61 Uses for Wood Ash on the Homestead

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There are numerous uses for wood ash around the homestead. Throwing away this useful material when cleaning out the wood burner or fireplace is almost inexcusably wasteful.

Wood ash is the powdery residue that is left in the wood burner collection tray or beneath the firewood grate after wood is burnt. It has been used a potash to enhance the soil by both farmers and gardeners for centuries.

The tedious but necessary chore of cleaning out the fireplace or wood burning stove might feel at least a little bit less like a chore when you begin thinking of all the ways you can repurpose the firewood “waste.”

Pot ash was once so popular in England folks were buying land and cutting down trees specifically for the purpose of collecting wood ash. “Pot Ash Fever,” it during the 18th Century after farmers in the new world discovered how beneficial the residue from burnt logs could be in the garden.

Just 20 years after the birth of America, the first patent in the newly created country was signed. United States Patent $1 was issued for a fertilizer creation process centered around wood ash.

Pot Ash Fever lasted until a simpler and less expensive manner of generating both lime and potassium was invented, years later.

Uses for Wood Ash in the Garden

#1. Compost Pile

Pour cooled wood ash directly onto the compost pile and allow it to go to work for you by increasing the overall potassium content of the dirt. Wood ash contains trace minerals that help to churn out a nutrient-rich soil for starting seedlings and cultivating container, vertical gardening, and greenhouse crops.

You can even sprinkle a handful or two of wood ash composting soil onto struggling plants in a traditional garden to give them a helpful nutrient boost. Before putting the garden to bed for the year in the late fall, treat the ground with wood ash to help harden it against a loss of vital nutrients over the long winter months.

Wood ash also helps to strengthen crops that thrive on calcium. Mix together one-fourth of a cup of wood ash in with a 5-pound bucket of soil and use it when sowing peas, grapes, tomatoes, garlic, spinach, green beans, and avocados.

#2. Pest Deterrent

Place some wood ash into a bowl or other open container and put it in areas where mice, rats, cockroaches, and other unwanted household visitors frequent to deter them from entry – or send them running back into the great outdoors where they belong!

#3. Slug Infestation

Keep snails and slugs out of your garden by lining the rows between the crops with a relatively thick layer of wood ash. If you have particularly stealthy slug, grind up some eggshells and mix them together with the wood ash.

The egg shells hurt the bellies of the slugs and they will meander in another direction as rapidly as feasible to avoid the eggs shells.

#4. Plant Frost Helper

If the temperatures are predicted to dip to an unseasonably cold degree, sprinkle some wood ash on leaves to prevent frost.

#5. Raise Soil pH

If you are growing plants that need less acidity in the soil, you might want to add wood ash. Most garden vegetables need neutral soils, except for some rare ones, like potatoes, that prefer more acidity.

Make sure you test your soil before adding wood ash, though! Other plants, like tomatoes, will do really well with an addition of wood ash, though.

#6. Protect Your Hives

Do you raise bees for honey? If so, wood ash can help. Usually, bees are more than capable on their own of defending their hives from intruders. However, bees may be susceptible to invaders because of the weather or due to other conditions, like nearby pesticide use.

You can make a circle of ash around your beehive to deter ants. Ants will move their homes if there is too much wood ash – so they will be less likely to maraud the hive in search of honey.

#7. Compost Tea

Sure, you can add wood ash to your compost and then make compost tea to fertilize your plants. Or you can skip a step and make compost tea with wood ashes instead.

All you have to do is follow the same steps you normally would to make compost tea by soaking your mixture in water and allowing it to “steep.” However, instead of using compost, you’ll use wood ash. It will naturally boost the potassium in your garden.

#8. Keep Worms Away

If you have trees like pecan trees around your homestead, you can sprinkle wood ash around them to keep web worms away. Nobody knows for sure why this hack works, but it’s highly effective at keeping these damaging pests at bay.

#9. Prevent Weeds

Sprinkle some wood ash where you want to prevent weeds. You won’t have to weed nearly as often, as the ash can help suffocate harmful weeds as it also fertilizes the soil gradually over time.

Around the House

#10. Little Old Ants

Those annoying little insects might look like they can light and carry just about any dropped picnic morsel, but they cannot pack away wood ash – and they apparently don’t like that!

Pour some wood ash anywhere you discover an ant colony and watch the whole tribe of insects suddenly pack up and relocate.

#11. Clothes Storage

Instead of buying moth balls to protect stored clothing and blankets, sprinkle some wood ash on top of, around, and underneath the material.

The wood ash won’t stain, and can simply be shaken off and the clothing or blankets washed if need be, before wearing or using.

Cleaning, Beauty and First Aid Uses

#12. Toothpaste

Some varieties of wood create an ash that serves as a natural whitener in homemade toothpaste. The toothpaste, well actually, most recipes that use wood ash to whiten teeth are technically a tooth powder, typically has a very pleasant taste.

Ash from some trees are not suitable for homemade tooth powder, conifer trees, in particular, are far too astringent and can actually damage tooth enamel.

The potassium hydroxide (lye) present in wood ash can help get rid of plaque while whitening teeth. Daily use of wood ash for an extended period of time has caused tooth enamel damage, regardless of the type of tree that was used as firewood, in some individuals.

The ash from soft wood is most often used when creating this type of homemade tooth powder. To make a wood ash tooth powder, simply combines equal parts of the ash with any 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 the ingredients into the blender and hit pulse for about 30 seconds. Dip a dampened toothbrush into the powder and brush your teeth as you would with commercially manufactured toothpaste.

#13. Natural First Aid

Wood ash has long been regarded as a bacteria killer that can also enhance the healing process of wounds and burns. Mix together equal parts lye water and liquid soap, and the apply liberally to the wound to cleanse the area.

#14. Clean Your Stove

Use a bit of wood ash on a glass stove top to help get rid of stains. Let the wood ash scrub all the soot off the glass so you don’t have to worry about stuck-on food particles.

#15. Lye Water

Making your own clearning products is cheaper and typically a lot healthier, than buying chemical-laden products at the local big box store. Boil approximately three tablespoons of wood ash in a cup of water and then use a coffee filter to strain the mixture.

Lye water is excellent for cleaning silverware, glass, removing rust, and most types of cookware. Lye water is not the same type of material used in the making of lye soap. Some folks even drink a few tablespoons of lye water on occasion to cleanse their intestines.

#16. DIY Makeup

If you love having cosmetics on hand, consider making your own with wood ash. Roman civilizations once used wood ash mixed with saffron and darkening agents as an eyebrow thickener and smoky eyeshadow. It looks great and will nourish your skin, too.

#17. Hair Treatment

Wash your hair with lye water and then rinse with apple cider vinegar for a natural oil-reducing treatment.

#18. Stain Remover

Wood ash can also be mixed in a two to one part ratio with warm water to create a stain removing paste. Gently wipe the paste on the stained on clothing or furniture and allow it to set for approximately five minutes before wiping away the paste.

#19. Skunk Smell Remover

If you or your pets get sprayed with a skunk, save your tomato juice for chili and rub some wood ash onto the hair and flesh instead to remove the awful and lingering odor.

#20. Remove Hair Dye From Your Skin

If you regularly dye your own hair at home, you know how frustrating it can be to get hair dye on your skin! Use a bit of wood ash on a wet cloth to get rid of the stain.

#21. Use it as a Hair Removal Treatment

Uh-oh – pesky nose hairs got you down? Don’t rush off to the store for expensive removal creams. Instead, just mix some clean, fine wood ashes with a bit of water. Push some of the mixture into your nostrils and the hair should come out without any bit of trouble.

#22. Use it to Treat Bug Bites

Many African tribes use wood ash as a topical treatment not just for wounds, but also to treat bug bites. Wood ash can help relieve the histamine response, relieving the itching and burning associate with insect bites and stings. Simply make a paste out of water and dab it on your skin.

#23. Treat Heart Burn

Because it is so basic, wood ash is a great way to treat heart burn caused by too much acid. A teaspoon or so is all you need!

#24. Treat Athlete’s Foot

Your feet may look a little grimy after this treatment, but they should definitely stop itching! To use wood ash for athlete’s foot, all you need to do is mix a bit of hardwood ash on the affected foot and leave it on for a bit. Itch be gone!

#25. Prevent Ticks and Fleas

Sprinkle a bit of wood ash on your pets (or yourself) to make it more difficult for fleas and ticks to latch on for a ride.

Food Preservation Uses

#26. Odor Remover

Pour one cup of wood ash into a smelly trash can or similar stinky container, spot, or space and allow it to absorb the odor. You can also pour some wood ash into a bowl and place it into the refrigerator to eliminate food odor as well.

#27.Food-Related Preservation

Farmers in many regions around the world routinely preserve fresh fruits and vegetables by putting them into clay pots or digging a hole, and filling it both the produce and wood ash.

#28. Preserve Tomatoes

Did you know that you can save tomatoes for the winter months by preserving them in wood ashes? All you have to do is cover them in ash and put them in a cool, dark location.

#29. Egg Preservation

Long before their were refrigerators, farmers used wood ash to preserve the longevity of the eggs laid by their hens.

You can store eggs in a number of ways, but one of the easiest ways to do so is to cover whole, unwashed eggs in wood ashes. Store them in a cool, dark cellar and they’ll last for months. They may have a musty flavor, but you won’t have to worry about them spoliing.

Another way to dry pack eggs, mix together equal parts of wood ash, lime, cooked rice, clay, and salt. Roll the egg into the mixture until it is fully and thickly coated – or wrapped.

If the egg yolks appear gray or green when you crack them, the egg is no longer good. For the sake of safety, use the soak or sink in a bowl of water test before eating, cooking, or baking with dry-packed eggs.

#30. Make Your Bread More Fluffy

Is your bread too heavy and dense? Try adding some wood ash. It will help lighten up your bread, and improve its leavening ability.

Though I cannot vouch for this method, this article points out that the Navajos used juniper wood ash when making bread. And here’s another useful piece on cooking with ash.

#31. Rennet Preservation

This essential ingredient in cheese-making has long been preserve by putting it inside a container (an animal horn was used in ancient times) and covering it completely with wood ash.

Mud as used to seal the top of the container, meaning an animal horn, before hanging it from a tree for safe-keeping. This process is believed to keep the rennet good for at least several years.

#32. Seed Preservation

Put your heirloom seeds inside a clay pot and cover them with woo ash. You can add more seeds in between layers of wood ash until the clay pot is filled to the top.

When preserving more than one food item in a single pot or hole, a layer of wood ash around all sides of the produce must be present to prevent the food from touching each other, the dirt, or the pot, and rotting.

The top of the clay container or hole must be covered with a lid or pieces of wood as tightly as possible to prevent air from getting inside.

#33. Make Cheese

You can not only use wood ash for rennet in cheese making, but also for the process of making cheese. Plenty of cheeses have wood ash layers while others are coated in wood ash. It can make the cheese less acidic and also balance out the surface flora.

#34. Make Wood Ash Pickles

You can use wood ash to make pickles crisper, too. Do this by making a lye solution soak. While the wood ash won’t contribute to the pickling process, it will help break down food matter to contribute towards preservation.

#35. Preserve Olives

If you are lucky enough to live in an area where olives can be grown, why not make your own preserved olives? Wood ash is required for curing olives and it’s a great way to store them for the other months of the year.

#36. Whip Up Some Traditional Chinese Recipes

There are two major Chinese recipes made with wood ash. Both Chinese noodles and Chinese moon cakes are made with lye water. In noodles, the lye water gives the noodles their traditional yellow color, while in moon cakes, the lye water helps the dough stay soft and perfect for baking.

#37. Make a Wood Ash Seasoning

Looking for a unique way to season your vegetables? Try wood ash! Native Americans traditionally used wood ash – particularly maple wood ash – to flavor vegetables instead of using salt.

For Your Livestock

#38. Make a Dust Bath For Your Chickens

Chickens love – and need! – dust baths. This is how they groom themselves and prevent parasites. Plus, dust bathing is an important social ritual for your flock. You can use wood ash in your dust bath to prevent the risk of pests and diseases.

#39. Livestock Pest Remover

Keep a container of wood ash in the barn and sprinkle it on livestock – and your domestic pets too, to deter lice, ticks, and fleas.

If you don’t mind the feel and look of firewood ash in your own hair, sprinkle some on before going outside to do chores or spending time in the woods to ward off ticks on your as well.

To enhance the tick and flea repellent power of wood ash, mix it in a two to one part ratio with apple cider vinegar to more thoroughly and deeply penetrate the fur and flesh of your livestock.

#40. Chicken Feed Supplement

If your chickens are low on calcium and potassium, you may want to add a bit of wood ash to their feed. You only need about 1% per feed, but it can help extend laying, reduce the stinkiness of their manure, and even treat conditions like egg binding and intestinal parasites.

#41. Chemical Free Dewormer

Use wood ash to prevent internal parasites in your livestock. Make sure you use it sparingly at firs to see how your animals react, and always provide plenty of water.

Some anecdotal evidence has suggested that this can be super helpful when used with other natural dewormers, like apple cider vinegar and garlic.

Around the House

#42. Ice Remover

Because wood ash also possesses salt, it can be poured on to frosted windshields and sidewalks to melt ice – or place on the surface in advance to help prevent ice from forming.

If you have satellite dishes for internet and cable service, wood ash may also help prevent them from icing-up during a winter storm, as well.

#43. Revamp Your Paving

I already mentioned that you can use wood ash to remove stains – but you don’t have to exclude its use to clothing and furniture. Wood ash can also be used to absorb paint spatters on cement! All you have to do is sprinkle it directly on the affected spot and rub it in.

#44. Deodorizer

Wood ash is a great deodorizer for all bathroom areas but particularly for composting toilets or outhouses. It can absorb the smell and also enhance the breakdown and composting of the waste.

#45. DIY Deodorant

Make your own deodorant with wood ash! Since most commercial deodorants are expensive and contain harmful metals like aluminum, this DIY remedy is a great alternative.

All you have to do is mix a bit of woo dash with some water to make a paste and you have a great stink repellent for under your arms! You can add a bit of baking soda to improve the effect and scent, too.

#46. Homestead Exfoliator

Just as wood ash has all the grit you need to get rid of stains, it can also help get you clean Just use it to wash with in the shower, and you’ll find that the set-in dirt and grime comes off much more easily.

#47. Prevent Mold

Wood ash absorbs humidity, so you can easily use it in naturally damp areas to prevent mold – think your dampest cupboards under the sinks or your basement. Just use small chunks of charcoal in the ash for best results.

#48. Shine Silverware

If you’re sick of the standard chemical-based silverware cleaners, consider using wood ash. You can make a quick paste with equal parts ash and water and you’ll have a great nontoxic metal polisher.

#49. Humidity Remover

Place cooled wood ash into a METAL container in any room where the humidity levels are too high and allow the natural substance to draw the moisture from the air.

#50. Fire Extinguisher

Stockpile wood ash to help put out interior or exterior fires. I keep a bucket of ash in my barn and next to all of the hay bales for just that purpose.

#51. Clean Up Soot

This sounds counterintuitive, but you can actually use wood ash to clean up soot! It removes tarnish and can get the soot off your fireplace doors.

All you have to do is mix together a bit of water and some ashes until you have a paste. Then, use it as a mild abrasive to restore that shine to your doors.

#52. Clean Your Car Headlights

Don’t buy expensive cleaners to get the bugs off the headlights of your car! Instead, just dip a damp cloth into some wood ash and use it to wipe down the lights. Then, use a separate damp rag to remove the paste. Works like a charm!

Other Uses for Wood Ash

#53. Aquaponics

To reduce algae and enhance the water used in aquaponics farm operations, pour in 1 tablespoon of wood as for ever 1,000 liters of water.

#54. Homestead Cooking

Okay, you might be a bit skeptical here – but just bear with me! Wood ash is actually a part of many traditional cuisines. It has a unique flavor that offers its own characteristics to a variety of dishes.

Hominy, for example, is a Native American dish that involved soaking field corn in lye made out of wood ashes. This makes certain B vitamins bioavailable and can prevent nutritional deficiencies. You can also use lye water made out of wood ash to soak and bake pretzels and bagels, too.

#55. DIY Paint

You don’t need to run off to the store for paint any more. All you need to do is turn to your trusted wood ash! It can even be dyed if you so desire.

#56. Make Your Own Glue

Combine some wood ash with full-fat milk and vinegar to make a homestead glue.

#57. Tanning

More people are beginning to tan their own hides, whether they are from animals they have raised on the farm and slaughtered or hunted in the wild. It’s a great way to use every last bit of an animal.

You can use wood ash to help preserve your hides, too. Native American tribes once soaked their hides in wood ash water before scraping them. This made the hides easier to scrape.

#58. Create a Pearl Ash Leavening

Baking soda didn’t come onto the scene until the 1860s – and so wood ash was one of the first leavening agents. You can use potash (made from lye, which is made out of wood ashes) to get started.

#59. Make Cement

You can make a primitive form of cement by mixing wood ash with terra cotta. There is a bit of a process involved, but if you can’t afford store-bought cement and have some building projects to get done, it’s a fantastic DIY solution.

#60. Create a Pottery Glaze

If you like to turn your own pottery, you can make an easy glaze with your leftover wood ash. This has been done in China since around 1500 B.C.

#61. Clean Up Oil Spills

Have you ever been working on a tractor or another piece of machinery around the homestead and found that you have a huge mess of oil to clean up afterwards? Wood ash can help absorb the mess and will allow you to soak it up quickly without contaminating the groundwater.

What are some of your favorite uses for wood ash around the homestead? Please leave a note in the comment section to share any possible wood ash uses we missed and let us know how well the items on our list worked on your homestead!

wood ash uses Pinterest

updated by Rebekah White 11/06/2019


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Tara Dodrill
About Tara Dodrill 145 Articles
Tara lives on a 56 acres farm in the Appalachian Mountains, where she faces homesteading and farming challenges every single day. her homesteading skills are unmatched, she raises chickens, goats, horses, a wide variety of vegetables, not to mention she's an expert is all sorts of homesteading skills such as hide tanning, doll making, tree tapping and many, many more.

21 Comments

    • Libraries often time carry some good books on the subject. It hasn’t changed much over the years. Google “Brain Tanning” which is the oldest form and you will find lots of resources.

  1. When I lived in a state with lots of snow, I would keep a gallon jug of wood ashes in the trunk of my car. If I got stuck or the road was too slippery to drive on, I would sprinkle the ash behind the tires for automatic traction.

  2. I’m laying down a short brick path in our woods and I had this idea to use wood ash underneath as a base. Any ideas if that would work?

  3. Wondering how to mix it to soak my feet as a detox. Don’t want to burn them as my skin is dry. Bentonite clay from volcanic ash can be used internally and externally and has rich minerals; I assume wood ash is similar.

  4. Before putting any amount of wood ash into the garden, have a soil test done by your land grant university. Wood ash is a powerful soil amendment. If you add too much, it could take much longer than you think to return the soil to a normal range.

    • It is always a good idea to routinely check the soil in your compost, great reminder comment, Daryle. I use a lot of wood ash in our compost piles, but at least part of it always goes to our hens as well. Most counties have a soil and water conservation office that will conduct a soil test free or for a nominal fee, if a land grant university is not nearby. If your county has a 4-H program, there will be a land grant university sponsored extension office and an agent overseeing the program, there as well. You can do at least a rough test of your soil quickly at home. Here is a pretty good video to show you how it is done. https://youtu.be/hmH0XoRp2P8

    • Thank you Petros. How do you use wood ash around your homestead? Please share your homesteading adventures, successes, and failures with our homesteading community!

    • Volney,

      No uses for charcoal ash that I know of.It is more acidic and alkaline than wood ash are really does not belong in the compost pile, on your teeth, or in any home remedies for either humans or livestock. It does not make a good plant growth aid either, even for plants that thrive with enhanced alkaline and acidic content because of the chemicals in the lighter fluid used to ignite it.

    • Exactly! I love finding new uses for things so they do not end up in a trash pile! We just recently started bees on our homestead, several loved ones are allergic, including myself, so a good bit of planning needed to go into the process. Everyone should become more aware of the value of bees and the massive population decline they have been on since 2005. Far too few people understand they pollinate 70 percent of the food we eat and how depend we are on the little pollinators. Thank you for doing your part to help the bees! Please share some photos of your apiary and the goods you make from the production of your hive!

  5. Lots of good ones, than you – but I have one more: I was told that wood ash is perfect addition to the chicken dust bath as its tiny particles help with mites and lice infestation. Is that correct?

    • Ljiljana,

      I can’t believe I left that one off the list! Pouring wood ash into a shallow livestock feed tub for my hens to use as a dust bath was the very first way that I learned to re-used wood ash! It definitely helps keeps down mites and lice and reduces molting as well, in my personal experience. We free range all of our livestock – essentially. They have free range of the entire 56 fenced acres – gate at the road and left open usually in other areas. So, my flocks do not need “boredom busters” like keepers who confine their birds to a coop and run. But, if you cannot free range, or don’t love to raise animals that way like I do, wood ash is about the best boredom buster for hens. They love to gather together and bathe and chatter away like a group of ladies gossiping at the beauty shop the entire time!

  6. I knew you could use it in the garden but all the rest I had no clue.Just a little more knowledge to store and use when I get my homestead.Thanks guys keep it coming

    • Kenny,

      Glad you enjoyed another one of our homesteading articles! I hope you have a printer and a set of color-coordinated binders started to nearly freely get a great homesteading library going! Do you engage in any homesteading activities where you live now? Even if you are in an apartment, we can shoot some ideas to you to help you enhance your skill set as much as possible until you find your dream land and go whole hog with this wonderfully time consuming and dirty, enriching, frustrating, and rewarding self-reliant lifestyle.

  7. These are some great ideas!! I don’t have a fire place but some of my neighbors do. Time to go visit them. Thanks for the information.

    • Judith,

      I am glad that you liked the piece. I bet your neighbors would be very grateful to allow you to come rid them of their wood ash! Do you have a wood stove? This time of the year we generate more wood ash than I can make use of. I keep a metal trash can just outside of the back door so we can dump the hot wood ash in it when switching out the collection trays.

      • hey i am looking at a way to use wood ash to give color to a liquid , my goal is to make a black cocktail with a burned wood flavors , do you have any thoughts on that ?, thank you 🙂

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