As winter’s cold temperatures and long dark nights hit the northern hemisphere, the only activity many of us want to do is to cuddle up by a warm, toasty fire. For those of us lucky enough to have a wood-burning fireplace, the crackling sound of the wood is a comforting sound to hear at the end of a long day.
Wood-burning fireplaces require a certain amount of maintenance, however, including the removal of ash from the hearth after each fire. The ash left over from burning wood actually has a variety of uses around your home, so before you discard it, take a look over this list of uses for wood ash to see where you can repurpose that leftover grey dust.
19 Best Uses for Wood Ash
Wood ash contains numerous elements that can have a positive effect on both your compost and the soil in your garden and on your lawn. Firstly, it can help to raise the pH of your soil, making for more optimal growing conditions for your plants. (1, 2) Second, the nutrients in the ash also help your plants and grasses grow strong and healthy. (1, 2) For gardens, think of adding 20lbs per 1000 square feet of garden, for lawns 10-15lbs. (1)
2. Compost Booster
Adding ash to your compost similarly has a positive effect on your compost, providing a hospitable environment for worms and other insects to convert your compost into nutrient-rich top soil. (3)
3. Slug Repellent
Slugs, snails, and other pests can wreak havoc on your garden. Sprinkling a layer of wood ash around your crops can deter them because they don’t like crossing dry ash beds. If they get wet, the effectiveness will decrease, so you may have to reapply. Be careful not to do so too often, however, or you will raise the pH of the soil too much. (1, 4)
4. Natural Ice Removal
Sprinkling wood ash on your walk and driveway will not only help to provide traction on the ice, but the potassium salts (mostly as potassium hydroxide) in the ash help to warm up and melt the ice. It will take longer than salt, however it won’t do any damage to your plants and grasses and is more gentle on animals’ paws. (5) Note that hard wood ash is best as it naturally contains higher amounts of potassium hydroxide.
5. Clean Oil Spills
Exhaust pipe leak oil onto your driveway? Cover the spill with wood ash! The ashes absorb the oil and make for an easy clean-up with just a broom and dust pan. (6)
6. Tomato Growth
Wood ash contains high amounts of calcium, which is your tomatoes’ favourite mineral. Sprinkle a quarter cup of ash into the whole you are planting your tomato plants in and get ready to harvest your best crop yet. (1, 6)
7. Cleaning Surfaces
When mixed with a small amount of water, wood ash can make a gentle cleaner for your fireplace doors, stove top, and even floors! Simply dip a wet sponge into dry ash and scrub away. (6)
8. Gentle Polisher
For metal polish, slowly mix together 1 cup of wood ash with a quarter-cup of water. This will create a plaster-like substance pots and pans, any metal kitchen utensils, and even and metal furniture. (6)
9. Prevent Algae Build-Up in your Backyard Pond
Wood ash can help to prevent overgrowth of algae in your garden pond. Be careful to do your research first and add no more than 1 tablespoon of ash for every 1000 litres of water, as some fish may be sensitive to the minerals in the ash. (6)
10. DIY Soap
Hardwood (i.e beech or hickory) ash can be used to make lye, the main ingredient in soap. Making your own soap has so many benefits: They are better for your skin, they are chemical-free, they don’t come with any plastic packaging, and ones like this reuse materials for an extra environment-saving punch (6).
DIY Ash Lye (6):
- Fill a 55-gallon bucket with wood ash up to 10-centimetres below the top.
- Add 10-pints of boiling water and allow to sit for 4-24 hours.
- Once the mixture has set, remove the brown-coloured lye from the top and boil it down to create concentrated lye.
- Take a fresh egg from your fridge and place it in the mixture. When the egg is floating a minimum of 2 centimeters above the surface of the boiling mixture, your lye is ready.
- Use this lye in any of your favourite DIY soap recipes.
11. Remove skunk odour from your pet’s fur
Nothing is worse than when fido gets sprayed by a skunk! Use wood ash for a natural, gentle odour removal from their fur. Simple massage cooled ash into their fur and leave them outside for an hour or two to de-orderize their fur. (6)
12. Ant Removal
Ants are an important part of our ecosystem, however we’d rather them not make a home in the cracks of our patios and walkways. Sprinkling wood ash around their ant hole encourages them to pack up and move on, without causing them any actual harm. (6)
13. Moth Repellent
Finding moth holes in your clothing when the change of season hits is not only annoying, but it gets expensive having to replace clothing every year! Moth balls, however, leave your clothing smelling some type of funky and many can contain chemicals we don’t necessarily want to be breathing in all of the time. This year, when you are putting clothes away for the season, sprinkle a maximum of one tablespoon of cooled wood ash on each article. Be sure to wash them well before wearing them next year.
14. Stain Remover
All it takes is seven minutes and your shirt, towel, blanket, curtain, bed sheet, or any other cloth item will be stain-free. Combine one-part water with two-parts wood ash and pour onto the stain. After seven minutes, wipe away the ash mixture with a damp cloth and voila! No more stain. (6)
15. DIY Shampoo
Wood ash is excellent at absorbing oils, which is what makes it a great cleaner for surfaces, cloth, and hair alike! To make wood ash shampoo, follow the same steps that you did to make wood ash lye. This time, when you pour off the brown-coloured lye, mix it in a container with apple cider vinegar for a shampoo that will give you soft and shiny locks.
16. Dust-bath for Chickens
If you keep chickens in your backyard for farm-fresh eggs year-round, then this is the wood ash tip for you! Wood ash will help to clean your chickens’ feathers clean and remove unwanted parasites from their skin. Add cool wood ash to their dirt bath and the chickens will take care of the rest. (6)
17. Prevent frost on your Plants
If your plants are struggling to not freeze in the winter, or if you are worried about that final frost in the spring, sprinkle wood ash on their leaves. This will insulate them and prevent them from freezing in cold temperatures. (6)
Ash is highly absorptive for many substances, including moisture from the air. Put metal dishes of wood ash around your home to soak up that unwanted indoor humidity! Check and rotate your dishes frequently, as the duration of effectiveness will change from room to room and season to season.
19. Protect Bee Hives
Bees are extraordinarily important to the environment, so helping them to protect and maintain their homes needs to be a bigger priority. You can protect their hives from invaders such as ants by making a circle of wood ash around the hive to stave off ants and other threats.
There are so many ways you can repurpose wood ash in your home and garden! A little research and creativity can go a long way. One highly important piece of information to note: Do not use ashes from fires that have used anything but natural wood for burning. Treated wood, many types of papers, etc. have chemicals in them that can have detrimental effects on many of the areas mentioned in this article.
Have another use of wood ash we did not mention in this article? Let us know in the comments!
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