If you typically throw away your coffee filters, think again. These cheap little items have more alternative uses than you can imagine. Their ability to strain or absorb makes them useful in dozens upon dozens of situations around the house, or even in an emergency.
So think twice before tossing your used coffee filters, and consider recycling them for the 50 alternative uses we’ve found.
Table of Contents
Because coffee filters are absorbent, lint free, and relatively strong, they are the perfect substitute for many items we use daily that would just take up too much space.
These uses are self-explanatory, because there’s just no room in your pack for a case of toilet paper or stacks of disposable diapers for the little one.
1. Paper towels are going to be in short supply following a SHTF event. Hopefully you will have stockpiled a fair number of cases prior to any kind of event. But if you run short on paper towels, grab a coffee filter as a substitute.
2. Toilet Paper is another of those items that I hope you’ve stockpiled in large quantities. But just in case, keep in mind that a coffee filter can be used to get the job done too. Just don’t put it into your flush toilet as it may not be as quick to dissolve as regular toilet paper.
3. Cooking Grease or Oil Trap can be made from a coffee filter. Simply line a jar or another container with a coffee filter. Slowly pour your used cooking oil through the coffee filter. The filter will catch any large particles and leave the oil in the container ready for you to reuse.
4. Use as tissue/Kleenex will likely be in short supply after a SHTF event. Hopefully you can avoid getting sick, but you may not have access to your allergy medications which means you’ll need more tissues. If you run low, a coffee filter, while not ideal, could be used in a pinch.
5. Dry dishes and glassware with a coffee filter if you don’t have a clean dish towel or if you are on the move and the few you brought are dirty. Coffee filters are absorbent and fairly strong and can work to dry dishes in a pinch.
6. As a liner for cloth diapers to keep baby’s skin drier for longer periods of time and to reduce the need to wash the cloth diapers as frequently. Simply line the cloth diaper with one or two coffee filters and diaper as usual. When baby needs a change, remove the filters and dispose of them and replace with clean, dry filters.
7. Substitute for menstrual pads can be made from coffee filters if the need arises. You won’t be able to just run to the drugstore for feminine pads and may run out even if you’ve stockpiled. Simple use the coffee filter as you would a pad and replace as needed.
8. Use to wipe off dirt, oils, and sweat from face when you are on the move or bugging out from one location to another. The absorbency of coffee filters means they will work better than toilet paper or tissues at wiping dirt, sweat, and oils from your face.
Unlike towels or washcloths, coffee filters will burn easily which means you won’t have to worry about washing them out.
Cooking and access to clean water is something many people take for granted every day. Many of us, preppers included, are used to cooking in our kitchen with all its conveniences and luxuries.
When the grid goes down, regardless of why, cooking and getting clean water become much more difficult. Once we can get food and water, it’s needed nourishment but also an extra comfort in hard times.
9. Pre-filter water. Coffee filters are designed for water to drain through them and to prevent small grains of coffee from getting into your coffeepot. This makes them perfect to filter particles, like sand, leaves, and mud from rainwater or creek water. Be sure to boil before drinking.
10. Disposable container. Coffee filters can hold snacks for kids or can be set on the table to hold cut pieces of vegetables or fruits waiting to go into your recipe or into waiting hands.
11. Flavor filled sachet-tie your favorite herb, such as mint into a sachet made of a coffee filter and tied with twine, string, or other cordage. Drop into a jar of water with your sachet of tea leaves for a great refreshing drink.
12. Clean and protect cast iron cookware by using a coffee filter to wipe it out after cooking and then a clean one to lay inside of it to absorb any moisture and prevent the pan from rusting. Coffee filters between pans will also allow you to stack them if needed.
13. Filter pulp from fresh juice if you are lucky enough to have an apple or other fruit tree accessible during a SHTF scenario, use a coffee filter to filter the pulp out of the juice before drinking.
14. Sprout Seeds. Dampen half a coffee filter with water, cover one section with seeds and then fold the other half over the top. Place the filter into a Ziplock bag. Leave bag open and place in warm area for several days.
If you will be on the move, use a straw to put air into the bag before sealing it. Drop the bag into the top of your backpack where it will stay warm while you walk.
15. Keep produce crisp/dry in the cooler. Line the bottom of your cooler with coffee filters to absorb any moisture. This will help your produce stay crisp and fresh longer.
16. Disposable wrapper or holder for hot or messy foods like pickles or tacos or to wrap leftovers.
17. Strain soup. When making soup, you may need to strain some of the bits of bone out for safety before eating. Pour the hot soup through a coffee filter and into a separate pot or container. You can use coffee filters to strain other liquids as well, of course.
18. Use as a mini cutting board. When cutting vegetables and fruits, you may want to lay several coffee filters down first. The filters will protect the food from grit off the table or tree stump and make it easy to scoop up the mess and discard it when you are done. Be sure to chop not slice to prevent the filter from tearing.
19. Make coffee!
20. Strain fresh milk by pouring raw milk through unbleached coffee filter and into another container.
21. Make your own tea bags (use tea leaves and dried fruit peels and tie with string)
22. Take silk from an ear of corn by removing the husks and then wrapping the filter around the ear of corn and stroking downward. It may help to slightly dampen the filter so it grabs the loose silk better.
The longer the grid is down, the more likely it will be that people will begin to rebuild. During this rebuilding process and even for a long time afterwards, simple items we had easy access to won’t be available at the store or local hardware.
Coffee filters can come in handy during this time, just to make life a little more organized and a little cleaner.
24. Organize small items like nuts and bolts, or nails. Tie each type of nut, bolt, or nail into a separate filter so it makes a tiny satchel. These will now fit easily into any small space within your bug out bag or INCH bag.
25. Clean your glasses-since most coffee filters are soft, lint free, and hold up fairly well, they make the perfect eye glass cloth.
26. Pet pooper scooper-cleaning up after your pet in your neighborhood is a courtesy but when SHTF it will be even more important. Your pet will be limited to your own yard or campsite and not cleaning up after it can lead to very unsanitary conditions a short time. Plus, you don’t want the foul smell to alert others to your campsite if they are passing through.
27. Make an air freshener
28. Spot clean clothing
29. Store garden seeds for next year
30. Use to make dryer sheets using vinegar and lavender or any natural fragrance you can access. These are great once the power is back on and before stores have replenished supplies. Or just make your own dryer sheets which are free of chemicals.
31. Polish or shine leather shoes. You may not have a need to polish your leather shoes or boots in a SHTF scenario but you will want to protect them in some way from excess water.
In a pinch you may have to polish them with grease or some other substance to keep them semi-water resistant.
First Aid Uses
32. Bandage. Paper coffee filters work great to keep cuts and scrapes covered if you are out of traditional bandages. They also work in the same way as a styptic pencil to stem blood flow.
33. Cold Compress. Fill with ice or simply wet with cold water and use as a cool compress against warm skin, bruises, or sprained joints.
34. Herbal Tea Sachet. Fill the bottom with medicinal herbs for what ails you, tie it up and then add boiling water.
35. Use as an applicator to apply calamine lotion or other first aid creams to bug bites, hives, and other skin irritations.
36. Keep soil in the pot. By lining the bottom of the pot with a coffee filter. Excess water will be able to seep through but soil will not.
37. Prevent Shoe odors (baking soda wrapped in shoe overnight)-place some baking soda or any herbs with a pleasant smell in the bottom of the filter. Tie it up with twine and stuff into your shoes or boots overnight to ward off the smell of wet and sweaty footwear.
38. Use to write notes. Regular writing paper will disappear quickly as it is exposed to the weather and as people panic and use it to fuel fires for warmth.
39. A plastic funnel probably wasn’t high on your list of things to pack for a SHTF scenario. A coffee filter will come in handy for those times when you need to add oil or other fluids to your vehicle.
There will be many times you need to get liquids or fine grains from one place to another and a funnel means less waste and makes your life easier.
40. Pet Food Dish-You may not have thought to bring Spot or Fluffy’s food dishes. Use a coffee filter to hold their food so they don’t have to eat off the ground and you can easily pick up what they don’t finish to save it for later.
41. Use as fire material or kindling. Lightweight and easy to include in your EDC kit or bug out bag, these can be used as fire material in a pinch.
42. Make a Bath Sachet-Taking a bath in cold water during a SHTF scenario can be uncomfortable. Fill the bottom of the coffee filter with oatmeal or lavender, tie it off with some twine, a shoelace, or even a length of vine. Use it to make you’re a bath a bit more pleasant.
43. Protect food from Bugs. If you do have to be outside, you can use coffee filters placed over top of your food to form small tents that will keep the bugs from getting into your food.
44. Protect Cast Iron Pans-If you have to stack your cast iron pans before they are dry to conserve space, putting coffee filters in between them can protect them from rusting.
45. Christmas wrapping paper won’t be available when SHTF. Early pioneers often used plain paper to wrap presents. If the season is upon you, use the filters as wrapping paper. If you can color them with your own handmade plant dyes, that’s even better.
46. Bookmark. Fold filter into just about any shape you want. Leave it wide if you may need to take notes about what your reading. Use it to mark your place until your next down time period.
Entertain the Kids
Young kids and even the older ones can become bored so easily. Once the immediate danger has passed, having something to entertain the kids and keep them busy will give adults time to get needed projects completed around camp.
It also provides a sense of normalcy for kids that will help them to forget for a while some of the horrors they may have witnessed.
47. Preserve or press flowers between coffee filters if you don’t have wax paper.
48. Funny hats can cheer up even the most terrified child. Use pine tree sap to stick items like pine needles, flowers, dandelion fluff, etc. onto the top side of the filter for decoration. Poke a hole in each side on the bottom and run a string or stretchy elastic band through to hold the hat in place.
49. Paper flowers. Use anything on hand to add color or just leave them white.
50. Make snowflakes for Christmas as shown in this video:
There are tons more uses for coffee filters. I tried to provide you with the ones that might be more useful during a SHTF event or in the months following a natural disaster.
No matter how full that get home bag or bug out bag might be, I’m sure you can find some room for at least a dozen or so lightweight, inexpensive and ever so functional coffee filters!
updated 11/13/2019 by Megan Stewart
Born and raised in NE Ohio, with early memories that include grandpa teaching her to bait a hook and watching her mom, aunts, and grandmothers garden, sew, and can food, Megan is a true farm girl at heart.
For Megan, the 2003 blackout, the events of 911, and the increasing frequency of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, spurred a desire to be more prepared for whatever may come along. Soon to be living off-grid, this mother of four and grandmother of nine grandsons and one granddaughter, is learning everything she can about preparedness, basic survival, and self-sufficient homesteading. She is passionate about sharing that knowledge so that others can be increasingly prepared to protect their families.