Great Uses For Wood Ash

Did you know that one cord of firewood can yield about 50 pounds of ash? If you’ve had a cold winter and burned a lot of wood, you’ve probably got more ash than you know how to use. Before you throw it in the garbage bin, discover some of these great ways to make the most of your mineral-rich wood ash.


Before we go over some uses, it might be helpful for you to understand what wood ash consists of. Wood ash is primarily made up of calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium, but also contains trace amounts of manganese, iron, boron, sodium, zinc, copper, and molybdenum. Because it’s created from the combustion of organic material, ash holds many of the elements needed to generate new growth and as a result, has long been used by gardeners and farmers as a natural soil amendment.

Besides enriching the earth, wood ash has many household uses as well. Before you go ahead and begin using it, here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Only use ashes from wood that is chemical-free. Don’t use ash that comes from pressure-treated wood, painted or stained wood, briquettes, charcoal, or commercial products like slow-burning wood logs.
  • You’ll get the best results with ash obtained from hardwoods like oak and maple. Ash from these trees has five times as many nutrients per cord as softwoods.
  • Wood ash is highly alkaline, and so you should always wear gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask if the particles are exceptionally fine. It’s recommended to use the same precautions with wood ash as you would with bleach: another high-alkaline substance.
  • Never combine wood ash with nitrogen fertilizers like urea, as the combination will produce ammonia gas.
  • Wood ash contains salts which can damage young plants, so you shouldn’t use it on seedlings.

Indoor Wood Ash Uses:

Make ash tea for your plants - Just like compost tea, ash tea is an excellent organic, all-purpose fertilizer that is made to prevent or correct potassium deficiencies. Telltale signs your plants aren’t getting enough potassium are brown spots, curling leaf tips, yellowing between leaf veins, slower plant growth, and reduced crop yield. To make ash tea, place five pounds of ash in a cloth bag (an old pillowcase works great) and tie it closed. Place this ash bag in a 50-gallon garbage bin filled with water. Allow it to steep for several days. Once the ash tea has brewed, pour about a cup around your potassium-deficient plants weekly.
Make soap - Ancient Babylonians around 2800 B.C. made the first soaps with a mixture of animal fats and wood ash. Ash from hardwoods boiled in soft water creates lye. When you mix lye with animal fats or vegetable oils, it forms a soft soap. For firmer soap, simply add a little salt to the mix.
Toothpaste - You can make your own toothpaste with wood ash from non-coniferous softwoods when combined with equal parts of one or more of the following: baking soda, orange peels, lemon peels, turmeric, cinnamon, anise, cloves, activated charcoal, bentonite clay, xylitol, and calcium carbonate. Pour your ingredients into a blender and hit pulse for 30 seconds. Dip a dampened toothbrush into the powder and brush your teeth just as you would with store-bought toothpaste. The lye that is present in wood ash can help get rid of plaque and whiten your teeth. In some individuals, daily use of wood ash for an extended period of time has caused tooth enamel damage, so it’s not recommended for those with soft or weak enamel.
Get rid of unpleasant odors - Just like baking soda, wood ash is alkaline and can absorb and neutralize unpleasant smells. Leave a bowl of ash in the bathroom or another smelly room and replace after a couple of days. It also works great when added to kitty litter, and you can even use it to de-skunk a pet!
First aid - wood ash can be used on wounds to fight infection, kill bacteria, and aid in faster healing.
Polish silver, metal, and glass - As wood ash is mildly abrasive, it’s great for polishing tarnished silverware, dull metals, and cloudy glass (like the glass on your wood stove door). Dip a wet sponge in wood ash, or add a tad of water to a cup of ashes to make a thick paste. Use rubber gloves to spread the paste on the item you’re cleaning and let sit for a few minutes before wiping with a clean cloth. Buff with a bit of elbow grease for a great shine.

Outdoor Wood Ash Uses:

Neutralize acidic soil - Unless you’re growing acidic plants like blueberries, peppers, and azaleas, you’ll want to keep your garden soil pH between 6 to 7.5. This range is perfect because it allows fertilizer nutrients to readily dissolve in water and absorb into the plant’s roots. Before and after adding wood ash to your soil, use a soil pH testing kit to get an accurate idea of your soil’s acidity/alkaline levels.
Deter slugs and snails - During the night these pests can consume entire swaths of your garden, with a preference for tender young plants which they consume faster than the seedlings can grow. Sprinkle wood ash evenly around individual plants or along the perimeter of the entire plot as a natural slug and snail deterrent because of the drying effect the ash has on these slimy creatures. When applying the ash, try to avoid direct contact with your plants.
Add it to your compost (MODERATELY) - Doing this will help boost your compost’s potassium, which is a key nutrient for flowers and fruit. Just use caution in doing so, as you don’t want your compost to become too alkaline. A good rule of thumb is to sparingly include wood ash for every six inches of the compost pile. Again - a soil pH test will be helpful to prevent making your soil too alkaline.
Use on Calcium-loving plants - While crushed eggshells are an excellent source of calcium for the garden, wood ash also contains reasonable amounts of calcium carbonate. Sprinkle wood ash sparingly and work into the soil around calcium-loving plants like apple trees, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and celery.
Fertilize your lawn - wood ash makes an excellent substitute for lime and can help promote greener pastures. Just make sure to water your yard thoroughly after applying ash to it to prevent the ash from blowing away.
Dust bath for backyard chickens - Like many birds, chickens bathe in the dust to keep themselves clean and remove parasites like lice and mites. Mix ash with sand for a dust bath that your chickens will love.
Melt ice and snow - While most people use rock salt to melt ice and snow on their driveway, this can contribute to an increase in the salinity of nearby fresh bodies of water and is extremely toxic to plants and animals. Wood ash is a natural and safe alternative that can provide traction, de-ice, and melt snow. Unlike rock salt, wood ash won’t corrode surfaces like concrete and metal, harm your pet’s paws, or damage your plants when spring comes around.
Remove oil stains in garage and driveway - Because wood ash is a desiccant, it’s perfect for cleaning up grease spills and removing stains from porous surfaces like stone, cement, and asphalt. Sprinkle ashes on the stain, let sit for a few minutes and then sweep it all up with a broom.