20 Surprising Ways You Can Use Ashes From Your Fire Pit or Fireplace

Don’t let the remnants from last night’s fire go to waste! Repurposing ashes in these surprising ways can help you save money and lead a more sustainable lifestyle.
Man holding ashes from a fire pit


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Beyond their conventional use, the remnants of a wood-burning fireplace hold surprising potential. In fact, in the 1700s through the early 1900s, wood ash was used to produce potash (an alkaline potassium compound) for fertilizer and alkali before its value as a raw material declined. From enhancing soil quality to crafting natural cleaning solutions, we’re rediscovering just how versatile ashes can be around the house.

Not all wood ash should be repurposed, however: Avoid using wood ashes from painted, chemically treated, or stained wood as they can contain harmful substances that can harm plants and soil if they’re used in the garden. The safest wood ashes for repurposing come from untreated, natural wood that has not been processed or chemically treated.

1. Compost Them

home compost bin

There’s a reason gardeners call compost “black gold”: It’s a gold mine of nutrition for your plants. Adding wood ash to your compost both recycles waste and boosts the potassium level of your compost. Add a thin sprinkle of untreated wood ash over the organic matter in your compost pile, and you can look forward to hearty plant growth when you spread that compost in your garden.

RELATED: 7 Times to Throw Garbage in Your Garden

2. Use Them as Ice Melt

car driving on snowy road

It’s not a bad idea to keep a container of recycled fireplace ashes in your trunk in the winter. They can give your car traction on an icy patch of road, and the potassium salts in ashes can help melt snow in moderately cold conditions.

3. Raise Soil pH

raking dirt for garden

If you have acidic soil, you can amend garden bed soil with wood ash to raise its pH. Because wood ash is about 70 percent calcium carbonate, it will do the same thing lime does, but it will work even more quickly because its particle size is so much smaller. Use the ash in moderation, of course, to avoid raising the pH too much—and be sure to test your soil regularly to check its levels.

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4. Absorb Odors

Open fridge door

Like baking soda, wood ash is alkaline, which means it will absorb moisture and odors from the air. Put a small bowl of remnants from last night’s firepit in your fridge or in a musty room, and it will freshen the space in a jif.

RELATED: Clear the Air: 10 Natural Ways to Cure Household Odors

5. Clean Stains on the Driveway

stain on asphalt

You can remove oil stains from your asphalt or concrete driveway using ashes from your fireplace. Sprinkle the ashes on top of a stain, let them sit for several hours to absorb the oil, then sweep the mess away with a broom.

6. Control Slugs and Snails

slug on leaf

Gardeners have long used ashes to deter slugs and snails from their veggie beds. Because wood ash is a natural desiccant, and the bodies of slugs and snails have such a high water content, the critters are loath to cross it. Ringing plants with a sprinkle of wood ash can keep these pests at bay.

RELATED: 8 Ways to Combat Garden Pests

7. Make Soap

Soaps stacked

When you mix wood ash with water, you get lye, which is a common ingredient in traditional soap-making. Mix in some fat and add a lot of boiling and stirring, and you’ve got homemade soap.

8. Polish Metal

Person polishing silver utensils

Wood ash is a mild abrasive. Mixing it with a little water forms a paste you can use to polish silver and other metals. Dip a soft sponge or cloth into the ash and water mixture, then rub the paste on the silver item. Wipe off with a clean cloth.

9. Slow Algae Growth

Algae on water

While wood ash won’t actually kill algae, ashes can help control it. Because wood ash is so high in potassium, sprinkling it into a pond will encourage the other plants to grow and compete with the algae, keeping it in check.

10. Remove Skunk Stink

Skunk in grass

If your pet has ever had a run-in with a skunk, you know how hard it is to get rid of the stench. Because fireplace ashes absorb odors, you can use them to get your pet smelling better, faster. Just rub ashes into your pet’s fur to absorb the smell.

11. Clean Up Soot

Fire in fireplace

In the same way that a wood-ash paste can remove tarnish, it can be used to remove soot from fireplace doors. When you are cleaning your fireplace, simply mix ashes and a little water into a paste. Use the paste as a mild abrasive to get that glass shiny and clean again.

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12. Make Natural Bleach

clear bottles of cleaning product

When wood ash is mixed with water, the resulting substance is called lye water. Lye water is often used in soap, but it can also be used by itself as a bleaching agent. A cupful added to a load of wash should do the trick.

13. Control Humidity

Humid bathroom

Wood ash is a desiccant that you can use to dry out humid spaces, like damp basements and poorly ventilated bathrooms. A small tray of wood ash in the corner can help draw the humidity out of a room.

14. Deter Ants

three ant hills

Have ants taken over in your lawn? Sprinkle a layer of wood ash over those ant hills to force them to relocate.

RELATED: 12 Tried-and-True Tricks to Stamp Out Ants

15. Put Out Fires

Fire pit with lawn chairs

Like sand, fine wood ash can smother a small fire. Keep a bucket of cooled ash close to the fire pit or fireplace in case you need to extinguish any wayward embers.

16. Fertilize Your Lawn

adding wood ash to vegetable garden

When applied appropriately, untreated wood ash has been shown to increase soil fertility and significantly improve crop growth. And what’s good for crops is good for turf. The potassium content of ash promotes root growth, while its alkalinity helps balance pH levels. Many lawn fertilizers contain high levels of nitrogen, which can eventually lower soil pH. Sprinkle cooled ash evenly over the lawn and water. However, don’t apply too much wood ash in the garden, or apply it too often. Excessive application can lead to an imbalance in the soil.

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17. Create Pottery Glaze

person brushing on pottery glaze

Wood ash can also be used as a pottery glaze due to its high mineral content. Use rubber gloves and a mesh sieve to remove larger particles. Gradually add water to create a slurry and then use a brush or spray to apply the slurry onto your pottery pieces before firing them in a kiln.

18. Make a Dust Bath

chicken dust bathing

Dust bathing is an important cleaning ritual for chickens since it helps keep their feathers clean by killing critters like lice, mites, and fleas. Fill a low container (a shallow bin or sandbox will work) with soil and wood ash, and let your chickens dust off their tail feathers.

RELATED: 11 Things You Need if You’re Raising Backyard Chickens

19. Repel Mice

Mouse in floor corner

Like snails and slugs, mice don’t like the abrasive texture of wood ash. Sprinkle a thin layer around the perimeter of your space—especially near entry points like doors and windows—to keep mice at bay.

20. Store Seeds

Storing plant broccoli seeds

If you’ve got seeds laying around but aren’t ready to plant them yet, wood ash is an effective method for storing seeds. Place a thin layer of ash at the bottom of an airtight container. Place the seeds on the ash and then apply another layer of wood ash on top. Seal the container tightly and store it in a cool, dry place.