8 Uses for Wood Ash

I have discovered several ways to use wood ash.

1. You can make a dustbath area in the henhouse for the hens. They love it and it keeps the mites off them, as well as providing needed minerals . They will not be losing feathers due to mites or mineral deficiency.

2. You can use the finely sifted ash to keep bugs off your garden plants. It also adds minerals to the plants.

3. Sprinkle some around the tomatoes to keep cutworms away.

4 Filter the ash by pouring water through the ash and straw and collect it in a bucket. This can be added to oil or many different fats to make lye soap. You can add sage, rosemary, mint or lavender to make different soaps.wood burning stove

5. In a grid down situation, you can use it in the outhouse in place of lime as a drying agent to keep down smells . It can also be used to cover a dead animal that is beyond being moved . It helps prevents the spread of disease.

6. Hide tanners use the lye made from ashes to tan hides.

7.  The ashes can be used as a desiccant for keeping seeds dry.

8.  A lye made from ashes is used for processing corn called nixtamalization.  Nitxamalizing corn makes it easier to grind, more flavorful, and more nutritious.

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  • tim says:

    My mom used to sprinkle the wood ashes from the woodstove around the base of the green beans. Cooked, they tasted super sweet. She only added a small amount of water and some pork to the pressure cooker and 12 to 15 minutes later they were ready to eat. I was amazed to watch the grandkids fight over them!

  • sarah corson says:

    In Latin America, people in the country cook dried corn like you feed to animals in a big pot with ashes mixed in the water. (Usually they cook it outside over an open fire.) That made the skins of the grains of corn come off easily with the ashes when you washed the cooked corn, rubbing the grains between your hands. The cooked, skinless corn is what we call hominy. Then they ground the hominy up to make the dough for tortillas. That is the difference in tortillas and cornbread. The corn ground into meal for cornbread still has the skin on the grains, so it is crumbly. But the tortilla is from corn with the skin removed with ashes (or lime) before grinding and doesn’t crumble. My grandmother in Alabama did the same thing back in the late 1800’s. She just made hominy, not tortillas.

  • Sarah Wilson says:

    Great list. I also sprinkle them on ice in the backyard so my dogs (and me) have safe footing in the winter. In the spring, as everything melts, the ash helps the yard. Being dark, they melt into the ice quickly creating texture.

  • Gary says:

    I’ve never tried it, but I’ve heard if your car gets stuck in the snow you can throw ashes under the tires instead of sand.

  • Connie says:

    In the spring, I sprinkle ash on the snow covering my garden; it makes the snow melt faster.

  • Mary Beer says:

    Ash works well to sift onto icy patches in the driveway ( I keep it 40 feet from any doors to keep it from being tracked into the house.) It immediately eats into the ice, giving it texture, and then the dark color enhances melting of the ice and snow. I use a little (5″ across) plastic strainer (the lye in ash corrodes metal) and wear a face mask while spreading it.

  • Rustaholic says:

    Ash mixed 50/50 with water putty makes a good mix to make cores used in metal casting.

  • jim says:

    #6 the wood ash is mixed with water to make a paste then rubbed into the hair side.
    It makes the hair slip so you have just the leather without hair.

  • Wood ash will raise the pH of acidic soil too. Where I live, Georgia red clay is very acidic (pH of 4.8 when I had it tested) so wood ash will help to raise the pH to an alkaline type. I hope to build a new house soon and use a wood stove to heat it, so I will have wood ash to raise the alkalinity of the soil in my garden.

  • Ysha says:

    This is a very timely article as I’m sitting on a big of wood ash now, plus will be burning winter fires, and wondering how to make the best use of it. Thank you!

  • Mike63Denver says:

    Growth is endemic in places where fun loving teenagers are ready to study new ideas for development.

  • Michel Hone says:

    Hello Marjory:

    You might want to look into the cadmium content of wood ash before you recommend it for foodstuffs…
    Cadmium is pretty toxic!


    Michel Hone P.Eng., PhD

    1. Hi Michael,

      Cadmium in wood? Ohh. cadmium is in nails. Yes, of course that would not be good. I don’t burn wood with nails in it so it never occurred to me… especially not in my wood stove.

      But I am glad you brought up the point.

      I guess if someone was using the ash from burning a pile of scrap lumber there might be some nails in it and hence the cadmium.

      1. Michel Hone says:

        Hello Marjory:

        I did not say that the problem was related to nails, although there is some cadmium in galvanized nails … It is more complex than that. You might want to Google Cadmium. In 25 words or more, the cadmium that we find in wood is largely anthropogenic (Now there’s a 10 dollar word for you!) It is widely disseminated. An individual tree will pick up small amounts of cadmium from the soil, but the act of burning many trees transformed into lumber naturally concentrates this element. For example burning dozens of trees will produce a small pile of wood ash containing significantly larger amounts of cadmium. If your lumber comes from an area in the vicinity of a zinc smelter, a nuclear reactor, a coal station, or an incinerator, to name a few sources, you might get an unhealthy dose of cadmium in your wood ash. The half-life of cadmium in the human body is somewhere between 10 and 30 years; cadmium is not easily eliminated! So it bounces around in your organs, like your liver and kidneys, for a long time. To add injury to insult, cadmium is an oddball element with many isotopes, some of which are radioactive. The EPA considers it to be a carcinogen. I could go on and on, and bore you to death. Suffice it to say, better cadmium in your garden than in mine!

        1. scott says:

          Cadmium has also been used for a long time in paints for the colour yellow. Someone once said that may account for the mental break down of Van Gogh since he used a lot of cad yellow in his paintings.

        2. Hi Michael, OK, I see your point. Isn’t pretty much everyone on the east coast of the US within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant? Hence, all the trees…. We live in a seriously toxic world, don’t we?

  • Donna Armstrong says:

    Just a little comment regarding woodash – Please research radioactivity in same – has been found to be high in pockets on East Coast from fallout from nuclear tests years ago. Wood ash basically concentrates radioactivity picked up by trees. Just research location you get it from and if it has been tested.

    1. Ooohhh Donna, thank you for that. I wasn’t aware. Very good point. Hmm, I wonder how to know if your location would have some radioactivity in it or not? Or if the ash has it… I am going to have to do an interview with that guy who makes the meters sometime.

  • peppypoblano says:

    Interesting topic. We have piles of ashes from our outdoor wood heater. I was wondering what to do with now I’ll have to read up on the cadmium potential. Thanks for alll the great info.

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