Introduction: 31 Unusual Uses for Coconuts

About: My name is Jason Poel Smith. In my free time, I am an Inventor, Maker, Hacker, Tinker, and all around Mad Genius

When I was in college, I got a job as a student researcher in my Engineering department. My job was to research coconuts. My professor was trying to find ways to turn coconuts into value-added products. The goal was help promote economic development in countries like Papua New Guinea where coconuts are plentiful but are not fully utilized. We researched all aspects of coconuts and how they can be used. As a result, I gained a lot of random knowledge about coconuts. So I thought that I would share some of the more interesting things with you. Here are some unusual uses or coconuts.

Step 1: Coconut Husks: ​Medium Density Fiber Boards

The husk of a fresh coconut is made of very strong fibers. The material between the fibers has a high lignin content. This lignin can act as a natural glue. All you have to do is shred the coconut husk and press it into a mold. Then heat it up to a few hundred degrees and it will turn into a solid board that is similar to medium density fiber board. You don't need to add any additional glue or filler. It can be made from 100% coconut husk. This can be used for construction just like regular fiber boards. Coconut boards are even being considered for use in car floor boards.

If you are interested in the science behind this process, you can check out the attached pdf of a paper by one of my former research partners Stanton Greer.

Step 2: Coconut Husk: Biodegradable Chairs

When the fibers of a coconut husk are combined with a small amount of latex, it can be molded into free form furniture such as this chair. This is cushioned and flexible but still retains its shape.

You can read more about this project here:

Step 3: Coconut Husk: Hydroponic Planting Medium

Ground up coconut husk is a popular hydroponic planting medium. This is especially popular with growing orchids and mushrooms.

Step 4: Coconut Husk: Rope

The fibers of the coconut husk can be separated and branded into a very strong rope.

Step 5: Coconut Husk: Erosion Netting

The husk of a coconut has long fibers that can easily be woven into ropes and nets. It can be used to cover eroding landscapes help prevent further erosion and to promote plant growth. It then biodegrades without a trace.

Step 6: Coconut Husk: Floor Mats and Rugs

The fibers of a coconut husk can be woven into durable rugs and mat. The course fibers are very popular for door mats.

Step 7: Coconut Husk: Scrubber Brush

The tough fibers of a coconut husk are great for scrubbing away dirt and grime. They make fairly decent scrubbing brushes.

Step 8: Coconut Husk: Armor

These are examples of a helmet and armor used in the Gilbert Islands in the 1800s. They are made from woven coconut fiber. The fibers are sometimes reinforced with human hair. The helmet is typically about a 1/2 of an inch thick and is said to have been as stiff and sturdy as a strong board of wood.

These are on display at the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium, St. Johnsbury, Vermont, USA.

Step 9: Coconut Husk: Figurines and Dolls

The fibers of a coconut husk are long and tough. This makes them very useful for crafts. They can be made into dolls and figures very similar to straw figurines. You can see more about this artist here:

Step 10: Coconut Shell: Activated Carbon

Coconut shells are some of the best materials for making activated carbon for filters. Coconut shell are very dense and are covered in micropores that are ideal for trapping small contaminant particles. It is also a cheap renewable material that grows all year round.

Step 11: Coconut Shell: Pet House

Coconut shells can be hollowed out and used as houses for small pets like hamsters, birds and hermit crabs.

Step 12: Coconut Shell: Very Uncomfortable Bras

Coconut shells can also be used to make very uncomfortable bras. All you need to do is cut a coconut shell in half, and put some string on it. Then voila! You have the worlds most impractical bra.

As you may have guessed, coconuts don't usually grow in the same proportions as the human body. So don't expect it to fit, or be comfortable or supportive. This is why they are most often worn by drunken frat guys.

Step 13: Coconut Shell: Sound Effects

Anyone who has seen Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail knows that coconut shells are the best way to make the sound of a galloping horse. If you haven't seen this yet, here it is.

All you have to do is take two halves of a coconut and hit them together. The geniuses at Trotify have even turned this into an attachment for a bicycle that will automatically make the sound of horse feet as you ride along.

Step 14: Coconut Shell: Octopus Armor

The hard shell of a coconut can make an excellent defensive tool. The humble octopus has figured out a way to use it as a kind of armor. It carries coconut shells around with it. Then if it feels threatened, it pulls the shells around itself and hides. This acts as both armor and camouflage.

Step 15: Coconut Water: Sports Drink

The water of a mature coconut has a lot of electrolytes in them that are perfectly balanced for an electrolyte replacement sports drink. It's nature's sports drink.

Step 16: Coconut Water: Jello

The water of a coconut can be fermented to make a jelly like food product called Nata de coco. Nata de coco is most commonly sweetened and served as a candy or dessert.

Step 17: Coconut Water: IV Fluid

Fresh coconut water is sterile and high in electrolytes and it has been used as an emergency replacement for saline in IV's.

Seriously. You can read about it at PubMed:

Step 18: Coconut Water: Natural Diuretic

Coconut water is a natural diuretic. So if you are ever in the medical situation where you need a diuretic, just drink some coconut water.

Step 19: Coconut Oil: BioDiesel

You can actually use coconut oil as fuel in diesel engines. When Rudolf Diesel invented the diesel engine, he actually designed it to work on vegetable oil. But using straight vegetable oil as fuel causes a number of problems with the engine. This is especially true of coconut oil because it has such as high viscosity and melting point. It is even solid at colder temperatures.

The solution is to use a process called transesterification to turn the oil into biodiesel (a fuel that more closely resembles petroleum diesel). You can read a whole instructable on this process here: This makes a fuel that you can put directly into your truck or mix with petroleum diesel in any ratio that you want.

Step 20: Coconut Oil: Sunscreen SPF 4

Coconut oil can be used as a low power sunscreen. If rubbed on the skin it has a sun protection factor (SPF) of about 4 according to This isn't much compared to commercial sunscreens but it is still significantly better than bare skin. If you are ever stuck on a tropical island, you would probably want to use it.

Step 21: Coconut Oil: Vegetable Shortening Replacement

Coconut oil can serve as a passable substitute for vegetable shortening in many recipes. Like shortening, it is thick, viscous and solid at room temperature. But unlike shortening, it has no trans-fats (hydrogenated oils). Unfortunately it will melt at a slightly lower temperature than most shortenings. So keeping that in mind, you might want to keep it chilled when using.

Step 22: Coconut Oil: Soap

Coconut oil like any other fat can be used to make soap.

Step 23: Coconut Oil: Skin Cream

Coconut oil is often uses as a general skin cream. It is most often used as a basic moisturizer.

Step 24: Coconut Oil: Diaper Cream

Coconut oil is often used as a general skin cream and it is even used as a diaper cream. This helps to alleviate some of the symptoms of diaper rash. This is not as effective as products that contain Zinc Oxide. However it has the advantage of being washable. People to use cloth diapers will tell you that zinc oxide paste builds up on cloth diapers and doesn't easily wash out. Coconut oil products on the other hand can be easily cleaned off with regular detergent.

Step 25: Coconut Oil: Sand Flea Repellent

Coconut oil is used as a natural repellent for sand fleas (Tunga Penetrans). Just put a thin coat on your skin to help avoid annoying bug bites.

Step 26: Coconut Meat: Protein Supplement

The meat from a coconut is very high in protein. After the oil is pressed out, you are left with low fat high protein powder that can be adding other foods as a protein supplement. Coconut meat contains all the essential amino acids that the human body needs. This makes it a great natural source for complete proteins.

Coconut meat is also commonly used as a supplement in cattle feed.

Step 27: Coconut Meat: Flour

After the oil has been extracted from the coconut meat, you are left with a fine powder that is used as a substitute for flour in many forms of cooking. It is widely used by those who are trying to avoid gluten.

Step 28: Coconut Meat: Self Frying Chips

The meat from a coconut can be sliced or shredded or shaved. The resulting thin pieces of coconut can be baked or microwaved. The oil in the coconut fries the coconut like a potato chip but with no need for a fryer. Just add salt and enjoy.

Step 29: Coconut Milk: Dairy Substitute

Coconut milk is a mixture of coconut water and coconut meat (usually taken from a young coconut). This can be used as a dairy substitute. You can drink it like milk or you can cook with it. It is commonly used to make non-dairy foods like ice cream.

Step 30: Coconut Tree Sap: Sugar

If the young buds of a coconut tree are cut, they will start to drip a sugary sap similar to maple sap. This can be collected in jugs. The sap is them purified and boiled to make coconut sugar or nectar. This has a distinctive flavor and can be used as a substitute for regular cane sugar in any recipe.

Step 31: Other: Tourist Population Control

A coconut tree can grow to over 50 feet tall and a coconut can weigh up to 10 pounds. Needless to say, falling coconuts can kill you. Anyone who grows up around coconut trees know that you don't hang out under a tree full of ripe coconuts. But tourists are not always so wise. So signs are posted everywhere. Trees in heavily populated areas have the coconuts removed. But still, coconuts kill a lot of people every year.

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