15 Handy Things You Can Do With Ashes from Your Fireplace

A wood-burning fireplace adds both ambience and welcome heat during the winter months. But what to do with all the ashes those cozy fires leave behind? There are lots of ways to recycle wood ash. Before you scoop the next batch of ashes in the trash, check out our top 15 uses for the ashes from your fireplace.

  1. Add to Compost

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    fireplace ash in compost

    Adding wood ash to your compost pile is a wonderful way to both recycle that waste and boost the potassium level of your compost. There’s a reason gardeners call compost “black gold”—it's a gold mine of nutrition for your plants in the spring.

    Related: 7 Times to Throw Garbage in Your Garden

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  2. Use as Ice Melt

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    fireplace ash ice melt

    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. 

    Related: 7 Tricks Every Driver Needs to Know This Winter

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  3. Amend Your Soil

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    wood ash for soil

    If you have acidic soil, you can amend it 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 even more quickly because its particle size is so much smaller.

    Related: The Best Things You Can Do for Your Garden Soil

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  4. Absorb Odors

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    Ashes Absorb Odors

    Wood ash is alkaline, just like baking soda, which means it will absorb moisture and odors from the air. Put a small bowl of it in your fridge or in a musty room, and it will absorb the odors, making things fresh again.

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

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  5. Clean Up Stains on the Driveway

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    remove oil stain with ashes

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

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  6. Control Slugs and Snails

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    how to get rid of slugs and snails with ashes

    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. So, put a ring of wood ash around plants to keep these pests at bay.

    Related: 8 Ways to Combat Garden Pests

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  7. Make Soap

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    make soap with ashes

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

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  8. Polish Metal

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    cleaning with fireplace ashes

    Wood ash is a mild abrasive, so if you mix it with a little water to make a paste, you can polish up silver and other metals.

    Related: 21 Time-Saving Tricks That May Change the Way You Clean

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  9. Slow Algae Growth

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    slow algae growth with ash

    While wood ash won’t actually kill algae, ashes can help to 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.

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  10. Remove Skunk Stink

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    fireplace ash for skunk

    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.

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  11. Clean Up Soot

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    fireplace ash remove tarnish

    In the same way that a wood-ash paste can remove tarnish, it can be used to removed soot from your fireplace doors. Simply mix ashes and a little water into a paste, then use it as a mild abrasive to get that glass shiny and clean again.

    Related: 10 Steps to Readying Your Fireplace for Winter

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  12. Make Natural Bleach

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    wood ash lye

    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.

    Related: 10 Classic Cleaners That've Stood the Test of Time

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  13. Control Humidity

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    wood ash for humid room

    Wood ash is a desiccant that you can put to use in humid spaces, like a damp basement or poorly ventilated bathroom. Just a small tray of wood ash in the corner can help draw the humidity out of a room.

    Related: 14 Surprising Places Where Mold Hides in the Home

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  14. Deter Ants

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    wood ash as insect repellent

    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

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  15. Put Out Fires

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    put out fire with ashes

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

    Related: 10 Things Never to Burn in the Fireplace

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  16. See the House of the Week

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    Discover and admire beautiful and innovative home architecture, from grand Victorians to quaint cabins and all the styles in between. Take a look at the latest images and inspiration!