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    21 Uses for Wood Ashes

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    21 Uses for Wood Ashes

    As you pursue a more sustainable lifestyle, you probably are discovering many ways to repurpose items around your home and property. Wood ash is something you may have a lot of, especially if you have a fireplace, woodstove, or campfire. Did you know there are many beneficial ways to use wood ash?

    Before we get into our list of 16 uses, let’s define what wood ash is and identify some precautions. Wood ash is the powdery substance left after the combustion of wood, such as when wood has been burned in a fireplace.

    Wood ash is composed of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium, and it contains trace amounts of iron, sodium, manganese, zinc, copper, boron and molybdenum.

    Before you begin to use wood ash around your home, you need to be aware of a few precautions. First, be sure to use ashes only from chemical-free wood. That means avoiding pressure-treated wood, painted or stained wood, charcoal and commercially sold slow-burning fireplace logs.

    Next, it is important to realize that buried embers can remain hot for days and even weeks. Store wood ash in a lidded metal container placed on a non-combustible surface (such as wood or concrete). Keep the container a few feet or more away from any flammable materials.

    Use caution when handling wood ash. Wear gloves, protect your eyes and if the dust is fine, wear a face mask to avoid breathing in the particles.

    Now let’s look at those uses for wood ash.

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    1. Neutralize Soil

    If your garden contains acidic soil, you can use wood ash to maintain a healthy pH range of between 6 to 7.5. Wood ash has up to 70 percent calcium carbonate and is a quick-acting substitute for lime in your garden. Use a pH test before and after you apply wood ash.

    2. Strengthen Plants

    Calcium loving plants such as tomatoes, carrots, beans, spinach, broccoli, peas, celery, avocados, and garlic will thrive with the application of wood ash. Don’t use wood ash on seedlings, however, as it may damage young plants.

    Additionally, do not use wood ash along with nitrogen fertilizers; the combination will produce ammonia gas. Also, do not apply wood ash to plants that need acid such as blueberries, azaleas, and rhododendrons or to areas where you plant potatoes since wood ash can cause potato scab.

    3. Deter Pests

    Wood ash sprinkled around your garden is a natural deterrent for slugs and snails, both of which can wreak havoc on your garden. In addition, ants will quickly relocate when they are exposed to wood ash. Sprinkled in the corners of in your basement, shed or garage, wood ash also will deter mice, rats, and cockroaches.

    4. Boost Compost

    Wood ash increases the potassium levels in your compost pile. Potassium helps promote flowering and fruiting in plants. Add wood ash in moderation, however. Remember that wood ash may damage your young plants.

    5. Brew Ash Tea

    You can make a wood ash tea that helps to prevent or to correct potassium deficiencies in plants. Signs of a potassium deficiency include brown spots, curling leaves, yellowing in between leaf veins, sluggish plant growth, and reduced yield.

    To make tea from wood ash, fill a cloth bag – a pillowcase will do – with five pounds of ash and securely close it with a tie. Then place the bag in a large garbage bin filled with water, allowing the tea to steep for a few days. Pour one cup of the tea around your plants once a week.

    6. Create a Dust Bath for Chickens

    Chickens bathe in dust in order to clean their feathers from dirt and from parasites such as lice and mites. Mix wood ash with sand, and let your chickens enjoy this healthy ritual.

    7. Make Soap

    Wood ash has been used for centuries as an ingredient in soap. Soak wood ash in water to make lye (potassium hydroxide), which you can then mix with animal fat and boil to produce soap. Adding salt helps the soap harden as it cools.

    8. Clean Fireplace Doors

    You can remove the sooty residue on glass fireplace doors by rubbing them with a damp sponge that has been dipped in wood ash.

    9. Melt Ice

    Wood ash is a safer alternative to the use of rock salt to melt winter ice and snow. Wood ash contains potash (potassium carbonate), a type of salt that won’t corrode concrete or metal surfaces, hurt your pet’s paws or damage your plants. You also can use wood ash to provide traction for your tires when your car gets stuck on snow or ice.

    10. Control Pond Algae

    Are your pond plants competing with algae for growing space – and losing? You can add one tablespoon of wood ash per 1,000 gallons to your pond to slow the growth of algae and to strengthen other aquatic plants.

    11. Polish Metal

    Use wood ash, which is a mild abrasive, to polish and clean dull metals and/or tarnished silverware. Simply take one cup of wood ash and combine it with just a pinch of ash to create a thick paste. Let the mixture sit on the metal for a few minutes before wiping the metal with a clean cloth. Buff and shine.

    12. Absorb Odors

    As an alkaline, wood ash absorbs and neutralizes bad smells. You can place a small bowl of wood ash in your fridge. Leave it there for a few days before replacing it with fresh a bowl of fresh ash.

    13. Get Rid of Skunk Smell

    If the smell of skunk still lingers after washing your pet in tomato juice or your preferred de-skunk method, add a handful of wood ash to your dog’s coat to neutralize the foul odor.

    14. Remove Furniture Stains

    Do you have a stain on your coffee table or dining room table? Try removing it by rubbing it with a paste of ash and water.

    15. Clean Clothing Stains

    Rub the stain with a bit of ash combined with white of bread. After about five minutes wash as you would normally.

    16. Clean Up Oil Stains in the Garage and Driveway

    As a desiccant, wood ash is useful as a way to clean grease spills and to remove stains from stone, cement, and asphalt. Simply sprinkle some ashes directly onto the stain, allowing it to settle for a few minutes. Afterward, sweep it up with a broom.

    Finally, the value of wood ash is dependent on the type of wood you burn. Hardwoods (such as oak or maple) yield more ash per pound of wood burned, and the ash from hardwoods has up to five times as many nutrients per cord as ash from softwoods (such as oak and maple).

    17. Natural Toothpaste

    Believe it or not, wood ash can be used as a natural toothpaste. Its abrasive properties help remove plaque and stains from teeth without using harsh chemicals. Just mix a pinch of wood ash into your regular toothpaste, or mix it with a tiny bit of water to form a paste.

    18. Increase Tomato Sweetness

    If you want to enhance the sweetness and flavor of your tomatoes, sprinkle a little bit of wood ash around the base of your tomato plans. The potassium in the ash will improve the fruit quality and flavor. Just don't overdo it because too much ash can affect the pH of your soil.

    19. Natural Snail Barrier

    You can create a protective barrier around your garden beds with a line of wood ash. Snails and slugs hate ash and won't cross over it, making ash a great way to protect your plants without chemical repellents.

    20. Preserve Seeds

    Wood ash can help preserve seeds for a long time. Just mix some ash with the seeds and it will absorb the moisture, preventing mold from growing. Be sure to put the mixture in airtight containers in a cool, dry area.

    21. Enhance Leafy Greens

    If you're growing things like kale, cabbage, and lettuce, you can use wood ash to contribute nutrients like potassium and magnesium to your plants. Again, don't overdo it or you could make your soil too alkaline.

    Sources:

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      8 thoughts on “21 Uses for Wood Ashes”

      1. I deposited all my wood ash into my compost heap in good faith.
        Was very disappointed to notice months down the line that i no longer had any earthworms in my compost heap!
        How can i encourage the earthworms to come back?

        Reply
        • You don’t want to add all your wood ash at once. It’s better to sprinkle on a little bit at a time. As far as getting earthworms back, the easiest solution is to just buy some and add them to the soil.

          Reply
      2. Your last comment about hardwoods ( oak and maple) vs soft woods (oak and maple) does not make sense… softwoods are pines, etc

        Reply

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