Clever Uses for Spent Spices

I have many more spices in my spice cabinet than I actually use, and most have been there for years. Ground spices lose their volatile oils after a time and shouldn’t be kept longer than a year or two.   I’ve even heard 6 months.  Many of mine are way past their potency and won’t add much flavoring to food; yet, I can’t just throw them away.   I recently read an article with some clever uses for old spices, a few of which I want to share with you.

To freshen your carpet (and your vacuum), you can sprinkle old spices like cinnamon, thyme, cloves or nutmeg directly on your carpet and then vacuum up.  What a perfect alternative to a toxic room freshener!  Try a small area first to make sure the spice colors won’t stain your carpet before applying to the entire rug.

Strong-smelling spices are often used in insect repellents, and the same theory holds true in the garden.  Sprinkle your old pepper, oregano, sage, peppermint, cayenne, chili powder, etc. around your rows of plants to keep insect pests away.  It won’t hurt your plant and is definitely worth a try.  Gardening is often a battle between mother nature and man, like on our farm where we have at least 25 geese and goslings, as well as rabbits, hedgehogs and even a fox who all seem to eat the vegetables as quickly as they come up.  Chili powder, red pepper and cayenne apparently keep squirrels, rabbits and other animals away as well.  I just spread old pepper flakes around our corn – I’ll keep you posted about its effectiveness.

English: Pepper yet to be ripened, taken by me...

Here’s an unlikely tip. According to Organic Authority, adding a few teaspoons of black pepper to your laundry load will keep colors bright and prevent fading.  Why not?  It’s certainly not toxic and may prolong the life of your clothes.

Enhance your summer cookouts by adding your old spices to the charcoal.  Cooking them helps to release the remaining volatile oils. You’ll love the extra boost of flavor and the aroma.  You can also toss freshly picked herbs right into the charcoal.  I especially like rosemary.

The pigment from nutmeg, paprika, cinnamon and turmeric make safe, natural paints when mixed with water.  Or place old spices in a sachet to freshen your dresser drawers.

English: spices: (Turkey, travel, Istanbul, sp...

Specialty tea and spice stores selling small jars of spices or spices in bulk are gaining popularity.  Farmers’ markets sometimes sell spices too.  I prefer to buy them in smaller containers so I know that I can use them up before they lose their potency.   But if not, I really like the idea of reusing old spices in fun ways.

Information compiled from, Kathryn Sukalich, 10 Ways to Use Up Old Spices.


16 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Gailswee on June 12, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    Nice blog bets wee


  2. Posted by kyle andrews on June 13, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Betz, I bet you could also use the old chili powder, cayenne, etc on furniture where cats tend to claw. Should make them think twice!!


    • Yes, you can. Thanks for mentioning that Kyle! I’ve actually tried that before and it did deter my cat. How are you? Hope all is well! Thanks for reading my column!


  3. What great ideas, Betsy! Thanks for this.


  4. These are great suggestions, Betsy. I’m the same way – I don’t want to use them in cooking, but I can’t throw them away. I’m going to try the garden and carpet idea for sure. Also, in the winter when you want to fill the room with moisture and great smells, you can throw spices in a pot along with an orange or lemon and let simmer on the stove top for a few hours. I also sprinkle cinnamon in the cast iron pot filled with water on our woodstove. Smells as if I’d been baking all day.


  5. Same here! I have been trying to buy in smaller quantities but still have spices that moved here with me 14 years ago! And I can’t seem to toss them. Definitely trying these.

    I am loving buying spices in bulk. Not only can you just get what you will use, but often times they are so much cheaper! I buy mine at Whole Foods.


  6. […] Clever Uses for Spent Spices ( […]


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