10 Good Uses for Charcoal Briquettes That Have Nothing to Do With Grilling
As barbecue season winds down, grill masters may be tempted to stow their charcoal briquettes in the shed until next summer. Instead, put the leftover charcoal to good use around your home and in your garden.
Like sunscreen and insect repellent, charcoal is a summer staple you don’t want to be without. Come the weekend, when you set the dusty black cubes alight, it transforms raw burgers or steaks into memorable backyard feasts. Charcoal doesn’t just work wonders in concert with your barbecue grill, however: If you find yourself with an open bag of briquettes and don’t want it taking up space in your shed until next year, there’s plenty you can do with it around the yard and inside the home.
First things first, though: Briquettes that don’t have any chemical additives can be used both indoors and in the garden. Charcoal with chemical additives like borax and petroleum solvents, however, should not be used for non-grilling purposes. It’s also worth noting that briquette charcoal is different from activated charcoal, even though they have the same base materials. Briquette charcoal may be toxic and should never, ever be ingested.
If you have some all-natural briquettes (or even lump charcoal) lying around and your grill is already cleaned up and closed down for the season, learn how you can put your charcoal leftovers to good use.
1. Give your compost the carbon it needs.
Charcoal consists of wood char, which is mostly carbon—and carbon is essential for making good compost. If your compost gives off an ammonia-like odor, it’s most likely a sign of a carbon shortage. Toss a few pieces of the natural lump-style coal into your bin of food scraps and yard clippings to fortify your mix.
2. Absorb odors and moisture in most areas of the home.
In spaces that don’t have a lot of air circulation—like your closet, attic, and basement—put out several lumps of additive-free charcoal in a lidded plastic container pierced with a few holes. The black nuggets will absorb funky odors and moisture, leaving the area smelling clean. This arrangement works well in a fridge or under a sink too—just be sure to keep the charcoal container out of the reach of children and pets.
3. Keep your tools clean and sharp.
Stash a bit of charcoal in your toolbox, or wherever you store your hammers and nails. Thanks to its powers of moisture absorption, the coal will help keep your gear rust-free. Try a similar trick for your garden implements: Whenever you finish a bag of charcoal, pour the leftover bits from the bottom of the bag into the pot where you stow your garden trowels and weeding tools. The tools will stay shinier and sharper.
4. Plant a terrarium.
For an adorably miniature indoor gardening project, tuck some charcoal into the bottom of a large vase or fishbowl, then fill it with potting soil and small plants. The charcoal will work to purify this mini ecosphere, warding off root rot and keeping the plants in your tiny terrarium healthier.
5. Practice your sketching.
Charcoal sticks have served as artists’ tools for centuries, and these sketching instruments are little more than whittled-down charcoal briquettes! Even an ordinary charcoal nugget can make a handy outdoor marker should you be missing your bucket of sidewalk chalk. Grab one when you want to sketch a new furniture layout on the patio or leave a sidewalk welcome message for guests arriving at your next barbecue, then forget about it—it’ll wash away with the next summer rain.
6. Keep your flowers fresh.
Few things brighten up a home like a vase of freshly cut flowers. Clean water keeps cut flowers happier for longer. Adding a small piece of charcoal to the water can give you a few extra days with your bouquet. As charcoal absorbs water, it acts as a filter to keep the water clear of contaminants like chlorine, which speeds up wilting.
Florists generally recommend you change the water in your vase every 2 to 3 days to keep your flowers alive longer—just remember to add a little piece of charcoal each time.
7. Hide furniture scratches.
Accidents happen: Your dark wood furniture or floors may receive a scratch or two during their lifetimes, and these unsightly blemishes can range from barely noticeable to glaringly obvious. If you need a little cover-up to hide these imperfections until you or a professional can mend it properly, simply rub a charcoal briquette over the area to disguise the damage.
8. Help prevent your driveway de-icers from clumping.
Driveway salt is prone to clumping because it attracts water and heat from the environment. Rock salt absorbs water molecules that are present, which changes the molecule combination, making your de-icer harden up—so it is a pain to break apart and sprinkle on the driveway. Instead, take advantage of the absorbent qualities of charcoal, and add a few briquettes to the salt container. The charcoal will pull in the moisture so your driveway ice melt resists clumping.
RELATED: The Dos and Don’ts of Using Ice Melt
9. Have some creative fun.
Clever uses for charcoal briquettes don’t always have to be practical! Let your imagination wander and use the briquettes in a way that entertains you. Give your next snowman a classic appearance with two eyes made out of coal, or put a lump of coal in the Christmas stocking of your favorite holiday scrooge. Heck, even in the summer, kids can use natural charcoal in lieu of chalk to draw on the pavement. Just remember to wash their hands after handling it.
10. Make garden mulch.
Do you have lots of leftover charcoal briquettes this year? Add them to your garden! Break the briquettes into small pieces, making sure you wear a mask and other PPE to avoid breathing in any charcoal powder. Scatter the briquette pieces over your soil surface to create a charcoal mulch—you can use the charcoal only, or you can mix the charcoal pieces with another type of natural mulch, like bark mulch. This practice helps reduce moisture evaporation and deter weed growth.
To reiterate our warning earlier, make sure your briquettes do not contain chemical additives, as they can contaminate your garden bed’s soil.