Do you know what my all time favorite thing about fall is? Outdoor fires in our fire pit. Not only is it a great way to get rid of some of our yard trimmings, it’s a wonderful excuse to pour a glass of wine and just enjoy the crisp, fall air. After you roast marshmallows and toss acorns into the fire, eventually the wood burns up and the campfire dies off. Ever wonder if there are any uses for wood ash instead of just throwing it away?
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Uses for Wood Ash When Your Campfire is Finished
There are a ton of useful ways to use wood ash once they are cooled off. Of course, you need a place to store them while you wait to get your wood ash projects started so invest in a wood ash bin to keep the rain out. Add that to the list of essential gardening supplies you need to invest in! Then, once you have enough ashes, you are ready to get creative with them. Here are just a few things to do with your campfire ashes once the fire burns out!
Use wood ash to supplement your compost:
One of the easiest uses for wood ash is to add it into your compost but make sure you don’t add too much. It is a very alkaline substance and too much will throw off the pH of your garden. Check out this post about using wood ash in your garden for detailed information about how much to add and when. And remember, gardening doesn’t just happen in the spring. Read my post on things to plant in November for some fall gardening inspiration.
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Wood ash raises the pH of your soil. Never use wood ashes on acid-loving plants like berries, rhododendrons, fruit trees, azaleas, potatoes and parsley. Of course, if you have acidic soil, you can use wood ash to neutralize it. Get a soil pH meter to measure the pH of your soil.
There are certain plants that like wood ash that will really appreciate your campfire ashes. These include:
- Certain Plants With Potassium Deficiencies
- Plants in Overly Acidic Soils
- or Plants Overrun by Pests and Disease
Check out this article on plants that love wood ash for more info.
Melt Ice with Campfire Ashes:
We get a ton of ice storms in the Atlanta area and this is one of the best uses for wood ash that I came across. Keep a garbage can full of wood ash (make sure it is COOL first!) and shovel it onto pathways and driveways to help melt ice.
Wood Ash Skin Benefits
Have you ever thought about making a wood ash face mask? Yes, there are many wood ash skin benefits and making a mask is incredibly easy. Just mix wood ash and Bentonite Clay in a one to one ratio. Here is how to make a wood ash face mask:
- Put 1/4 cup clay and 1/4 cup wood ash in a bowl.
- Add water till it becomes a thick paste.
- Put it on your face and leave it for about ten minutes.
- Remove it and wash your face with your normal face wash.
- Moisturize as needed.
Control Pond Algae:
We have a nice backyard pond but during this time of year it always gets over run with algae. Use one tablespoon of wood ashes per 1,000 gallons. This adds enough potassium to strengthen the other aquatic plants that compete with algae, which slows down its growth.
Repel garden pests:
Sprinkling a little bit of wood ash underneath your garden plants will help repel slugs and other nasty critters than want to take over your garden. Because of the rough edges on charcoal pieces, soft bodied insects avoid it.
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Clean fireplace doors:
Growing up, we had an indoor fireplace and my dad would take a damp paper towel, dip it into the ashes, and then scrub the inside of the glass fireplace doors with them. It always got them super clean!
Make soap from wood ashes:
Soaking ashes in water will create lye which can be used to make homemade soap. Check out this post about how to make soap from ashes for full details.
Want to see wood ash soap making? Check out this video from HOW TO BE AWESOME SAUCE
Shine your silver:
Looking for uses for your fire pit ashes? How about shining all that silver you inherited from your grandmother? Make a paste with ashes and a small amount of water. Scrub this paste onto your silverware for a nice shine.
Neutralize skunk smell:
If you dog encounters a skunk and the results are incredibly stinky, you can get rid of the smell using wood ashes. Just mix the ashes with some water and rub onto your pet. Makes sure you rinse thoroughly!
Keep a bucket in the car:
If you live in an area prone to ice and snow, keep a bucket of ashes in your trunk. If you get stuck, sprinkle it liberally under and around your tires to help get you free from a slippery area.
Unclog your drain:
This was one of the most interesting uses for wood ash that I came across. Before traditional drain clearing chemicals were made, people used lye to clear their drains. Since ashes plus water makes lye, wood ashes can be useful to unclog stuffed up pipes. Because this can be a bit tricky to do, check out this post about how to use wood ashes to unclog a drain. It may just help you save money next time you think about calling a plumber!
Are There Health Benefits of Eating Wood Ash?
This is one way to use leftover campfire ashes that I am a little hesitant to recommend. There are many sites that discuss the health benefits of eating wood ash to detoxify the body but it’s probably not one I want to try. Detoxing seems to be quite a ‘thing’ you do these days in the name of health. Charcoal consumption originates in Chinese Medicine. The purpose is to bind to environmental toxins that we consume and improve intestinal health.
Because of impurity concerns, however, I highly recommend that if you are going to include charcoal in your health routine, that you buy medical grade activated charcoal. Seems like eating the wood ash from your campfire may not be a good idea.
Safety Precautions When Handling Ashes
Remember, there are a ton of wood ash uses around your house and in your yard. However, before you tackle all these alternative uses for wood ash from your fire pit, you need to learn how to handle them safely.
First of all, make sure all ashes are completely cool before handling. I would probably wait at least 24 hours after a fire before removing ashes.
- You most certainly do not want to add live embers to your ash bucket!
- Due to concerns about reigniting the fire, place lid over the ash bucket. This reduces the possibility of oxygen reaching a live ember and causing fire.
- Store the ash bucket in a well ventilated location. Because ashes may contain live coals, carbon monoxide may be a concern.
- Above all, do not place the ash bucket next to anything combustible!
- Pour a little water over the ashes in ash bucket. Because this may generate smoke, only do this outside.
- Finally, allow the ash bucket to sit for at least three days before disposing of ashes or using them for other purposes.
There are many creative ways to use wood ash around the house. Grab your shovel and get creative because these ideas will help you save time and money on your road to green living!
Have any other uses for wood ash you want to share?
Love to reuse things? Check out these uses for old toothbrushes!
Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke! Learn more about her HERE.