A wood-burning fireplace creates the perfect ambiance when it’s cold outside. If you’re using one then you know all that wood used to heat your house leaves a lot of ashes behind, especially if you use your fireplace every day. What do you do with all of the ashes when you’re done using your fireplace?
If I had to guess, I’d say you probably just throw the ashes away. Am I right?
Whatever you do, did you know that there are a whole bunch of things that you can do to repurpose your ashes? And I’ve put together a list of my top 25 things to do with your ashes.
List of 25 Things to Do with Your Ashes
1. Control Humidity
Wood ash is a desiccant that you can use in humid spaces. You can fill a small tray or box with some of your saved ashes and put it in one corner of your basement or bathroom that has poor ventilation. It will absorb the humidity and help prevent mold from growing.
2. Put out Fires
If there aren’t any creosote deposits in your ashes, you can smother a small fire. I’d recommend keeping a bucket of fine ashes in a safe spot, where you can grab the ashes in case you need to put out a fire. The ashes act like sand in smothering the fire.
3. Slow Algae Growth
Wood ash doesn’t kill any algae. But it can help you control it. This is because wood ashes are high in potassium and other micronutrients that plants need to thrive, so it can help strengthen some aquatic plants to help compete with the algae.
4. Make Natural Bleach
Ash mixed with water creates lye water. Lye water is oftentimes used to create soap, but it’s also used as a bleaching agent.
5. Natural Flea Treatment for Pets
Wood ashes work the same way as diatomaceous earth does on pets to kill fleas. The tiny particles in the ash leave small cuts on the fleas and cause them to dry out and die. I recommend doing your best to wash this out after about 24 hours.
6. Cockroach Repellent
You can sprinkle a little bit of ashes in places where cockroaches are likely to be, such as dark corners or under appliances. The outer shell of the roaches don’t tend to stand up well to wood ashes, so this will help keep them from staying in your home too long.
7. Ant Deterrent
If you have ants in and around your house, you can stop them right in their tracks by sprinkling wood ash on their anthills to force them to relocate.
8. Wood Ash Pottery Glaze
If you’re artsier than I am, then you can turn your wood ash into an ancient pottery glaze, that originates around 1500 BC in China. Luckily there are some pretty detailed ash pottery glaze guides to help you get started.
9. Prevent Plant Frost Damage
You can add a dusting of wood ash before an early light frost to prevent any frost damage. Wood ashes contain mineral salts that can decrease the freezing point of water without causing any damage to the plants.
10. Control Slugs & Snails
Slugs and snails can be a major pain in the ash for many gardeners. BADUM TSSS. Since wood ash is a natural desiccant (remember from #1?), and the body of slugs and snails contain a lot of water, snails and slugs hate crossing it. I recommend putting a ring of ash around plants to keep these pests away.
11. Remove Skunk Smell
When I was in college, we had a resident skunk that would hang around the dorms. Although we never had anyone (that I know of) get sprayed, we could always smell when the skunk did spray. If you’ve had a pet got sprayed by a skunk, then you know how hard it is to get rid of the stink. If you’re all out of tomato juice, you can use wood ash to absorb the odors. Just rub the ashes into the fur.
12. Make Soap
After you clean out your fireplace’s ash, you can use the ashes to make the soap that will clean you off. Though, it might take a bit longer than you’d like. If you mix wood ash with water, you’ll create lye (remember from the bleach section?). Throw in a form of fat, boil, stir, and you’ll have soap in no time!
13.. Clean Cloudy Headlights
If your car has cloudy headlights, you can make a paste from mixing water and wood ash. Rub that on your headlights to collect any road dust or exhaust fumes that have found its way on your lights.
14. Absorb Odors
As I’ve already mentioned in the skunk section, wood ash is awesome at absorbing odors. If you’re like me, you have a box of baking soda in your fridge to absorb odor and moisture. You can also place a small bowl of ashes inside your fridge to do the same thing.
15. Use it to Melt Ice
It may be a good idea to keep a container of wood ashes in your trunk during the winter. The salts in the ashes can help melt the snow in moderately cold conditions to help your car gain traction on an icy patch of road.
16. Make Pretzels
Typically pretzels are made with baking soda. But bakers used to use lye water instead. Lye is also used with other bread to help keep the dough soft and prevent crumbling.
17. Prevent Calcium Deficiency in Tomatoes
I grew up on a farm in Western North Carolina and we always had a garden outback. Typically we used eggshells and bone meal to provide the tomatoes with calcium, but wood ashes can do the same job. You can use 1/4 cup of wood ash for each tomato planting hole and scratch it into the soil before setting out the transplants.
18. Chicken Feed Supplement
Since wood ash is high in minerals, containing calcium and potassium, it can be a good food supplement for chickens in small amounts. You can add wood ash to your chicken feed (less than 1% ratio) to help extend a hen’s laying period and reduce the smell of chicken droppings.
19. Clean Up Soot
In the same way that you can use a wood ash paste to clean your headlights, it can be used to remove soot from your fireplace doors. All you need to do is add water to some ashes to make a paste, then use it as a mild abrasive to clean up the soot.
20. Clean Up the Driveway Stains
If you have a fresh oil or paint spill on your driveway, you can sprinkle the ashes on top of the stain, let the ashes sit for several hours to absorb the oil or paint, then sweep it away.
21. Save to help Start Fires
Even though you can use your ashes to smother a fire, you can also use ashes to start your fires. Having a 1-inch layer of ash on the floor of the fireplace will allow the hot coals to nestle into the ash. This adds more heat to the fuel and fire.
22. Add to compost
A small amount of wood ash can be just what your compost pile needs. Wood ashes can give the potassium level of your compost a nice boost! Your plants will thank you if you start doing this.
23. Polish Metal
This is another option that you can use the ash paste for. With a little wood ash and water, you can make a simple non-toxic metal polisher.
24. Amend Your Soil
Adding wood ash to acidic oil can easily raise the soil’s pH levels. This is because wood ash is about 70% calcium carbonate. You may have heard of doing something like this with lime, but wood ashes work faster because the particle size is much smaller.
25. Wood Ash Toothpaste
I saved this one for last because it is my favorite. Not because of any practical uses. But because it’s bold. You can use wood ash and water to make a paste that acts similar to toothpaste. I don’t recommend actually doing this because in the long run it will deteriorate your enamel and destroy the normal texture of your teeth.