Is fireplace ash good for anything?
The byproduct of staying nice and toasty has many uses on your homestead, and who doesn’t love multi-functional? From helping your garden grow to cleaning your teeth, you will be amazed at all the ways you can use wood ash.
10 + Ways To Use Wood Ash On The Homestead
The use of wood ash goes back thousands of years, probably back to the beginning of fire itself. One cord of wood produces over a whopping 20 lbs of wood ash!
It is a valuable resource for your homestead (that’s FREE) and I’ll share 10+ ways on how you can put it to work.
What is Wood Ash?
It is important to understand this article is Not about the ash left after burning charcoal, just ash left behind from burning wood.
Wood ash (also known as potash) is the powder left after burning hardwood or softwood.
Wood Ash is
- High in potassium ( hardwood ashes contain more potassium than softwood)
- Alkaline with a pH of 10-12
- Contains calcium carbonate
- Magnesium carbonate
- Can neutralize acidic soil
#1 In The Compost
Do you have a composting bin? Then potash would be the perfect addition to your compost since it helps maintain a neutral balance.
Decomposing food tends to be acidic, so the addition of wood ash (which is alkaline) helps balance everything out.
#2 In the Garden
We tend to have very acidic soil, the wood ash is the ideal supplement to our vegetable garden to balance and raise the pH.
It is best to get a test your soil PH to see what type of soil you have before adding any amendments.
According to Oregon State University, wood ash has 13 Essential Nutrients the soil needs to support plant growth. Since the ash came from a tree, it contains many of the nutrients from the soil that plants need.
What does wood ash do to the soil?
Wood ash can help balance the acidity in the soil for your lawn and garden. It acts as a natural liming agent and soil amendment as well as a good source of potassium.
You should not use wood ash if you have alkaline soil. In addition to avoiding use on alkaline soil, you should also avoid using wood ash on acid-loving plants such as blueberries, huckleberries, cranberries, rhododendrons, etc.
How to use wood ash in your garden, From the University of California
- An average application is to apply wood ash 5 to 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet scattered on a freshly tilled soil and raked in.
For a pre-plant treatment, it is best to apply ashes 3 or 4 weeks in advance of planting.
- They also can be side dressed around growing plants or used as mulch.
In order to avoid problems of excess salinity, alkalinity, and plant nutrient availability, you should limit the application of ashes to 5 pounds per 100 square feet of soil per year.
- Avoid contact between freshly spread ashes and germinating seeds or new plant roots by spreading ashes a few inches away from plants.
- Ashes that settle on foliage can cause burning. Prevent this by thoroughly rinsing plants after applying ashes.
Do Roses Like Wood Ash?
Roses thrive in soil that is slightly acidic to neutral. Depending on the results of your soil test will determine if roses will benefit from adding wood ash.
The pH will affect how well your roses can access nutrients in the soil, so it’s worth paying attention to it. If the pH is way off, it won’t matter how much you pamper your roses, they will still be stressed.
Not All Wood Ash Is Created Equal
The PH level of your ash will depend on the types of trees you received your wood ash from. Depending on the type of wood you use will determine it’s fertilizer value for your yard and garden.
According to Sullivan, hardwoods produce about three times the ash and five times the nutrients per cord as softwoods. A cord of oak provides enough potassium for a garden 60 by 70 feet. A cord of Douglas fir ash supplies enough potassium for a garden 30 by 30 feet.
#3 Cleaning Windows
Who needs Windex when you have a fireplace?
Have you ever heard ‘like dissolves like”? I have found over the years this old saying rings true, and wood ash is no exception.
If you have a wood-burning stove with glass windows, chances are after a good season you can longer see through the glass.
To clean your fireplace windows, get you a damp sponge and dip it into the potash, then scrub your glass and watch the soot buildup fade away.
#4 Chicken Dust Bath
If you’ve ever witnessed your chickens rolling around in the dirt looking like they are having spasms, then you have seen them take a dust bath.
Chickens love to take dust baths. Whether they do this because they know it is good for them or they just like a good old roll in the dirt, who knows?
Dust baths help prevent parasites such as mites and lice from finding a home in your chickens’ feathers and legs.
Add some ash to your chickens dust bath area to help reduce infestation.
Did your dogs get into a little meet-n-greet with a skunk? Or the goat manger smelling a little funky? Try sprinkling a little ash on the problem.
As I mentioned above, wood ash is alkaline, which means it helps absorb odors and neutralizes them.
Get a little creative and add some essential oils to your wood ash and keep in a shaker to use when the smell gets to be overwhelming.
#6 Deter Pest
Much like using diatomaceous earth in your garden, potash sprinkled around the perimeter of your plants helps repel slugs and snails. For larger pests, read our tips on How To Keep Deer (and other pests) Out Of your Garden.
# 7 Emergency Vehicle Help
A friend of mine said “Wood ash is also the single best substance to throw under your tires if your vehicle is stuck in snow/ice. Hands down. I keep a paper bag of it in the back of the truck instead of sand or kitty litter or any of those other go-tos”
Get a little stuck in the cold white stuff? Sprinkle some around your tires to help you out in a jam.
#8 Melt Ice and Snow
I grew up in an area that saw ice and snow for months on end. The solution? Salt. And LOTS of it.
Unfortunately, we never look at the bigger picture, only the problem that’s right in front of us.
As a result, our fresh waterways are being contaminated with salt overload, our drinking supply is being taxed, our lawns are salted and it corrodes any metal it comes in contact with.
Wood ash contains potash – potassium salts – which will help de-ice and melt snow in moderate conditions. It’s free and won’t cause harm to plants, animals, and pavement.
Spread ash over snow and ice you want to melt.
#9 Make Soap
I love researching the history of things, where they originated and how they have evolved over the years.
Since I started making our cold processed soap, I have researched the origins of the craft and find it fascinating.
From the early ages to the present time, people use wood ash to turn vegetable or animal fats into soap.
The history of soap-making is quite interesting as it dates back to 2800 BC.
#10 Controls Pond Algae
Wood ash aids in controlling pond algae. Just one tablespoon per 1,000 gallons adds enough potassium to strengthen other aquatic plants that compete with algae, slowing its growth.
To learn more about using wood ash for ponds, click here.
+ Bonus Uses
Blown away yet? If you’re like me then you’re probably kicking yourself for dumping your ash bucket all these years.
Fear not, there’s no better time than the present to put your ash to good use.
In addition to the 10 uses above, potash is good for:
- Whitening teeth
- Home construction
How do you dispose of wood ash?
Wood ash is very irritating to the lungs, eyes, and skin. Whenever you are dealing with a fine powder, such as ash, it’s important to take safety precautions.
When removing ash from your fireplace
- Wait until the fire is completely out and the ashes are cold before removing.
- Wear a dust mask to prevent inhaling the particles
- Make sure the area is well ventilated by opening a door or window, but not windy.
- Use protective eyewear.
- Remove ash from the fireplace using a fireplace shovel and slowly place the ashes in an ash bucket designed for fireplace use.
- Re-purpose or use the ashes for one of the ideas mentioned above.