With Labor Day behind us, you're probably thinking about putting away the outdoor grill for the summer and wondering what to do with that half empty bag of charcoal left over from the grilling season. Well whatever you do, don't throw it away!
Check out these creative ways to use up the last of the summer's charcoal. When I'm talking about charcoal, you should use natural "lump"-type or pure charcoal briquettes without chemicals added to make them light faster.
- Moisture-free salt and sand: If you're going to stock up on rock salt and sand to handle winter deicing, add a couple of pieces of charcoal to the bags to absorb moisture and keep salt and sand from clumping.
- Natural air freshener: Put a few pieces of charcoal in a length of worn-out pantyhose and hang it in the basement or other areas where moisture creates a musty smell - it'll help keep air smelling fresh. Or put a piece in socks that are missing their mates and stick them in your shoes in the closet to reduce odor and mildew. You can even use a small dish of charcoal in the refrigerator instead of baking soda to absorb unpleasant food smells.
- Compost it: Small amounts of charcoal, including charcoal ashes and partially burned pieces from the grill, can be added to the compost pile or mixed directly into the garden soil to increase carbon content.
- Keep tools and equipment rust-free: Put a couple of pieces of charcoal in tool boxes and fishing tackle boxes to absorb moisture and prevent rust. And after cleaning up my garden tools for the season - hoes, shovels, pruning shears, etc. - I wrap their "business ends" in a plastic garbage bag and add a little charcoal to keep them rust free 'til spring.
- Fresher flowers: If you treat yourself to a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers this winter, drop a piece of charcoal into the vase before adding water. The flowers will last longer - and the water in the vase will stay clean and clear. Also, give your orchids a treat by adding a little ground charcoal to their potting medium. They love the alkalinity.
And don't forget to set aside a few pieces of charcoal to outfit Frosty the Snowman when he comes to town, which might be sooner than some of us would like.