Fireplaces are a great source of warmth on cold nights, but cleaning out wood ashes, unfortunately, comes with the territory. Before lighting a new fire, you need to clean out the ashes to ensure your fire gets adequate oxygen and produces little carbon monoxide. Remember that carbon monoxide is produced when wood burns without enough oxygen, and it can be dangerous in enclosed spaces. So, what to do with ashes from fire pit?
Even though we don’t burn as many wood fires as we used to, when you do, you probably ask yourself where to get rid of your wood ashes. In this article, learn six creative ways to answer the question, what to do with ashes from fire pit?
6 Practical Uses
What to do With Ashes From Fire Pit
Boosting Soil pH
Wood ash is alkaline, and you can use it in place of limestone if you want to raise the pH of your soil. Ash is also more water-soluble than lime. Test your garden soil to determine its pH. Garden soil should have a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 for most plants; higher than 7.0 is alkaline and lower than 6.0 is acidic.
Some plants require less or more than the 6-7 range, though. For instance, tomatoes need lots of potassium and calcium, so soils should have higher alkalinity. Adding wood ash is a simple way to boost the soil’s potassium and calcium levels. If your soil is too acidic, plant roots will be unable to absorb the nutrients they need.
Wood ash also has small quantities of minerals like magnesium, aluminum, sodium, and phosphorous. If you plant corn, hay, alfalfa, and similar plants, they drink up all minerals in the soil, and you need to restore these nutrients – you can use wood ash for this.
Note: Remember to test your soil before adding ash to it, especially when growing acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, blueberries, and azalea. Don’t dump the ash in one spot, and never put it directly onto plant leaves or stems (rinse if necessary). Apply on calm days to limit misapplication, and always have protective coverings for yourself.
Add a sprinkle of ash to your indoor or outdoor compost bin/pile. A small amount with every new layer adds the nutrients in ash to your “compost tea” and eventually garden soil. Make wood ash tea by soaking the ashes in water for 4-5 days; strain and then apply the solution directly into the soil. You need only apply very little to get the benefits of the wood ash tea – 3 pounds of ash in a 30-gallon bucket of water is enough for a backyard garden.
Remember that wood ash tea only benefits certain plants during their growing season. Check the soil conditions before applying the tea and research the plants’ nutritional needs in advance.
Wood ash makes a free cleaning agent for glass and metal. Mix wood ash with a little water to form and paste, and use the paste as a mild abrasive to buff your tarnished metals, clean dirty glasses, and remove sticky residues and adhesives.
Protect your skin by applying the paste with a cotton cloth and wear gloves to protect your skin.
The earliest soap solution for mankind was made by mixing wood ash with water to produce lye – a necessary component for soap-making. It mattered where the ash came from though – hardwoods like beech, ash, and hickory have enough ash to make fairly concentrated lye.
You can carefully work with lye from wood ash to make homemade soap rather than throwing it away. It takes a bit of effort than simply buying, but once you master the craft you can make huge savings. If you decide to make soap, wear gloves to avoid burning your hands and follow instructions from a reputable source.
Wood ash can be used to deter domestic pests like ants, snails, and slugs. Just sprinkle a small amount around susceptible plants to keep them safe, and you can also sprinkle around your home. Reapply when washed away by rain.
Anti-Slip and Spill-Absorbent on Walkways
Wood ash can be applied to slippery walkways in winter, like gravel on snow-covered driveways or streets. You can keep your ash in a sealed metal container in your car or truck and fish it out to get out of a slippery portion of the road or walkway. Be careful to remove your shoes when you get home – you don’t want to track ash into the house.
If you spilled something that could stain your driveway, like oil from the car, you can use wood ash to absorb the spillage. The dark asphalt of the driveway will mask the color of the ash, and then you can simply sweep up the ashes after they absorb the spill.
Final Thoughts – Safe Handling of Ash
The rule of thumb is to wait 24 hours after a fire goes out to pick up ashes from your fireplace or fire pit. This allows the ashes and embers to cool down completely. Inspect to see if there are hot embers before collecting, or you could start another fire. Scoop using a metal spade or shovel and transfer to a metal container. Don’t use plastic or cardboard, just in case there’s still some heat in the ash.