Recycled Wood Ash
There’s nothing quite like the warmth coming from firewood – with the flames crackling and the heat radiating everywhere in the room. If you have a fireplace or a wood stove at home, then you’ve also dealt with wood ash.
Yes, there’s nothing quite like the warmth that the fire from real wood brings. But there’s also nothing quite like the mess you’re left with. Fireplace ash is definitely a reality that you have to deal with, but even before thinking of how much ash to leave in wood stove, keep in mind that the cleaner your stove or your fireplace, the better the circulation is and the more efficient it will be.
However, before simply throwing it away, think of all the different ways it can be reused. The truth is that wood ash is perhaps one of the most versatile things that you can find, and the best thing about it is that it’s a byproduct – something that you could just as easily think of throwing away. But what can fireplace ash be used for? Oh, you’ll be surprised.
What is the first thing I should do to the wood ash?
Before even thinking about what to do with all your excess wood ash, you have to think about where you’ll store it. You won’t use your wood ash all at once, so it’s best if you have a metal container that’s covered and located a few feet away from anything combustible. This is because even if the ashes appear cold and harmless, there may be buried live embers that could remain that way for days or weeks.
Once you have your wood ash stored in a secure place, you now know where to run when you need it for any of the different uses you’ll have for it.
Can wood ash be used for cleaning?
Wood ash is a very effective cleaning tool. For your kitchen, you can use wood ash in any kind of cleaning that requires scouring. This is because of its unique texture. It can also solve problems with grease and grime, gummy residues from labels and stickers, as well as tarnish on silverware and glass.
Wood ash is actually also a lye soap ingredient, so it’s really useful in this department. All you have to do is mix it with water or dab it on a wet sponge, then you can use it to clean glass and even fireplace doors.
If you have stubborn spots on wood furniture that you’ve tried to get rid of for months, all you have to do is create a paste by mixing wood ash with some water.
If you have any kind of livestock pen with animal droppings or if you have some pets around the house, you can sprinkle wood ash on the ground before you sweep, and this makes cleaning immensely easier.
Can you use ashes in the garden or outdoors?
Wood ash is not just useful inside the house, it’s also very useful outside, especially if you have a garden, backyard, or front lawn. During winter, you can use wood ash to prevent people from slipping on your walkway. Sprinkling wood ash will improve traction on these paths, and in fact it’s even better than salt, because salt has a tendency to eat the cement.
Having a garden with plants and flowers is another story. While at first glance it doesn’t look like wood ash and gardening really mix, you’ll be very surprised at what the reality is. Below are the many ways your garden will thank you for bringing wood ash to its life:
It’s an effective insect repellent.
Wood ash keeps the creepy crawlers away, especially slugs and snails. So if you want to control the pests that are eating your flower beds and making your gardening life a living hell, then wood ash is the safest way to do it. You don’t even need chemicals.
It helps you say goodbye to algae.
If you have a nice little pond with koi fish and aquatic plants in it, you’ve probably already encountered the problem of algae. With wood ash, you can say goodbye to this problem because it slows down its growth and keeps everything under control.
It can be used as fertilizer.
If you’ve ever asked the question “Can ashes be used as fertilizer?” then the answer is it most certainly can. You have to remember that wood ash still comes from wood, which came from a tree, which will most certainly have nutrients.
So how to make potash from wood ashes is quite simple. All you have to do is sieve the ashes to remove the large chunks of charcoal (if any), and then just lightly spread it around your garden. This is really great and healthy for your plants.
While the nutritional content will depend on what kind of wood the ash came from, on average wood ash contains calcium (10-25%), potassium (5-15%), magnesium (1-4%), and phosphorus (1-3%). Aside from those major components, wood ash may also contain trace amounts of manganese, iron, boron, copper, sodium, zinc, and molybdenum. If the wood ash came from hardwoods, the nutrients you’ll find are about 5 times more than what you’ll find in softwoods.
You too can use wood ash to fertilize planting beds, and you can do this by sprinkling it around your garden. The soil absorbs wood ash easily, so ½ – ¼ inch should be just right. This is especially useful during winter, but whatever season it is, wood ash can help plants grow better overall. It can help you say goodbye to weeds, and make gardening a lot easier for you.
Before you get too excited and sprinkle your fireplace ashes on lawn area or plant a tree with your ashes, there are some factors that you need to think about. For one, if you’re planning to use it as fertilizer, you should apply it two months before applying the usual fertilizers that are high in nitrogen.
Aside from that, just be aware that using wood ash will temporarily increase the pH level of garden soil, so don’t overdo it. If you really intend to raise the pH level of you’re your soil, you don’t have to wait for limestone and you can use wood ash instead. If your soil has a pH level of 6.0 to 6.5, you can use as much as 20 pounds of wood ash without dramatically raising your pH to unmanageable levels. However, if your soil has a pH of 7.0 or more, you shouldn’t use wood ash in garden soil at all.
Another thing you need to remember is that because of this alkalinity, not all plants will react to wood ash in the same way. One shouldn’t assume that wood ash in garden for vegetables is always good, because acidic-loving plants won’t appreciate it as much. Never use wood ash on plants like blueberries, rhododendron, and azaleas for example.
That said, you should also ask which plants like wood ash and really use it for these plants’ benefit. Most root crops (except potato), bulbs (like onions and garlics), annuals, and perennials will definitely find wood ash beneficial. Lilies also seem to appreciate a good amount of wood ash.
One other plant that loves wood ash? Tomatoes. For some reason, wood ash and tomatoes really mix, and if you use this on the plant, you’ll get hearty, healthy, tasty tomatoes right fro your backyard. This is because tomatoes need a slightly alkaline pH in the soil, and can also benefit from all the nutrients that are found in the wood ash.
Can you compost wood ash?
Some households have a compost heap, and it might be tempting to just throw all your wood ash in there. Because of the alkaline nature of wood ash, if you have compost heaps that need to be neutralized, it will be a valuable addition. Aside from that, when you add wood ash to your compost heap, it will help boost the potassium levels.
It is not recommended that you put too much wood ash in the compost heap though. This is because of the following reasons:
- There are so many other things you can use your wood ash for.
- If you mix wood ash into your compost pile, it will delay the decaying reaction.
- Too much wood ash will raise your compost pile’s pH value, and this will damage your acid-loving plants when the compost is applied as fertilizer.
Just make sure there are no live embers before you mix it in, because looks can be deceiving. You can make sure by mixing it with water first.
Can I use wood ash to create something totally different?
If you’re feeling a little creative, you can definitely use wood ash to create something totally different an unexpected. Here are some of them:
Ash tea is effective in preventing or even correcting potassium deficiencies among plants, because of its nutrient content. Some plants are very prone to potassium deficiencies, including tomatoes, apples, sugar beets, and currants. Ash tea can help solve reduced crop yield, brown spots, slow plant growth, yellowing in the leaf veins, and curling leaf tips.
All you have to do is get five pounds of ash and place it in a cloth bag, securing it close. Fill a 50-gallon garbage bin with water, and just like making tea for yourself, you must place the ash bag inside that bin, allowing it to steep for a few days. After ‘brewing’ the ash tea in this manner, you can then pour about a cup around your plants. You can do this weekly.
Make your own soap and lye.
From as early as 2800 B.C., the ancient Babylonians already knew how to make lye from wood ash. Lye or potassium hydroxide is a caustic cleaning agent, and it is useful for scrubbing wooden floors, cleaning linens, and many more. In fact, when you mix ash with water, this “lye water” can be used as a bleaching agent or laundry detergent. Yes, this means that ironically, you can use wood ash to make your clothes brighter.
To make homemade lye, remember that tap water is good but it’s preferable if you use rain water, because it is soft. Second, you will get significantly better results if you use ash from hardwoods (Sugar Maple, Beech, Hickory, Buckeye) and not softwoods (Pine, Fir).
You can go for the traditional way of using a barrel, or go for the modern method of using a plastic bucket. These are the steps:
- Drill a small hole (enough for a tiny nail) on one side of the bucket, about an inch away from the bottom. Stop it with the same nail.
- Make sure your wood ash is cold and that the chunky charcoal bits are sieved. Put it in the bucket.
- Boil water and gently pour it over the ashes. The amount of water that you boil should be half of the bucket’s capacity.
- You will see the ash hissing and bubbling as soon as it comes into contact with the water. This is okay. Don’t panic.
- Leave the water as it ‘sits’ on top of the ash and don’t disturb it.
- Add the rest of the water when you can.
- Raise the bucket and put a plastic container under the hole. Remove the nail.
- Lye water will come out but it might take hours or even days.
- If you have enough lye, stop the bucket with yournail again. Boil the lye water carefully. Wear gloves and safety glasses because lye is caustic and it might burn your skin or eyes if there’s contact.
- Put it back in the bucket of ashes and repeat the process. This strengthens the lye water.
To proceed to making soap from wood ash, you should just take the lye water, place it under the sun, and wait for the water to evaporate. The lye crystals that you’re left with can be used in your soap recipes.