Editor’s Note: This is an updated and revised edition for 2018.
Every prepper knows that multipurpose items save space and money. Because of this, we stash things like salt, duct tape, vinegar, and paracord like they are going out of style. Here is another inexpensive item that you should add to your list of versatile preps: coffee filters.
Coffee filters are ubiquitous They are inexpensive, light-weight, and readily available. Heck, you can purchase coffee filters at the dollar store, Costco, the corner grocery, and even on EBay.
Now I will be first to admit that there are a lot of lists floating around with suggested uses for coffee filters. However, most include all kinds of uses that are nice, but irrelevant to the prepper. After all, if you are experiencing hard times or find yourself in a survival situation, do you really think you will care about preventing your fine china from chipping or making a quick yet adorable flower bouquet from your stash of coffee filters?
Following, you can find 35 very sensible reasons why you should include coffee filters in your survival kit and preparedness pantry.
35 Ways to Use Coffee Filters for Survival
1. Use in place of a rag or paper towel
Use a coffee filter as a makeshift rag. Unlike paper towels, coffee filters are lint free and take up very little space. They are also dirt cheap.
2. Keep insects away from food
When cooking or dining outdoors, cover your plates and bowls of food with coffee filters to keep the insects at bay.
3. Pre-filter collected water
When collecting water, you will likely find some sediment, leaves, twigs, or other undesirable matter in the water. Pre-filter collected water using a coffee filter, then process as you normally would, typically by boiling or by the use of a filtration system. This will remove the larger debris and help extend the life of your expensive filters.
4. Make a disposable plate or bowl
If you are bugging out or on the run, plates and bowls, even disposables, may be scarce. As well, they can be heavy and take up valuable real estate in your backpack. Dry foods can be eaten directly from a coffee filter bowl held in your hands. Heavier foods, even those that are moist, can be supported by a paper or plastic plate or bowl. When done, throw out the filter and your plate or bowl is still clean enough to use for the next meal. This saves cleanup time, and even more importantly, it saves water.
5. Keep small hardware items organized
Nails, screws, and all manner of fix-it items are good to have on hand in your survival kit. Secure them in little bundles made of coffee filters. Tie off the bundles with some paracord since that will be useful too. When you are using the hardware, the coffee filter will keep the items from rolling around and getting lost.
6. Keep your specs spotlessly clean
You don’t need fancy liquid products to clean your glasses and, as a matter of fact, some products can also damage the coatings on specialized lenses. (I know – it happened to me.) The next time you need to clean your glasses, try using a coffee filter with a bit of plain water. Your glasses will come clean and will be lint-free. You can also use coffee filters to safely clean cell phone, E-reader, and computer screens.
7. Protect your cast iron skillets from rust
Nothing is more discouraging to the cast iron maven than finding a bit of rust on your well-seasoned cast iron skillet. You can help prevent this by putting some coffee filters in the skillet when it’s not in use. The filter will absorb moisture and prevent rusting.
8. Use it as emergency toilet paper
No TP? No worries. A coffee filter will work just fine – just don’t flush it down a toilet.
9. Use it as a pet pooper scooper
Ditto for pet pooper scoopers. Coffee filters work like a little glove for taking care of your pet’s business. Great on the hiking trails or even indoors when Fido has a little accident. You can also use a coffee filter to wipe a messy tush or muddy paws.
10. Keep potting soil where it belongs – in the pot
Before placing soil in a pot, cover the hole in the bottom with a coffee filter. This will prevent the soil from leaking out and yet will allow the excess water to drain properly.
11. Make an air freshener
To make an air freshener, fill a coffee filter with baking soda, twist-tie it shut (or again, use a bit of paracord) and you are all set. The baking soda will absorb all kinds of nasty odors. Make several and tuck them into your backpack, shoes, ice chest, vehicle, tent, and any place else that tends to get stinky smelly.
A nifty little air freshener for my backpack – plus a bit of paracord
12. Make a cold compress
Soak filters in brewed tea or even just plain water and chill. Fold them up to fashion a cold compress when you have a headache or slight fever. A cool compress made from a coffee filter will even tame puffy eyes.
13. Make a bandage
If you have a small cut or even a razor nick, rip a piece off of a coffee filter and slap it on with pressure to stop the bleeding. Your coffee filter will work similarly to a styptic pencil but without the stinging. Note: this is not a replacement for a decent first aid kit.
14. Trap cooking grease
When cooking greasy foods – especially meats – you can soak up the extra grease by placing a coffee filter both under the cooked food and on top. Pat your food down well with the coffee filter and you will be good to go.
15. Make an instant funnel
Cut the end off of a cone-style coffee filter to make an instant funnel.
16. Make a bag for herbal tea
Gather up some fresh herbs, crush them a bit, then make a little sack out of your coffee filter. Tie off the top with a bit of twine from your survival kit (or some strands of paracord). Boil some water, add it to a cup, and then let your packet of herbal tea steep to the desired strength. If you have a cold or sore throat, be sure to add a bit of honey or honey powder.
17. Flavor your sun tea
When making a sun tea, add dried orange peels, mint leaves, or other herbs for flavor. Take a filter and center the contents in the middle. Gather the edges, twist, and tie with string. Drop your little flavor packet into the jar along with the tea bags and let it brew as usual.
18. Use as a filter for fresh juices
If you have found a citrus tree and are scavenging fruit for juice, you can use a coffee filter to filter the juice, leaving seeds and pulp behind
19. Spot clean clothing
Spots and spills are a fact of life. Use a coffee filter to spot clean your clothing. If you have some, use some white vinegar. hydrogen peroxide,, or club soda and the spot will be greatly reduced if not disappear completely.
20. Sprout seeds for consuming
To sprout seeds, dampen the coffee filter then place seeds inside. Fold it up then place the filter and seed packet into a plastic baggie until they sprout. If you can, keep your little sprout packet in a dark spot for a few days, then move them into the light so chlorophyll develops. Some good seeds to use are mung beans, bean sprouts, and mixed broccoli and radish seeds.
21. Sprout garden seeds
You can also sprout garden seeds in coffee filters to give them a head start before putting them into the ground or pots.
22. Store garden seeds between seasons
Even without a desiccant, a coffee filter can be stored with seeds to keep them moisture-free between growing seasons.
23. Keep glass surfaces clean
Coffee filters are lint-free so your glass surfaces will sparkle after they are cleaned. If you have some – and you should – add a little vinegar to water and use this combo as a cleaning solution. (But use only water and soap on eye glasses – no vinegar please. See above.)
24. Keep fresh produce crisp and dry in your cooler
Wrap fresh picked produce – especially greens – in coffee filters before putting them in your cooler. The coffee filter will help absorb any moisture and keep your produce fresh and crisp longer.
25. Make a portable food wrapper
While fending for yourself, you may not have aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or other containers for storing your food. Instead, use a coffee filter as a food wrapper or storage container. You may need to split the filter and combine two or more to surround your food, but after securing your food wrapper with a bit of string, you will be all set.
26. Strain soup stock and broths
In a survival situation, you will not want to waste anything food-wise. After boiling up food scraps, strain the broth for a nice rich soup stock that can be consumed as is or used as a base for another meal.
27. Make a Bouquet Garni
Bundle herbs and spices into a coffee filter, tie it off, and add to your soups and broths as a nifty way of seasoning your homemade creation.
28. Make a dish for pet food
If you have a dog or cat, in a pinch, you can serve either wet or dry food in a makeshift coffee filter bowl.
This makeshift bowl is what started it all!
29. Start a fire
If you use a coffee filter to soak up grease (see #14), you have created an excellent fire-starter. Any kind of grease will work, whether it is from a vehicle repair or the kitchen.
30. Use it as paper
In a pinch, if you have to leave a note or write something down, but have no paper, a coffee filter will do the trick. It will work best with a ballpoint pen – a marker will bleed too much to be legible.
31. Use a coffee filter to make a bath sachet
If you happen to be the victim of poison ivy or another type of skin rash, an oatmeal bath can give instant relief. Add dry oatmeal to the center of the coffee filter, tie it up tightly, and add it to the bathwater. All the itch relief with none of the mess.
32. Catch bits of cork in your wine
This may be debatable as a survival use, but if your cork should break when you are removing it from a wine bottle, simply place a coffee filter over the end of the bottle when pouring to trap the little pieces of cork before they go into the wine glass.
33. Use it to blow your nose
A coffee filter can be used as a substitute for a Kleenex if you have the sniffles or a sneezing fit.
34. Make dryer sheets
Okay, this is not a survival necessity but it works so well, I just had to include it. First of all, I do not use nor do I endorse the use of commercial dryer sheets. Sometimes, though, I will dampen a coffee filter with some white vinegar and a few drops of my favorite essential oil (lavender). When it is raining and cold and I cannot hang my sheets outdoors to dry, I will pop one of these scented filters into the dryer and my sheets will smell heavenly.
35. Make coffee!
Lest I forget, don’t forget to use your filters for making coffee. If all you have is a pot, some ground coffee, and water, boil it up and filter the resulting brew into your cup. Not exactly a Starbucks experience, but if you are a coffee addict, it will be delicious nonetheless.
The Final Word
The original inspiration for this article was finding myself without a bowl for Tucker’s dog food while traveling home from a visit to the Seattle area. It is a five hour journey.
I just happened to have a coffee filter in my glove box – the perfect makeshift bowl.
Tucker the Awesome Wonder Dog
That got me thinking that a coffee filter would make a great pooper scooper. The rest is history. When I got home, I started thinking of other uses and trying many of them. They were first introduced to you on Backdoor Survival in February 2013 as “29 Reasons to Use Coffee Filters for Survival”. Since then I have refined how I use coffee filters and even added a few more reasons to keep some in your survival kit.
What about you? Do you have some unique ideas of ways that you could use coffee filters in a survival situation?
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Below you will find the items related to today’s article.
Brew Rite Coffee Filter – 700 ct.: Coffee filters are cheap. Try Costco or the Dollar Store.
Paracord Planet Mil-Spec Commercial Grade 550lb Type III Nylon Paracord: An ideal all-around utility cord in the field, paracord is tough and long lasting. It is made from 550-pound test nylon and features a seven-strand core for maximum strength. Also, it is manufactured in the United States. Note that some colors may be more expensive than others. Need ideas? See 44 Really Cool Uses of Paracord for Survival.
Meyer Classic Stainless Steel Yosemite 8-Cup Coffee Percolator: Speaking of coffee, do you have a percolator? This is the one that I own and it makes fantastic coffee!
Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill: Ditto a manual coffee mill. I own this one. Whole beans store well when sealed in a Mason Jar (see How to Use a FoodSaver for Vacuum Canning).
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter: FREE SHIPPING! The LifeStraw is considered the most advanced, compact, ultra light personal water filter available. It contains no chemicals or iodinated resin, no batteries and no moving parts to break or wear out. It weighs only 2 oz. making it perfect for the prepper. For more information, see my LifeStraw review.
NOW Foods Essential Oils: I personally use essential oils from Spark Naturals. For healing purposes, I feel they are superior. On the other hand, NOW Foods has decent essential oils at a budget price. Here are a few to get you started: NOW Foods Rosemary Oil, NOW Foods Peppermint Oil, and Now Foods Lavender Oil.
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