Anyone who owns a wood burning stove or fireplace knows that sweeping ash from their firebox is important for proper operation of the appliance. However, there are some important safety concerns that need to be addressed before you clean out your wood burning appliance. Furthermore, once you clean out your ash, what do you do with it? Many people just throw out their used ash, but did you know that there are a number of useful things that you can do with your leftover ash? At Leonard and Sons, we like to be resourceful. Because of that, we like to let our customers know that they don’t have to just toss out their ash once they clean it out of their appliance, but they actually put it to good use!
Cleaning out your ash
Although you don’t have to clean your fireplace ash out after every fire you light, you should make sure that you don’t let it accumulate too much. We usually suggest trying to clean out your ashes at least once a week. When it becomes time to clean out your ash, make sure that your fireplace has a chance to cool for at least 24 hours since your last fire. This will give your ash plenty of time to cool down. To remove ash, have a metal bucket or container with a securable lid and shovel ready. Oftentimes, fireplace tool sets will include an ash shovel and broom. Shovel the ashes into the bucket, being careful not to disturb the ashes too much. Any sudden movements could send ashes all over your living area. Once the ashes are cleaned up, secure the lid and place the ashes somewhere where they won’t be knocked into. Make sure you do not place your ash bucket on or near any flammable surfaces, such as a wood deck. Now your ashes are ready for use!
What can I do with my used ash?
Wood ash has had many uses that date back thousands of years. Although it is okay to simply throw away your ashes, why not try to use it in one (or a few) of the ways described here. It is important to note that these ideas should only be implemented with ash that has come from a natural wood source. Using ash from non-wood or treated wood will not give you the effect you want and it could cause damage or be dangerous in some situations.
Ash can be very messy, so it probably seems strange that you can actually use it to clean. In fact, some of the first soaps ever made were created by extracting lye from hardwood ash and mixing it with vegetable or animal fat. You can use this same process to make soap the same way your ancestors did.
Ash is also mildly abrasive, so it makes a good polish for glass, silver and other metals. All you need to do is mix some ash with a little bit of water to form a thick paste. You can then use this paste to polish your silverware, glassware, or anything else that might need polishing
You can also use ash as a deodorizer. If you have a closet, room, or confined space that doesn’t smell well, you can put a little bowl of ash in the area and it will absorb some of the odor. Wood ash also has the ability to deodorize your pets. If you ever have a dog that gets into a tussle with a skunk, you can use wood ash to try to make your pup smell better. Just take a little bit of dry wood ash and sprinkle it on your dog. Let it set a little while to absorb the odor before blowing it out of the fur.
Lawn and Garden
Lawn and garden applications are another great way to use your leftover ash. When you burn wood, the nitrogen and sulfur are lost. However, calcium, potassium, and magnesium are still left in the ash. These are important nutrients for plants. Ash has a high pH, meaning that if you have soils that are acidic, you can add ash as a way to neutralize its pH. Just sprinkle about 10 to 15 pounds of ash per 1,000 square feet of lawn to give it a little alkaline boost. However, if your soil is already alkaline (having a pH greater than 7.0), you should avoid amending it to your soil. Also, if you are planting acidic loving plants, like azaleas, rhododendrons, or blueberries, you should not use ash around them.
If you aren’t ready to apply ash to your lawn or garden yet, you can help give your compost pile a nutritional boost by mixing in your ash with your food scraps and yard waste. Just remember that the ash is in your compost because it will also rise the pH of your compost as well, just to a lesser degree than adding strait ash to your soil or lawn.
Wood ash has also been known to repel slugs and snails. Just sprinkle some ash on your garden beds and these types of pests should become less of an issue. You can also add a tablespoon of ash for every thousand gallons of water in your pond to help control algae grown and strengthen other beneficial plants.
Recycle your ash!
At Leonard and Sons, we believe that it’s important to cut down on waste and recycling your ash is a great way to do this! Also, remember that spring is just around the corner, so now is a great time to schedule your spring chimney cleaning. If you live in the Chicagoland area, call Leonard and Sons at 847-658-7659 or check us out online to schedule an appointment.