For each cord of wood you burn, you’ll create about 50 lbs. (5 gallons) of ash. It is essential that you have a safe and reliable means of storing and disposing of the ashes you’ll create.
Embers can re-ignite for days after a wood fire has long been burned. Ash is one of nature’s greatest insulators; Native Americans used ash inside of animal skin pouches to transport hot embers from one location to another to easily start a new fire.
Ashes from your fireplace, wood stove or outdoor fire pit should only be emptied and stored in a metal container with a tight fitting lid and an insulated bottom, then placed on a non-combustible surface. If the ashes must be stored for any time, make sure that container is a safe distance – at least 10 feet away – from nearby combustibles including the walls of your home; never store ashes on your deck or in your garage. If you’re scattering or dumping them outdoors, then make sure it’s not a windy day and that you wet them first.
GREAT USES FOR WOOD ASH
Gardeners and homesteaders actually save their ashes for many practical uses.
- NATURAL ICE MELT – just sprinkle ashes over your walkway or driveway like you would salt and let the natural minerals in wood ash melt the ice for you.
- GLASS CLEANER – a chimney sweep’s trick to cleaning the glass on your wood stove door is to dip a wet paper towel in the ashes; they’re mildly abrasive and great at removing that burnt-on gunk. Then use a second wet paper towel to remove the streaks, and throw the paper towels into the stove when you’re done! You’ll also find this trick handy for cleaning cloudy headlights on your car.
- SILVER POLISH – wood ash on a wet rag is the old timers’ trick for cleaning silver, too.
- MOISTURE RINGS ON WOOD can be repaired with a wood ash paste. Wipe on, let it sit a few minutes, then wipe off
- ODOR ABSORBER & DESSICANT- wood ash, like baking soda, can help absorb odors. Put some ashes in an open jar (and this works even better if there are some bits of charcoal in it) then set the jar in your fridge, basement, etc. The ashes will not only fight odors, but mold as well.
- NATURAL FLEA AND SKIN PARASITE TREATMENT FOR PETS – Back before there were all sorts of chemical treatments for dogs and cats, wood ash was rubbed into their coats, working much like diatomaceous earth is used today.
- CHICKENS – Wood ash is still used by many chicken keepers for dust bathing spots and to cut down on odors in chicken coops. Wood ash can be added to chicken feed (1:100 ratio) to increase uptake of calcium and potassium. This helps control internal parasites, increase egg production and reduce chicken manure odors. It also works like grit to aid their digestion.
- SKUNK ODORS can also be cleaned from your pet by using wood ash rubbed into their coats. Leave the pet outside a few hours then bathe thoroughly.
- GARDENING is where wood ash is put to best use!
* Add layers of wood ash in your compost bin to reduce odors and lighten up your compost consistency. It also helps repel critters that may dig through your compost for a free snack.
* Wood ash is high in potassium (the “K” number in fertilizer). Have a soil test done; if it lacks potassium then add some wood ash.
* Use in place of lime, but in double the quantity
* Wood ash is also high in calcium, making it an effective amendment for tomatoes, roses, lilacs and clematis. If your tomatoes tend to suffer from blossom end rot, try adding 1/4 cup of wood ash in the hole before planting
* Sprinkle wood ash on the perimeter of your garden to help deter snails and slugs. Reapply after it rains.
* Add 1 tablespoon per 1000 gallons of water to control algae in fish ponds
* Do not use on acid loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, blueberries, strawberries, apples, basil, carrots, corn and cucumbers
*Always wear gloves when handling wood ash to protect your skin.
Now that you know there are so many uses for your wood ash, just let us know if you want us to save them for you when we clean out your chimney and fireplace so you can put them to good use all around your home!