If you heat your home with wood, you will likely have an overabundance of wood ash to deal with. But what do you do with it all? Here on the homestead, we try to find new uses for all of the things we consume. Even the parts that are normally thrown away. It’s all part of being frugal, eco-conscious, and self reliant.
We are just getting into my least favorite season – winter. And with it comes lots of wood burning. And lots of ash to deal with. But that’s not a bad thing, if you have a purpose for those ashes!
Back in the “old days”, our homesteading forefathers used wood ashes for many different things. And to think that most people now just throw their ashes away? Our forefathers would turn over in their graves!
Do you just throw your ashes away? This post just might be able to convince you to do otherwise.
Uses for wood ash in the garden
Wood ash can be a great ally in the garden. Farmers have been using ash for years to help their crops grow more cost effectively.
Natural garden fertilizer
Wood ash is full of nearly all of the trace minerals that were in the tree before it was burned. This makes it a wonderful natural fertilizer. And the best part of it is, that you are adding something that came from the earth, back into the earth.
You can also dust your lawn with wood ash, to add nutrients to it, any time of year.
The best time to add wood ash in the garden is right before tilling it, so you can distribute the minerals throughout the soil. It will help raise your soil pH also, which is a better environment for most vegetables.
Wood ash prevents calcium deficiencies in tomatoes, which causes issues such as blossom end rot. Put a couple tablespoons in the hole you put your tomato transplants into.
Be cautious adding a lot of ash to your garden, however, as it can make your soil too alkaline. Also keep in mind that potatoes, blueberries, and azaleas like their soil more acidic. Don’t put ash near them!
Wood ash is a great addition to your compost pile. Dusting your compost with ashes will supercharge it with its trace minerals. Since ash is somewhat drying, it can really help if you’ve gotten your compost pile too wet. And it also helps cut down on odor.
When you use the wood ash from your wood stove, chances are pretty good that you’ll have a lot of small chunks of charcoal in it. This charcoal, when mixed with the organic matter in your compost, acts like biochar, which is another fantastic soil amendment.
Repels garden pests
If you have issues with slugs and snails in your garden, dusting around your plants with wood ash can help minimize the damage caused by them. This is a good temporary solution to these slimy pests, but will need to be reapplied after you water your garden.
Sprinkling wood ash on top of an anthill will encourage them to move to another location. What a great way to give an eviction notice!
Uses for wood ash around the home
Believe it or not, wood ash also has some uses in and around the home.
Fights pond algae
Wood ash can help reduce the amount of algae in your pond. The trace elements that are so good for the soil are also good for the plants that are in your pond. The ash helps strengthen the aquatic plants, which help to reduce the amount of algae that grows in it.
Don’t add too much, though. It can make your water too alkaline and harm the fish and other creatures living there.
Mice, rats, and cockroaches are also deterred by the use of wood ash. Put some in the corners of your home and cabinets, and you’ll see much less evidence of them.
If you have moles digging holes in your lawn, put a bunch of wood ash in the holes, and stamp it down good. It might take a few applications, but after a while, the moles will get the hint and relocate.
Wood ash is nearly as effective as chemical ice melts, without the harmful chemicals. So you can apply this over slippery areas without worrying about your animals being harmed. Just pour some over icy areas, and let sit so it can melt the ice. Just use caution when using near your door, as tracking wood ash in on your shoes will be very messy!
Ash, because of its abrasive nature, can also help provide traction on slippery areas. Use it in places you’re worried someone might fall.
Kill weeds in the driveway
Do you have a gravel driveway? If so, you know how those pesky weeds always seem to grow through it. Kill them with wood ash! Ash can be an effective weed killer, since it makes the soil more alkaline. Most weeds thrive in more acidic soil, so altering the pH of the soil can destroy the weeds.
You will need to add quite a bit of ash to the areas weeds poke through to kill them. Use it judiciously, though. Don’t add that much ash to areas that you want anything to grow in the future – it will be too alkaline for anything to grow.
If you have a glass-front wood stove or fireplace, that glass is probably going to get pretty sooty. What’s the best way to clean it? Wood ashes! Wet down a rag or paper towel, and add some wood ash to it. Scrub the glass in a circular motion. The gentle abrasion of the ash helps break down the soot, leaving you with clean fireplace glass!
Polishing silver is a longtime use for wood ash. In fact, ash can be used to clean multiple types of surfaces. Try it on your shower door, or to remove stickers. Just be sure and use gloves while handling ash, as the alkalinity can harm your skin.
Sifted wood ash is also supposed to be good on pre-treating stains. I’ve heard that you can make a paste of water and ash, and scrub it into a bad stain. I would imagine it’s similar to rubbing a baking soda paste on a stain, but I haven’t tried it. I’m afraid the ashes would make a worse stain!
For ages, people have been using lye to make soap. Lye is made from boiling hardwood ash in soft water. This lye is then combined with fat to make soap. I haven’t made soap yet, but I did make lye from hardwood ashes for one of my Self Reliant Skills of the Week.
If your fridge has a funky odor, you can put a small bowl of wood ash in it to absorb the smell. Try to keep some of the small bits of charcoal in with your ashes, as they help to remove odors as well. You can also use this method in any other smelly areas of your home.
Removes excess moisture
Wood ash is a great desiccant, which means it removes excess moisture. If you have a basement that stays on the damp side, keep bowls or small buckets of wood ash in a few different areas. It will help remove the moisture that can cause mold and other harmful issues.
Soak up driveway spills
If your car happens to leak oil in your driveway or garage, ash can be a very effective way of cleaning it up. Some people use kitty litter, but if you’re using wood to heat your home and have a surplus of ashes, you might as well use this free resource! Simply pour the ash over the spill, give it time to soak up all the moisture, then sweep it up.
Wood ash also has the benefit of being near the same color as concrete, so it can hide stains as well. Just smudge a little ashes on top of a stain with your shoe, and you’ll barely notice the stain.
Uses for wood ash for your animals
Pest prevention on your pets and livestock
Ash is effective in repelling lice, fleas, and ticks from your pets. While this may be pretty messy, you can dust your pets’ fur with wood ash to rid them of the nasty buggers. Wearing gloves, be sure to rub it deep down into the fur. Going out on a limb here, but you might not want to do this if your dogs like to hop on the couch…or sleep on the bed with you.
You can use wood ash to repel bugs from your livestock as well. Just dust lightly, and, using gloves, rough it into the fur.
Lice and mites prevention for your chickens
If you have chickens or other poultry, you might have to occasionally fight lice and mites. Wood ash is extremely helpful in the fight. Put a generous amount of wood ash in your chickens’ dust bath to deter the little buggers.
While your chickens just think they’re enjoying a nice, soothing dust bath, they are actually doing their part in ridding themselves of bugs.
My favorite dust bath includes sand, wood ash, and food grade Diatomaceous Earth.
Ash is very helpful in controlling all types of odors. In the chicken coop, add wood ash to the bedding. Especially if you use the deep litter method. Ash will help rid any odors, and help dry up areas that are too damp.
If your dog has been “skunked” by a skunk, wood ash can help neutralize the smell. It won’t get rid of it as good as a Dawn, peroxide, and baking soda bath will, but it will help.
Have your cows made a stinky, muddy mess of their pasture? Sprinkle lots of wood ash all over the area to help control the wetness and odor.
After mucking out your horse stall, thoroughly dust the area with wood ash, then put down new bedding.
Sprinkling ash in the litter box will help cut down on the smell, without harmful chemicals. And it shouldn’t even bother your kitty much!
What do you do with your wood ash?
I hope I’ve given you lots of ideas on what to do with your wood ash, so you can stop simply throwing it away. A big part of homesteading is finding new uses for the things you use. Waste not, want not!
What do you do with your ashes? If you have other ideas, please let us know in the comments!
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