With the nights getting colder, our fireplace is being used more regularly again and the more wood we burn, the more wood ash we get. Each cord of firewood burned leaves about 20 pounds of ashes or more, depending on your fuel source, heating appliance, and wood burning skill.
Back in the old days, wood ash had many practical uses around the homestead. It was spread over fields as fertilizer, used in the making of soap, and helped repel pests from vegetable gardens and fruit trees. Some of these old fashioned uses for wood ash still make sense today. Instead of putting the wood ashes out with the trash, put your ashes to use in and around your home. Here are some great modern uses for your leftover wood ash.
Safety first – as with all aspects of wood heating, use vigilance and common sense in handling and managing your ashes. Store them in a covered metal container set on dirt or concrete a few feet in all directions from any combustible surface. Even though the ashes may appear cold, buried embers may remain live for days, even weeks. Because wood ash can be harmful to the skin, always wear gloves when tackling one of these projects.
1 – Dust Baths – place cold ashes where your birds can get to them, the dust baths will control bugs.
2 – Ring Around the Rosie – spread a low ring around individual plants in your garden to deter slugs/snails.
3 – Lawn Fertilizer – wood ash contains 10-25% calcium, 1-4% magnesium, 5-15% potassium and 1-3% phosphorus.
4 – Cleaning Agent – mix with water to form a paste and use on the glass in your wood stove or fireplace. Ditto for rings left on wood furniture from glasses. It’s abrasive, so use with care. Ditto for polishing silver.
5 – Great Fertilizer – for tomatoes, other nightshade veggies, and fruit trees.
6 – Sprinkle on Slippery Walks – it take very little!
7 – GREAT Ice Melt! – it’s alkaline nature makes ice melt, and then if the sun is out, the darkness of the ash creates heat, melting ice more and faster than regular ice melt.
8 – Algae Deterrent – VERY little needed. 1 Tbs per 1000 gallons of water as needed.
9 – Odor Control – de-skunk pets by using a handful rubbed onto your animal’s coat neutralizes the lingering odor.
10 – Enrich Compost – before the organic compound gets applied to soil, enhance its nutrients by sprinkling in a few ashes. Adding too much, though, ruins the mix.
11 – Make Lye for Soap – soaking ashes in water makes lye, which can be mixed with animal fat (tallow or lard) and then boiled to produce soap. It takes some work and old timers only use hickory ash, but it can be done.