Uses for Wood Ashes

It's that time of year! With roaring fires come bags and bags of wood ashes.

While in some climates, they can go into the compost. In the high desert here, we have alkaline soil so wood ashes can mess with the pH; we have to add them with care. What are other uses for wood ashes? It seems that many natural things have natural uses, so I feel I am overlooking something.

What do you all do with wood ashes?


  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2020

    This list work? Some I'm a little skeptical about.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,407 admin

    Wow! This is quite the list. Lots of good ideas but ...... (there's always a but).

    Not all wood ashes are created equal. Many times there is other stuff in the ashes. Paper and cardboard that has been used for fire starter among many other things. And it depends on the type of wood you are burning. While I might uses ashes from certain types of wood, there are others that I wouldn't. Hardwood ash would be the best for food uses. I wouldn't use cedar ash on anything food related (like the cheese they mention). Don't use yew ash for anything!

    Please don't drink lye water. Please don't ingest wood ashes for heart burn. Please be very careful if you are thinking of using ash for tooth powder.

    One of the things that uses up our ashes quickly is spreading them on the ice in the driveway. Makes for great traction. But that's only for us northerners that get a lot of ice build-up.

  • Slippy
    Slippy Posts: 117 ✭✭✭

    I mix wood ashes into our raised beds and into our compost. Also, we built a dust bath area for the chickens and its a combo of sand, dirt and wood ash.

  • Cornelius
    Cornelius Posts: 872 ✭✭✭✭

    I have read that it can be used to make soap.

  • ltwickey
    ltwickey Posts: 369 ✭✭✭

    I use it mainly for pest and bug deterrent around the perimeter of the yard. Works great on keeping ticks out the yard.

  • Hassena
    Hassena Posts: 345 ✭✭✭

    We use our wood ash in the compost.

    To absorb odors in the goat barn. Make sure to add woodchips.

    To raise the ph of compost tea.

    I've heard hardwood ashes can be used to make lye for soap.

    I add it to the litter box too.

    Basically I use ash in place of de in the winter.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,407 admin

    Wood ashes are great to put down the outhouse to keep down the odour and the flies.

  • Annie Kate
    Annie Kate Posts: 680 ✭✭✭✭

    "One of the things that uses up our ashes quickly is spreading them on the ice in the driveway. Makes for great traction. But that's only for us northerners that get a lot of ice build-up."

    Hi @torey I have always worried that the wood ash on ice would be hard on the dogs' paws, being so basic. What do you think?

    COWLOVINGIRL Posts: 954 ✭✭✭✭

    @Slippy Yes, great for chicken's dust bath!

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,407 admin

    @Annie Kate We haven't had a dog in a long time but when we did we were using wood ashes on the driveway all the time. I never noticed an issue with it. If they were spending a lot of time in the driveway, maybe. But our dog spent most of her time on the lawn or in the bush. You could always get boots for your dog if you were really concerned about it. Its something maybe Doc Jones could address.

    I have just sent an e-mail to him so we'll see what he has to say.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,407 admin

    @Annie Kate This is the answer I received from Doc Jones.

    "I wouldn't anticipate ashes being an issue on pup paws." 

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,827 ✭✭✭✭✭

    We generate huge amounts of ashes with our woodstoves in Vermont. My husband and I end up dumping most of them in our woods.

    I have put a few in the raised beds, but I worry about getting the soil too alkaline. I had a bad scab problem with my All Blue potatoes this year, and I think that having put some (not a lot) of wood ashes in that bed had a very negative effect.

    Of course, other vegetables, like cucumbers, like soil to be somewhat alkaline. A moderate amount of ashes could help there.

    I don't know of any way to get the benefit of the potassium in the ashes without also getting the pH effect. I suppose you could put both ashes and an acid, but that feels like over-managing what should be a natural process.

    Perhaps if I dumped some ashes on our leaf piles, they would turn to leaf mold faster?