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10 Uses for Charcoal

Don't let that half-empty bag from last summer sit around. Charcoal—the natural lump variety made from hardwood—can do more than cook burgers

A Second Life for Unused Lump Charcoal

Photo by Ted Morrison

Don't let that half-empty bag from last summer sit around taking up space. Charcoal—the natural lump variety made from hardwood—can do more than cook burgers and smoke ribs. Find another use for the black pieces and finally toss out that almost-empty bag in the garage.

1. Nourish Your Compost Heap

Photo by Nancy Andrews

Mix charcoal into your compost pile to increase its carbon content. (If the pile smells like ammonia, it needs carbon.)

2. Disguise an Imperfection

Photo by Nancy Andrews

Rub charcoal onto scratches on dark wood floors and furniture to temporarily "stain" them until you have time for a real repair job.

3. Keep Air Fresh

Photo by Laura Moss

Place charcoal, in open bowls or perforated plastic bags, in your fridge or drawers to banish odors.

4. Make Cut Flowers Last Longer

Photo by Laura Moss

Put a lump of charcoal beneath the cut stems in a vase to help the water stay clean and clear.

5. Use it as Mulch

Photo by Nancy Andrews

Break charcoal into chunks about 1 inch in diameter and spread them on beds or beneath bushes to keep soil moist and suppress weeds.

6. Entertain Kids (or Adults)

Photo by Nancy Andrews

Use a piece of charcoal to draw hopscotch squares or other game templates on your sidewalk. Wash away the marks with a quick squirt from your hose.

7. Keep Driveway Deicers from Clumping

Photo by Nancy Andrews

Before storing rock salt and sand to use this winter, mix a few lumps of charcoal into the bag or bucket. They'll soak up dampness and prevent these materials from freezing or caking together.

8. Decorate Your Yard

Photo by Nancy Andrews

Turn lumps of charcoal into a scare- crow's eyes for Halloween or a snowman's face in wintertime.

9. Help Potted Orchids Grow

Photo by Nancy Andrews

These bloomers benefit from charcoal's alkalinity. Mix small pieces with your potting medium (e.g., bark or wood chunks) to nourish the flowers.

10. Keep Rust Off Tools

Photo by Laura Moss

Place a few lumps of charcoal in your tool box to absorb moisture and keep the metal from oxidizing.