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Wood Ash: The Benefits You Never Knew

Wood Ash: The Benefits You Never Knew

After enjoying a roaring fire in your wood burning fireplace or stove, you are left with a pile of wood ash. Now what? In this article, we are going to show you how to utilize this collection of remaining wood ash to create useful items around your home. Don't waste this precious material by throwing it out — instead use the wood ash to create household cleaners, fertilize your garden, or even to create ceramic pottery. Any type of wood commonly used in a home fireplace can create usable wood ash.

A Complete Guide to the Benefits and Uses of Wood Ash

By definition, wood ash is "the residue byproducts left after the combustion of wood". This ash contains the chemical compounds calcium carbonate, calcium oxide, iron oxide, and many more important and nourishing ingredients. When you combine these compounds with soil or compost you can turbocharge your garden. These compounds can also be used to create lye, the main ingredient in soap making.

After your fire is put out and the ash has completely cooled, gather your remnants into a metal container using a special fireplace broom and shovel. It can take up to 4 full days for your wood ash to completely cool. If you are unable to wait 4 days for your ash to cool, carefully remove the ash and place it into a nonflammable double-bottomed metal storage bin with a lid. Make sure your storage bin is kept away from any flammable objects and stored in a safe and cool place. If you want to collect a large amount of ash, a 55-gallon steel drum with a matching lid will be the most useful option. Be sure to use a fire-resistant broom and shovel to transfer this ash from the fireplace to bin, as you would not want to spread residual ash all over your home.

In order to properly store your wood ash, and keep it usable for future projects, make sure your metal storage bin is located in a cool, dry place, and features an air-tight seal. This is incredibly important, as a bin without an air-tight seal will allow odor to escape and moisture to dampen and ruin your collection of ash.

10 Indoor Uses for Wood Ash

These 10 indoor uses for wood ash can make your life much greener, and can help you keep your home clean! Sit back and take notes as we go over each of the uses in detail.

1) Clean Glass Fireplace Doors:

A wet sponge dipped into cool and dry wood ash will remove the residue from your glass fireplace doors.

2) Metal Polish:

By combining 1 cup of wood ash and one-quarter cup of water you can create a non-toxic, plaster-like, metal polish. Mix these ingredients slowly, to ensure the plaster-like texture is created. Use this paste to shine silverware, buff pot and pans, or restore patina to an old vintage picture frame.

A Complete Guide to the Benefits and Uses of Wood Ash
3) Make Soap:

By soaking wood ash in water, you can create lye. In a 55-gallon barrel full of hardwood ash, leave a 10-centimeter lip. Add 10 pints of boiling water to the barrel and allow to sit for 4-24 hours. After the mixture is set, remove the brownish lye from the top and boil down concentrated lye. Place a fresh egg (from your refrigerator) into the mixture. When the egg is floating at a minimum of 2 centimeters above the surface of the boiling mixture, your lye is ready!

Lye is the main ingredient in soap making. When you boil lye, animal fat, and salt, the combination of ingredients creates soap. All you need to do is wait for the combination to cool and harden. Add colors and essential oils to personalize each soap and create wonderful gifts for friends and family.

4) De-skunk Pets:

There is nothing worse than the family pet sprayed with skunk funk! Simply rub the wood ash into your beloved pet's coat, and smell the odor start to disappear.

5) Repel moths from your clothes:

Sprinkle a small amount (at maximum 1 tablespoon per garment, depending on size and shape of material) of wood ash onto your long-term stored clothing, and moths will not go near them. Make sure you properly wash your clothing before wearing.

A Complete Guide to the Benefits and Uses of Wood Ash
6) Create your own toothpaste:

Any non-conifer wood can be used as toothpaste. This toothpaste has a surprisingly pleasant taste, as well as, can help whiten teeth. The potassium hydroxide is a whitening agent and helps whiten and eliminate plaque from teeth.

Combine the following ingredients for homemade toothpaste:

  • Wood Ash
  • Baking Soda
  • Orange Peels (optional)
  • Lemon Peel (optional)
  • Bentonite Clay
  • Xylitol
  • Calcium Carbonate

For Taste:

  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves

Combine the ingredients in high-speed blender and store in an air-tight container.

7) Remove stains from clothing and other cloth items:

Mix two-parts wood ash with one-part water to create a quick stain remover. Simply place these combined ingredients on a stained article of clothing (or any cloth that has been stained). Allow it to sit for up to 7 minutes and work its magic. Then wipe away with a clean and damp cloth to display your stain-free clothing.

8) Oil-Reducing Shampoo:

Looking for a home-made non-toxic option? Use wood ash to create lye-water. This is a predominately water mixture (not predominantly lye). Do not place pure lye directly on your hair. 

To create this mixture, you will need a 55-gallon barrel full of hardwood ash, leaving a 10-centimeter lip at the top. Add 10 pints of boiling water to the barrel, followed by, slowly adding more soft, cold water until the barrel is completely full. Let this stand for anywhere from 4 hours to overnight. Once it has set, pour off the brownish lye-water into a plastic or metal container and mix with apple cider vinegar. This natural oil-reducing shampoo will create soft and silky hair.

9) Remove humidity from indoor spaces:

By placing a small metal container of wood ash, open to the air, in damp and humid spaces, you can reduce the buildup of moisture in the air. The wood ash will soak up the extra moisture and create a less humid environment. Be sure to check and rotate your container regularly. The amount of time the wood ash will be effective is dependent on the amount of space, wood ash, and climate of your home. 

A Complete Guide to the Benefits and Uses of Wood Ash
10) Ceramic Pottery:

After creating your ceramic pottery masterpiece, use wood ash to create a glaze to finish your work. Glazing pottery with wood ash has been found as far back as primitive man. You can either use this product to create a wet or dry glaze. When used as a dry powder, the light color will create a grey powder-like finish, completing your work. When used in its wet form (ash and water combination) first remove any larger clumps or solid bits, then use the remainder as a glaze over your piece.

10 Outdoor Uses for Wood Ash

Gardens can be difficult to maintain for even the most skilled gardener, with pests and freezing weather being somewhat unpredictable. These 10 outdoor uses for wood ash can help any gardener take better care of their beautiful garden.

1) Eliminate an Ant Infestation:

If ants are creating a problem in your garden, sprinkle a small amount of wood ash onto their colony. This will force the ants to relocate, causing them no harm, but eliminating the infestation of your home or yard.

A Complete Guide to the Benefits and Uses of Wood Ash
2) Enrich your compost:

Composting is a wonderful way to grow well-nourished fruits and vegetables. By adding a small amount of wood ash to your compost, enriching the nature of the material, you will create luscious veggies. Be careful to limit the amount of wood ash you mix with your compost. If you add too much, the soil pH can become unsuitable and alkaline for food to grow. Lightly sprinkle 2 or 3 cups of wood ash, in an even layer, over every 6 to 8 inches of compost. Make sure that your wood ash to compost ratio is 5% or less.

3) Grow rich and mighty tomatoes:

Tomatoes love calcium! Wood ash is extremely high in calcium. Therefore, by adding one-quarter cup (directly into the hole where you are planting your tomatoes) you are creating an ideal situation for plump and ripe tomatoes.

A Complete Guide to the Benefits and Uses of Wood Ash
4) Natural and Non-Toxic Substitute for iced-over walk-ways:

Create a safe driveway and sidewalk during those cold and icy months by adding wood ash! Wood ash contains potassium salts, which help de-ice and melt snow. This option is inexpensive and non-toxic to all animals and plants.

5) Remove garden parasites:

Sprinkle an even amount of wood ash throughout your garden. This will eliminate creepy-crawly bugs, such as slugs, snails, and other parasites.

6) Dust bath for urban chicken farming:

Add wood ash to your chicken's dirt bath to remove parasites and help keep their feathers clean. Chickens love rolling around in the dirt! Add a bit of wood ash for an extra cleaning effect.

A Complete Guide to the Benefits and Uses of Wood Ash
7) Remove stains in the driveway:

There is nothing worse than an oil spill in your garage or driveway. By sprinkling wood ash onto an oil spill, it will absorb the oil and allow for easy cleanup with an outdoor broom and dustpan.

8) Preserve seeds:

When winter is approaching, and safely storing your seeds is a priority, place your seeds in a clay pot and cover with wood ash. By placing seeds and ash in layers, you can create as many layers as your clay pot can hold. Store all of your seeds in one place, eliminating clutter, and keeping your precious plant-seeds alive.

9) Prevent your plants from freezing in frigid temperatures:

When winter is in full swing, and your plants are freezing, sprinkle wood ash onto the leaves of your plants. This will help prevent the frost from freezing them.

A Complete Guide to the Benefits and Uses of Wood Ash
10) Keep your Koi Pond Algae Free:

For every 1,000 liters of water, add one tablespoon of wood ash to your Koi Pond to help keep the water crystal clear and algae free. Be careful with your measurements, as fish can be sensitive to this material.

When is wood ash not suitable for indoor or outdoor use?

After finding so many uses for wood ash, you may want to start collecting and storing this magnificent by-product from places other than your own personal fireplace. You must be careful! Unfortunately, not all wood ash is created equal. Different types of wood create different types of ash. Some wood creates ash that is more suitable for certain purposes than others. As mentioned above, non-conifer woods work best for home-made toothpaste. Hardwoods make the best fertilizers. If you are collecting wood ash from various people and places, find out what types of wood were burned, as to know how best to utilize the ash.

There a few types of wood that can burn to create non-usable ash. This means that if you come across ash that is from chemically treated and pressure-treated wood, do not use it for any of the above purposes. These types of logs do not create wood ash that is safe and usable in your home (inside or out). We recommend avoiding construction debris or any wood ash from unidentifiable sources.

If you end up with wood ash that is not usable or needs to be discarded, the best way to go about doing this is to add this ash to water and dissolve the remains. Anything left can be thrown in your regular outdoor trash can and safely removed by your local garbage pickup. It is safe to add to landfills.

In a world where we focus on reducing, reusing and recycling — making good use of the natural ingredients that you have on hand is a smart, thrifty, and green decision. We all care about our planet and want to make the best use of the items we have. Use your wood ash to create shampoo, grow luscious tomatoes, or eliminate parasites from your yard. You will be so glad you did and feel so good about your contribution to beautiful planet earth.

About the Author

Collin Champagne

With over 13 years in the industry, Collin is a National Fireplace Institute (NFI) certified technician and managed content for the eFireplacestore and eCanopy brands. He has achieved the highest NFI certification possible as a Master Hearth Professional and is certified in all three hearth appliance fields: wood, gas, and pellet. With experience with sales and in-field installations, his expertise shines through his technical knowledge and way with words.

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