It's a safe bet that you consider your grill's bag of fuel a summer essential. Come the weekend, when you set the dusty black cubes alight, they transform standard raw burgers or steaks into crusty, juicy, memorable backyard feasts. But charcoal doesn't just work wonders in your barbecue grill-you can also put those briquettes to use all over the house and yard. Read on for five extremely useful and inspiring ways to use up a few leftover lumps.
1. SUPERCHARGE YOUR COMPOST
Charcoal consists of wood char, which is mostly carbon-and carbon is essential for making good compost. (And actually, if your compost gives off an ammonia-like odor, that'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. FRESHEN UP
In spaces that lack air circulation-think closet, attic, 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. Bonus: This arrangement works well in a fridge or under a sink too! (Just be sure to keep the container out of reach of children and pets.)
3. KEEP TOOLS CLEAN
Stash a bit of charcoal 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: Each time you finish a bag of charcoal, pour the the leftover bits from the bottom of the bag into the pot where you stow your garden spades and weeding tools-they'll 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. MAKE YOUR MARK
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 barbecue, then forget about it-it'll wash away with the next summer rain.