My 9 Favorite Uses for Wood Stove Ash

Learning to use available resources is one of the most essential things about prepping and survivalism.

You can’t go to the store to get supplies in a total SHTF situation. If you are homesteading, then driving 100 miles to get supplies isn’t a good option (and kind of defeats the point of homesteading).

Resource utilization is still important even if you don’t care about survival or off-grid living. Who wants to shell out hard-earned cash when you don’t have to?

Today, I want to talk about uses for fire ash.

What Types of Ash Can You Use?

Let’s first start by clarifying that there are multiple types of ash.

If you’ve tried burning different things in your stove, you’re probably already aware of how different the ash can be.

For example, I used to burn coal in a coal-burning stove (more like a giant furnace) outside of the house in a shed.   The ash leftover from coal is nasty. No matter how careful you are when emptying the ash, it sprays everywhere.

You’ll need to wear a mask when dumping it, or you’ll have particles up in your nose (note that you’ve got to be careful when heating with wood or coal as it could make you sick – proper ventilation is critical!).

Coal Ash

coal ash
NEVER REPURPOSE COAL ASH. Coal ash contains a lot of heavy metals such as arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, etc…

While the coal from your stove isn’t as bad as the fly ash from smokestacks, it still isn’t ideal. As far as gardens are concerned, coal ash is way too acidic and could destroy the pH of your crops.

Wood Pellet Ash

wood pellets

Many people use wood pellets to heat their homes because you don’t have to chop wood or need as much storage space. But, when it comes to uses for ash, there may be some issues with wood pellets.

The issue has to do with the glue which is used to hold the wood pellets together. Many are bound with a type of glue called lignin, which naturally occurs in trees.

If this is the case, you can use the wood pellet ash. Check the pellet bag or call the manufacturer to see what glue they use.

If the wood pellets are made with chemical glue, you don’t want those chemicals in your garden, compost, etc.

Why not switch brands of pellets?

Or why not switch to natural wood? Chopping is fun, and it will help with your prepper fitness.

Wood Ash

wood ash

This is the stuff we are talking about! Wood ash contains many nutrients, has a low acidity level, and is slightly abrasive.

These properties are what make wood ash so useful.

Uses for Wood Ash

1. Fertilizer

This is the number one use for wood ash. Because wood ash contains nutrients, including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium, it is great fertilizer for your garden or yard.
Never combine wood ash with nitrogen fertilizers! It will produce toxic ammonia gas.
Note that wood ash will quickly change the pH of your soil. So you must be careful about how much you add at once.

How much wood ash should be used as fertilizer? You can use about 5 pounds (about 1.25 gallon bucket) per 100 square feet per year.

Apply the ash in the spring. Do it when the soil is dry, then water it so the wood ash doesn’t blow away. Remember not to add limestone if you use wood ash in your garden or yard!

2. Compost Addition

If you haven’t started composting yet, now is the time.

Once you’ve got your compost going, you can add wood ash to it. It boosts the potassium levels in the compost and makes it even better for your garden. Remember that wood ash is very alkaline, so you can’t add too much at once.

A good rule to go by is to add a layer of ash for every 6 inches of compost.

3. pH Correction of Soil

If you have acidic soil, you can use wood ash to reduce the acidity. It acts the same way as lime, so save yourself the trouble and expense of lime.

Just note that wood ash will quickly change your soil’s pH (whereas lime is slow-acting). Don’t put on more than 5 lbs of wood ash per 100 feet at once. Retest your soil using a PH tester after putting on the wood ash. Reapply if necessary to get a good soil pH of 6 to 7.5 in your garden.

Remember that some plants (peppers, blueberries, etc.) like acidic soil, so don’t use it on their soil!

As a general rule, never exceed 25 pounds of wood ash per 1,000 square feet of soil, and always retest your soil after applying wood ash.

4. Pest Control

One good use for wood ash is to control pests like slugs and certain bugs that will eat your garden. To use the ash, sprinkle it around your garden bed or even around individual plants.

5. Controlling Algae Levels in Ponds

Got a pond that is full of algae? The wood ash won’t kill the algae, but its potassium does help boost other pond plants that compete with the algae, thus controlling the algae levels. Add 1 tbsp of wood ash for every 1,000 gallons of water in the pond.

6. Making Soap

This is one of the most traditional uses for wood ash. You need to mix the wood ash with water to turn it into lye. The lye is then mixed with animal fat and can be boiled to make a soap. You add salt to the mix as it cools to make it set. Here’s a good guide on how to make ash soap.

7. Chicken Bath

chickens in dust bath

Got backyard chickens? Mix some wood ash with sand to make a dust bath for your chickens. They dust bathe to keep themselves clean and remove mites from their feathers.

8. Melting Ice and Snow

It doesn’t look pretty, but you can sprinkle wood ash on snow or ice to help de-ice it. It also provides some traction on ice (but will make your boots dirty). It is the potassium carbonate in the ash which helps with the melting.

9. Shining Silverware

Mix wood ash with a bit of water to make a paste. Then you can use it for shining silverware.

What other uses for wood ash can you think of? Let us know in the comments below.

By Kapilbutani (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia CommonsBy Laurentius (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia CommonsLynda Poulter [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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  1. For cleaning the glass doors on a fire place when they get sooty. dip your cleaning item (i use wadded up newspaper) into some water then into the ash, start rubbing it onto the glass. Works like a dream.

  2. my mom had lots of antiques in her home and if there ever became a water ring from a glass which should not have been put down on it!, We would make a paste out of wood ash and gently rub the furniture with the grain and the white ring would disappear.

  3. If you want really soft hair use water that has been softened with ashes.
    We have barrels to collect rainwater and ashes keep them free of algae.

  4. +1 for using it to clean the glass on the stove.. just dampen some kitchen paper, dip into some fine ash and rub the glass lightly, then clean off. works wonders on even blackened marks.

    • I believe it is used to make homemade tattoo ink in some places. Not something I am really familiar with though. Would love to hear more if any readers have experience of this.

      • My very first tattoo was don’t with wood ash ink. It’s just as dark and crisp as the day it was done….that was over 25yrs ago

  5. Anyone thinking of #8 Melting ice may want to be sure you are not doing this on a walk way since ash, like charcoal will be prone to leaving black on the carpet. If you apply it past the edge of the walk, the melt water will help to thaw the ice on the walk. Cheers!

  6. I clean the glass door of my fireplace with ashes just wet a non scratch scourer and dip in the ashes then firmly clean it, then wipe the glass with clean paper or cloth to remove dirt.
    Also in Spain where I am from, granny’s used the ashes and water after filtering to clean bedding sheets. But not sure of the exact method.
    My grandaddy used to clean his teeth with ashes as well.
    I will try the soap thanks for the tip!!!

  7. Another use for wood ash when cleaning paint brushes. First clean with paint thinner or water then give the brush a dust bath in a can of sifted wood ashes. The ash absorbs the extra paint/water/thinner that still clings to the deep insides of the bristles. Knock off the ash and wire brush it to have a very clean brush!

  8. Another unconventional use for wood ash is as a cover material in a composting toilet. My favorite use is as fertilizer for our asparagus patch! Thanks for sharing my soap post!


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