What to Do With Charcoal After Grilling | Save Your Charcoal and Save Your Money

Thinking of what to do with charcoal after grilling? There are multiple ways to recycle and use it as fertilizer, polisher, odor and rust remover, emergency aid, etc. 

Hosting an outdoor picnic or pool party? Then it’s impossible to miss out on some charcoal-grilled food, otherwise, the whole arrangement will feel incomplete. But after all the fun and eating, one inevitable problem arises. And that is, what to do with charcoal after grilling? A bag of charcoal costs almost $60-80 and dumping half of it after only one grill seems like a huge waste of money and charcoal both. However, after every grilling session, it seems very hard to manage the leftover charcoal on the grilling pan. But don’t underestimate charcoal’s significance and consider it as trash, because one grill doesn’t reduce its worth instead opens countless other options to use it for different circumstances. Wondering how? Let’s check that out!

Don’t Act Fast by Throwing Away Your Used Charcoal After Grilling

It’s a common tendency of many people to throw away the charcoal after every grilling session. But that’s a complete waste which they lack to realize. We need to know that burned charcoal is not trash and can be recycled, which is good for both our pocket and the environment. The usability of this thing doesn’t end with only one grilling. Because after every grill, only a little amount of ash gets produced, and most of them remain partially unburnt. And an amazing thing is, you can even use the ashes for your benefits on which you may have not given any thought ever! That’s why from the next time and especially after reading this article, you’ll surely think twice before acting fast to get rid of the charcoal after grilling!

Extinguish It Properly

Considering to reuse charcoal is a good thing, but first, you need to extinguish it as well as your grill properly after every grilling. Don’t just keep the hot charcoal open. Place it somewhere safe from kids and pets and let it cool down for at least 10-24  hours depending on the amount of charcoal you have burnt. Because there are examples of many incidents where people didn’t pay any attention to the charcoals after grilling and the negligence resulted in accidents. The quicker you extinguish the charcoal, the more beneficial it’ll be for you to reuse. Because the more the charcoals get burned the less energy they hold for recycling purposes. 

What to Do with Charcoal After Grilling- Recycle Your Charcoal

Before starting to reuse the charcoal, make sure it’s completely cold. Leave the charcoal for 10-24 hours and save them in a basket or inflammable container. And then, you’ll be completely ready to follow some amazing techniques described below as the solution of what to do with charcoal after grilling! 

A Natural Bug Killer

The leftover charcoal after grilling can be a great homemade pesticide or natural bug killer to keep the lice and beetles away. The pesticide making process is very easy. Add some lime and water to the charcoal ash and mix them properly. The ratio will be one gallon of water, one lime, and an ounce of ash. Mix and spray them to plants and the edges of your garden and see the magic after a few days. 

Use As a Fertilizer

It has been proved that charcoal works excellent as a fertilizer, and in ancient times, it was used to improve soil quality. Many farmers and agricultural specialists encourage people to add crushed charcoal as it will increase the alkalinity and reduce the soil’s toxicity because it has a powerful element called potassium carbonate (potash). Charcoal is also best for sensitive plants that don’t like acidic fertilizer. So, your wood-based charcoal after grilling will not only serve your appetite but also save your gardening. 

Use Dust to Reduce Rust

Charcoal has the capability to absorb moisture from the environment. Often, we face the issue of excess moisture and humidity in our basement, storeroom, or garage, which causes rust to the stored items. To prevent that, you can put some charcoal in two or three doubled-up sock or fine-mesh bag and place them near or inside the stored items. 

For Shine and Polish

Don’t judge charcoal by its color because even though it’s black, this thing has the power to make others shine and polished. Charcoal works great to polish silverware and remove rust from them. However, it’s a bit harsh material, so you better test it with a small amount first and then apply in a bigger amount. 

For Your Skin

If you’re into skincare, you should know the popularity of activated carbon in skincare products nowadays. It does fantastic work of absorbing the oil from any surfaces. Charcoal is mainly activated carbon which also treats stings, insect bites, and acne. However, you must know the proper use of charcoal before applying it directly to the skin. 

Add to Your Charcoal Chimney

Your leftover charcoal ashes and briquettes after grilling can be used on your chimney too. It’ll work as your backup resource for lighting the chimney in case you’re short on wood on a chilly winter morning. Put some partially burnt charcoal in the chimney’s top chamber and sprinkle the ashes over the top. But don’t add excess ashes there, or when you light the fire, the ashes will choke themselves out and cause you trouble. Use newspapers to light them up and keep monitoring the fire from time to time. 

Emergency Aid

In ancient times, charcoal was used as a popular remedy for diarrhea or upset stomachs. And it still works best for any issue like these, especially the wood charcoals. Just take a small piece of charcoal from the leftovers and chew it. Thus, the charcoal will absorb the toxins and mitigate the symptoms after a few minutes. 

Uses as An Absorbent

Wood charcoal is an excellent absorbent, especially after getting burnt. Because burnt charcoals develop the ability to absorb any chemicals, smells, or nutrients near them due to their porous state. It also works excellent as a neutralizer. 

Make Your Flowers Live Longer 

Charcoal helps to keep the flowers fresh on a vase or pot after cutting them from the tree. Only putting the flowers in the water doesn’t make them last for more than a day. But if you place a piece of wood charcoal or briquette under the cut edge, it’ll preserve the flowers for at least 4-5 days. 

Use as War Paint or Urban Camouflage

We’ve seen in movies and documentaries that during wars, soldiers cover their faces with black paints to hide, which is simply a camouflage trick. And this trick is generally done by using charcoal. Because it’s not easy to find any black paint near the restricted areas, and we’ve already said that charcoal is good for skin, so there’s no fear of harmful side-effects. So next time if you or any of your family and friends are going to join the army, don’t forget to gift them a bag of charcoal after grilling to help them with their camouflage! 

Increase Friction of Car Wheels

Almost all kinds of car wheels have a layer of carbon around them, which increases the rolling resistance. Friction or rolling resistance means it gives you more control over the car while driving so that you don’t lose any control, or the tire doesn’t get slippery. It also protects the tire from UV light and other harmful reactions so that the tire’s quality doesn’t get damaged. You can rub the leftover charcoal all over the car’s wheels for increased friction and protection. 

Alternative to Wood Ash

Wood ash is excellent for soil and plants, but for that, you have to cut wood and burn them on a stove to get your desired outcome. It is both environmentally and economically harmful. But charcoal ashes produced after grilling can easily substitute that wood ash. In fact, charcoal ash is more useful for multiple uses and also nutritious than wood ash to maintain the soil’s PH level. 

Make Whitening Toothpaste

In ancient times, when toothpaste wasn’t available or invented, charcoal or charcoal ash was used as toothpaste for shining the teeth. If you notice, you’ll see that nowadays, many toothpaste companies are also adding charcoal in their product’s ingredients and advertising it. The activated carbon works excellent for teeth whitening, and it helps to neutralize the smell inside the mouth. You can sometimes take a little amount of charcoal ash and rub it on your teeth to get rid of yellowish shade. 

Controlling Algae Growth in The Pond

Algae is a primitive plant that grows in ponds. But their growth rate is very fast, and if not controlled, it covers the whole water surface and restricts sunlight from entering inside the water, which also creates an imbalance of the temperature inside the pond. As a result, fishes and other plants inside the pond get affected. But you can easily control the growth of algae inside the pond with charcoal and its ashes. Place a few pieces inside or mix a little amount of charcoal with the pond’s water. Regularly doing this will show you the result.  

Use For Your Next Grilling

Not the whole amount of charcoal after grilling will be completely burned and turn into ashes. Some of those will remain partially burnt. It means those charcoals still have some energy for further grilling. Take off the grey layer of ash from those partially burnt charcoals and then mix them with new ones for the next grilling session!

Safety Tips for Handling Charcoal After Grilling

  • Always wear heat-proof gloves while handling charcoal and its ashes.
  • While putting charcoal on a grill, many people mix harsh chemicals such as lighter fluid, which makes it very toxic and ineligible to recycle in the future. 
  • Never think of touching the charcoal after grilling until it’s completely cooled off. 
  • While using charcoal as natural toothpaste, make sure not to eat it. Also, never let the children to use or put charcoal in their mouths. 
  • Keep a bucket of water near you while handling charcoal in case of emergency. 
  • Keep the partially unburnt charcoal away from fire or sparkles of fire because they still have the energy to lighten up and cause accidents. 
  • If you don’t want to reuse the charcoals after grilling, then make sure you dispose of them properly after cooling them down.

Uses for Unused Charcoal If You Aren’t Going to a Barbecue With

Sometimes you may discover a half bag of unused charcoal that you haven’t got the chance to grill yet. Throwing it away to the dust bin is undoubtedly an option but not a wise one. Instead, you can use them in other ways to make it worth the money you have spent. 

Reduce Odors: Unused charcoals are really useful when it comes to reducing odors. Does your basement is spreading a bad smell, or you want to get rid of the stinky odor from your refrigerator? Put some pieces of charcoal in the corners of your basement and fridge. In a few days, the odor will decrease surprisingly. Unused charcoal is also useful to remove the smell from the shoes. 

Helping with Rust: Rust can be very problematic when it comes to expensive or your favorite items. But charcoal can solve this problem quickly. It works great in absorbing moisture, which is the main reason for causing rust. Put some charcoals near or inside the equipment you want to save from rust. In this way, those materials will be rust free for a long time without any tension. 

Suppressing Weeds: Those who love to do gardening have to face one stubborn problem that is weed. Weeds are tough to get rid of but using charcoal will lessen the trouble. Crush a few pieces of charcoal and spread the crumbs where the weeds are growing. This method will lower your hassle and make you and your garden happy and healthy. 

Make Your Charcoal Burn Longer When Grilling

Many of us think that the more charcoal we put on the grill, the more heat will get produced, which is not true. Because charcoals often have the capacity to produce heat over 2000-degrees Fahrenheit, which is sufficient and sometimes more than enough to cook the perfectly grilled dishes. That’s why it needless to burn excess charcoal and waste both money and resources. Instead, you can apply some techniques to make the charcoal burn longer when grilling, without compromising the heat and final result. 

Place The Grill Near a Windbreak: The grilling area has a significant impact on the burning period of charcoal. If you are going to grill in an open area such as in a field, garden, or the middle of your lawn, the charcoal will burn quicker because the wind flow supplies extra oxygen to the charcoals and makes them burn faster. That’s why always position the grill where there is less wind exposure. But don’t choose a completely closed place because the smoke needs to get out too, or else it’ll become suffocating!

Keep Spreading Out The Charcoal: Generally, when we start to prepare the grill, we put the charcoals in a mound shape to easily light the bottom, and it gets heated quicker. But after a while, when the charcoal starts to turn white, it’s better to spread them all over the bottom of the grill pan as it slows down the burning process. Also, keep turning them side by side to increase the burning period even more. 

Open The Lid: Most of us think that opening the lid while grilling makes the charcoal to burn faster. But on the contrary, it actually slows the burning. Because if the lid is closed, the produced heat is trapped beneath the grill pan and ultimately makes the charcoal to burn quickly. But when we open the cover, the extra heat escapes, and the charcoal will keep burning in a steady pace. However, you need to monitor the heat level because if you keep the lid off the whole time, the temperature will go down too low and disturb the cooking flow. That’s why you have to open and close the lead multiple times while grilling, depending on the heat that is getting produced. 

Avoid Using Lighter Fluid: To light the charcoal easily and quickly, we often use lighter fluid. But it makes the charcoal to burn faster because that is what the lighter fluid is made for. Apart from increasing the burning speed, it also affects the food taste. Also, using lighter fluid is very risky as it can make the heat into a fireball and causes accidents. That’s why it’s better to avoid it altogether. 

Use Briquette Charcoal: There are usually two types of charcoal that are widely available, briquette and lump. Lump charcoal is made from wood and is the most common. On the other hand, briquette charcoal is made of sawdust and not very popular. But briquettes burn slower than lumps. While grilling, you may become tired of constantly adding lump charcoal due to the fast burning rate. But briquettes will save you from this trouble. 

Mix with Charcoal Wood: If you add both charcoal and wood to the grill, the combination will increase the burning period because wood burns slower compared to both briquettes and lumps. You can mix any kind of dry wood with the charcoals as there are no restrictions on it. Adding a few pieces of wood with charcoals increases the burning time and enhances the taste of the food. It also spares you from frequently adding charcoals to the grill, as the wood will cover up for that, and you can focus on your food more. 


We have covered almost all the things you may need to know while dealing with charcoal and grill. But for your convenience, we are going to answer a few more frequently asked queries. 

  • Can I pour water on my charcoal?

It’s common thinking that water will cool down the burnt charcoal, which is true indeed. But it won’t be a wise decision. Because if you directly pour water inside the grill, the sudden thermal shock will crack down the pan’s material. Also, a massive amount of smoke will be produced and pollute the surroundings. It’ll also make a sludgy mess inside the grill which is hard to clean as the charcoals will get clogged. That’s why it’s better not to splash water on the charcoals. Let them cool by themselves. 

  • Is charcoal ash toxic?

Charcoals can be either treated or untreated. Ashes produced from untreated charcoal is safe and can be used for recycling. But treated charcoals are made to light faster and are chemically contaminated. That’s why ashes produced from treated charcoal are toxic and not safe for reuse. 

  • How long does a charcoal fire last?

Generally, briquettes charcoals have a burning period of up to 8-10 hours. On the other hand, lump charcoals have a burning period of up to 4-6 hours only. The longevity of charcoal fire also depends on how you handle them. 

  • Can you put charcoal aluminum foil?

Yes, you can. Even putting aluminum foil over the charcoal will make the food not to get sticky inside the grill, which makes the clean-up process more manageable. 

  • Does charcoal ash kill grass?

As long as you’re using ashes from wood charcoal, it won’t harm the grasses. Instead, the ashes will make the grasses healthier. Overall, charcoal ash contains potassium carbonate (Potash), which is very nutritious for the plants. But don’t use treated charcoal ashes for the plants because they won’t do any good. 

  • Do you have to clean out old charcoal?

Yes, you have to clean the charcoal from the grill after every cook, at least once, and if possible, do it twice. Because if you don’t do a proper cleaning, then the charcoal ash will build upon the grill and create a clogged mess and rust. That’s why cleaning is a must!

  • Does charcoal kill viruses?

Activated charcoal can kill viruses, mold, bacteria, and parasites and also encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria. 

  • What are the side effects of burn charcoal?

Charcoal is a fossil fuel, and it’s not good to burn them excessively. Burning charcoal creates and releases carbon monoxide gas and pollutes the air. Constantly beathing on that air can lead to brain damage. Each year, 20 people in US die from the contamination in the air due to the carbon monoxide that is produced from burning charcoal. That’s why it’s better to burn it limitedly by ensuring proper ventilation. 

  • Is charcoal good for anthurium? 

Anthurium plants like to grow in well-drained and coarse soil. That’s why if you add a handful amount of charcoal to the soil, it’ll help to turn the soil into more coarse material, which is suitable for anthurium. 


Charcoal is a vital and moderately expensive resource, and we shouldn’t waste it at any cost. That’s why from the next time, whenever you think of what to do with charcoal after grilling, try exploring multiple options to recycle before throwing it away to the waste bin. But remember that either you grill or recycle, handle the charcoal with utmost precautions and always keep them away from children and pets to avoid unwanted trouble. However we hope, now you have understand that this fossil fuel has more to offer than just heating the grill and doesn’t deserve to be thrown off!

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