21 Brilliant Uses for Wood Ash in Your Home & Garden
Having a wood stove to heat your home in the winter or a backyard fire pit is a wonderful thing. There’s no comparison to standing next to a roaring fire and how it can heat you to your bones.
With this tremendous pleasure comes a little bit of work. First you need to find and possibly chop your own fuel for the fire: the wood. After the fire is done, or your stove becomes too full of ash, you have the unpleasant task of scooping out all the ashes.
Most people either pile them up behind a shed of some sort or just throw them in the trash, but did you know that ash can actually be useful around your home and garden?
Next time you have a bunch of wood ash to dispose of, try using it in some of these ways!
- Note: If you plan on having an all-organic garden or ingesting the wood ash in some way (yes, you read that right), make sure the wood you are burning is free from any pesticides or other harmful chemicals.
Also, make sure your wood ash is completely cooled down before using it for anything on this list.
1. Natural Fertilizer for Your Garden
Wood ash contains almost all the nutrients necessary for healthy soil. Unless you plan on planting crops that thrive in acid (like blueberries or rhododendrons), adding wood ash to your soil will make it happy and healthy.
You can do this initially before planting a garden by laying out a layer of ash and mixing it in with a tiller, or you can use a cultivator to cut it in between rows of plants.
2. Compost it!
Put some wood ash in your compost instead of your trash can. You can add a layer of wood ash every so often. Sprinkle it on top of other compost, and when it gets covered again with more compost, you can add another thin layer. Just like when the ash is added to your garden soil, the same nutrients help your compost stay healthy.
This method can actually serve a dual purpose. If you have problems with pests or animals getting into your compost, wood ash can also work as a repellent to keep those things away.
3. Boosting Soil pH
Wood ash is an alkalizing agent. That means, if your soil happens to be too acidic, you may benefit from adding some wood ash to your soil.
First, get your soil tested for pH. You don’t want to arbitrarily add ash to any soil because some plants do not like alkaline soil. If the soil is between 6 and 7, it’s good to go and you don’t need to do anything. Any pH level below 6 would need a pH boost from wood ash.
4. Non-Toxic Pest Repellent
Are you growing mushrooms or leafy greens that are constantly infested with snails or slugs? Are aphids wreaking havoc on your tomatoes? Wood ash can be a great deterrent. All you need to do is put a ring of ash around your plants to ward off these pests. You may also choose to sprinkle some ash directly onto your plant, as it washes off easily before consuming.
If it rains or gets wet from watering, you will need to reapply the ash in the areas where it’s needed. When the ash becomes wet, it does not work as a repellent anymore.
Yard and Driveway Uses
5. Non-Toxic Ant Repellent
Perhaps you are starting to see a theme here: most pests do not care for wood ash.
Another thing you probably understand is that kids and ants do not mix well. Neither do kids and pesticides. To prevent ants from invading your kid’s or pet’s play area while also avoiding the use of pesticides, drop a dollop of wood ash onto their anthill home. The ants will not be harmed, but they will get the message that it’s time to pack up and relocate.
6. Soak Up or Mask Driveway Stains
Ah, the inevitable oil spill that happens when you DIY some auto repair in your driveway. Now, there’s a few solutions for that.
While you may already know that baking soda or kitty litter can soak up an oil stain on concrete, you now also know that wood ash can serve the same purpose. That’s because wood ash has a similar soaking ability that baking soda has. It absorbs whatever it’s come into contact with.
Because it is a greyish color already, wood ash can be scuffed into concrete to further hide any remaining stains.
7. Ice Melt
Do you want free ice melt this winter? Look no further than your wood stove or fire pit! Wood ash has similar mineral properties as salt has, therefore making it an effective ice melt for your sidewalks
There’s one downside to this freebie: wood ash and ice mixed together makes very dirty snow slush. Only use wood ash as ice melt if you have the habit of taking boots and shoes off before entering your home, as this method can get very messy.
8. Putting Out a Fire
Water is not the only thing that can put out your fire. Dirt, sand, and even collected wood ash can smother your fire to put it completely out. This could be especially helpful to know if you are in a wildfire-prone area.
9. All-purpose Cleaner and Polisher
Like we mentioned earlier, wood ash and baking soda have similar properties. The small granules in wood ash are also comparable to baking soda. Mix some wood ash with a little bit of water to form a paste and gently clean away.
This paste can probably clean a lot of things, but namely it can polish metals like silver and clean glass. Try removing sticky residue with wood ash. Test a small amount first, and keep in mind that it could get pretty dirty due to soot.
If your wood stove has a glass window, you can even clean the soot off of the glass on your fireplace, which is always getting black marks on it.
10. Clearing Up Cloudy Headlights
Just like the glass cleaning method, wood ash can be perfect for clearing up cloudy headlights on your car. The coarseness of the wood ash is just right for clearing your headlights of road debris and the film of exhaust.
Use the same method as before, forming a paste and applying with a towel. Rinse until it’s clear.
Wood ash has the ability to absorb things that are around it, just like baking soda. This also goes for unpleasant odors. The next time you have a bad smell, try placing a cup of wood ash in the area instead of baking soda. You could also sprinkle a thib layer of wood ash in a smelly spot, like in an outhouse hole, on a skunk-sprayed pet, or at the bottom of your trash bin.
12. Household Pest Repellent
We’ve covered how wood ash can repel ants, slugs, and snails. Wood ash is also known to repel unwanted household pests like mice and cockroaches.
You might need a lot of ash for this method: take your ash and sprinkle a line around your house. The line of wood ash will need to be replenished after any wind or water takes it away, but it’s worth a shot if it’s free!
13. Absorb Excess Humidity
Basements and crawl spaces are breeding grounds for mold and mildew. You can alleviate this pain by placing your wood ash in open air in one of these areas. Not only does wood ash absorb oil and odors, it also has the ability to absorb even moisture out of the air. Amazing!
“Thinking Outside of the Box” Uses
For the final part of this article, we will discover what some would call primitive (and others would call bizarre) uses for wood ash that you probably never thought about. If you’ve exhausted the previous listed items and still have more wood ash and extra time on your hands, have a go at one of these uses for wood ash.
14. Homemade Soap
Our most primitive form of soap could have possibly come from wood ash lye: some say that the combination of rain, wood ash, and animal fats formed some of the first soap known to man. It’s attainable to make your own soap from wood ash lye, and some people still do it.
15. Homemade Toothpaste
This is definitely one of the more “out there” uses for wood ash. Some have taken the baking soda likeness to the toothpaste level by mixing it with bentonite clay and brushing with a toothbrush. It seems effective, but could be too harsh on tooth enamel, not to mention a strong toothpaste flavor.
16. Homemade Cement
With the help of some terra cotta and some knowledge of primitive building, you could be on your way to making your own homemade cement out of wood ash.
17. Leavening Agent
Wood ash has so much alkaline in it (like baking soda), it has the ability to add leavening to your favorite baked goods and dishes. It sounds a little odd, because it is! After this discovery and before the invention of baking soda, wood ash was processed with two different methods before being commonly used as a leavening agent.
If you don’t mind a potentially smoky taste to something, it could be a fun experiment to add wood ash to your next batch of chocolate cookies!
18. Cook with Wood Ash
Wood ash historically has been added to these types of food: bagels, pretzels, hominy, homemade cheese, pickles, olive curing, Native American dishes, Nigerian dishes, Chinese dishes and Greek cuisine. Feeling adventurous? Look up one of these recipes and try making something edible from your wood ash!
19. Chicken Feed Supplement
The minerals found in wood ash can complement your chickens’ diet and help them with many maladies. You can add a very small amount to their feed to boost their levels of calcium, potassium, and prevent any intestinal issues in your chickens.
20. Preserve Food with Wood Ash
The natural salts found in wood ash have been used in ancient times (and, rarely, in the present) to preserve certain foods. Foods that have been preserved by wood ash include eggs, tomatoes, cheese, rennet and seeds.
21. Hair Dye Prep and Removal
Anyone who has dyed hair before knows that you first need to treat the hair with some sort of alkaline substance in order for the hair dye to stick to the follicles. The problem with this method is that the substances typically used can be damaging to the hair. Wood ash can be a gentler alternative. A wood ash tea or paste can be used for pretreating the hair before dying.
If you accidentally get hair dye on your forehead or other part of the skin, you can use the wood ash paste to remove it with a towel.
Before you go and dump wood ash into the garbage bin again, think again! As we have seen in this list, that simple substance has an incredible amount of uses. It’s an alkaline substance that can deodorize, clean, preserve, ward off pests, and add nutrients to living things around us. It can even be used in unconventional ways like in your hair or in your food.
We hope you have found some practical uses for your wood ash, and we also hope you learned something new with what you could do with it next time you have excess.
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Featured Image Credit: jhenning, Pixabay
- 1 Garden Uses
- 2 Yard and Driveway Uses
- 3 Household Uses
- 4 “Thinking Outside of the Box” Uses
- 5 Conclusion