeds inside it, and then fold the coffee filter over on the seeds carefully.
This will ensure they stay protected and moist until they sprout. You can put your coffee filter inside a bag or other container too, if you want to.
20. Prefilter Water
Anytime you’re gathering collected water for purification, maybe it’s just rainwater, it’s a good idea to pre-filter it to remove larger contaminants before you send it through your main filter or purification system.
Once again, coffee filters are a great way to do that because they are purpose-made filters already.
Also highly portable, lightweight, and compact and this makes them a great option for camping and hiking.
21. Clean and Dry Glass
The durable, soft and lint-free nature of coffee filters once again makes them ideal for cleaning up around the house, this time putting a wonderfully clear sparkle on your glass.
Whether you’re cleaning a mirror or cleaning your windows, a coffee filter in conjunction with your usual glass cleaner is going to make short work of even the haziest windows.
And, best of all, it won’t leave any lint behind like paper towels usually do!
22. Odor Fighting with Baking Soda
If you have any spot in your house that suffers from musty odors, maybe a certain closet or cabinet, baking soda is what you should reach for.
And I don’t know about you, but I don’t like sprinkling baking soda around and just leaving it there since that seems like it adds to the mess.
A better option is to pour a quantity of baking soda into a coffee filter and then tie up the top like a little sack. You just made a deodorizing baking soda sachet!
23. Tea Sachets
Speaking of sachets, it’s worth mentioning that the tea lovers can use coffee filters too as improvised sachets for loose leaf tea.
If you want to travel with some ready-made tea bags or just like the convenience, coffee filters work great for this purpose…
24. Make Dryer Sheets
You can make your very own freshening dryer sheets at home using coffee filters and a little bit of your favorite essential oil.
Simply spritz a mist of your favorite essential oil on the coffee filter or sprinkle a drop or two hot and then leave them to dry.
Once they’ve totally dried out, set them by your dryer and toss one or two in with your next load of clothes to make them smell wonderful.
25. Hold Small Parts
Whether you’re assembling some cheap big box store furniture or taking apart an intricate tool or other device, having bins to hold screws and other small parts and keep them organized can make the job easier.
Coffee filters can help again here. They are high contrast to make parts identification easy and, unlike tiny hard containers, difficult to knock over!
26. Protect Your Plates
Just like protecting your pots and pans in storage, if you’re stacking plates or, particularly, delicate china with its fragile finish, then coffee filters can be perfect padding when placed between the plates.
Just use as many filters as you need to buffer the bottom of the next plate in the stack and rest easy knowing your plates will be scratch-free.
27. Utensil Rest
Cooking on the stove top, grilling or just mixing up ingredients on the countertop, you’ll always have need for a place to rest your utensil when you aren’t using it.
And it should be a sanitary place! Instead of sending your utensil down directly on the countertop or beside the grill, use a coffee filter as a disposable pad for it.
28. Mop Up Craft and Beauty Spills
No matter what you’re painting with, be it acrylic paint on a favorite hobby project or enamel polish on your fingernails, the absorbency of coffee filters makes them wonderful for protecting against and mopping up all sorts of spills at the bench or desk.
You can hold up a filter and use it to easily wick paint out of crevices, too.
29. Protect Cast Iron
Cast iron cookware is some of my very favorite, and there’s no denying its versatility, but unfortunately it needs a lot of care before and after use- and even when you aren’t using it!
To help keep your cast iron cookware from rusting in storage, you can lightly soak coffee filters with cooking oil to help protect them against rust, and then leave them on your cookware or wherever you have it stored.
Another way of using these filters is to spray your cast iron pot with protective oil as usual, then use a coffee filter to wipe down the pot and remove excess oil…
30. Save Used Cooking Oil
If you’re doing any frying with oil in your kitchen, and the oil is still clear and in good shape, you can save it for another round of frying by filtering it through coffee filters.
All the little chunks and debris of food will be caught as your oil goes into a jar or bottle, ready for use next time.
31. Store Christmas Ornaments
There’s hardly anything more precious than perfect, delicate, beautiful and incredibly fragile Christmas ornaments.
It seems like every year our collections shrink due to breakage, no matter how careful we are.
You can reduce the likelihood of breakage by packing each ornament in a protective nest of coffee filters. This will give them the padding they need to survive jolts and shocks.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.