After you’ve enjoyed a cozy evening around the fire, you’re left with warm memories and . . . a pile of ashes sitting in your wood-burning fire pit or fire ring. Sure, you could just leave them there, but that won’t be helpful as the leftover ashes can hinder your next fire, and won’t allow it to burn as well. Luckily, we have found several practical ways to reuse wood ash, rather than just throw it out. Check out the list below to see how you can turn this fire pit trash into useful treasure.
How to Safely Gather and Store Wood Fire Pit Ashes
Before we discuss the benefits of wood ash, we want to go over the safest way to remove the ashes from your fire pit and store them so that they are ready to use. Wait until at least 24 hours after extinguishing the fire to handle and move the ashes. This is to prevent getting accidently burned or starting a fire unexpectedly. It may take longer than 24 hours to safely handle the ashes, depending on how hot the fire was. Some embers can smolder for days. When the ashes are safe to handle, you will want to place them into a metal container using a scoop or shovel. This fireplace ash bucket is a great option because it includes the tools you need, plus a handy lid to keep the ash contained. Never place ashes in a plastic, wood or cardboard container, as there may be a stray ember that is still hot that could melt or ignite these particular materials.
8 Ways to Use Ashes From Your Fire Pit
#1. Supplement Your Soil
Wood ash is rich in several nutrients, including potassium, phosphorus and certain salts that can be beneficial for plants. Because wood ash is highly alkaline, you will want to test your soil’s pH to ensure that you are helping, not hurting, your plants. You can easily purchase soil testing kits online that you can use to check the soil in your lawn and garden.
#2. Use in Compost
Ash can be a helpful addition to a compost pile. Because ash is highly alkaline, you’ll only need a small amount to add to your compost pile to enrich it with nutrients.
New to composting? Check out this article from NPR about the basics of composting at home to help you get started.
#3 Put Out a Fire
You can keep the ashes handy for the next fire you have in your fire pit or at a campsite. Similar to the concept of using dirt or sand to put out a fire, ashes can be placed over the coals to speed up the process of putting them out. To learn more about safely putting out a fire, check out our blog post 3 Effective Ways to Put Out a Fire in a Fire Pit.
#4 Deter Garden Pests
Is your garden being plagued by pests like snails or aphids? Firewood ash can be the solution you are looking for. To prevent plant-munching bugs from attacking your greenery, sprinkle a small amount around your plants to keep these pests away. You will need to reapply after it rains or when you water your plants.
#5 Deter Ants
Have ants taken up residence in-between the cracks of your sidewalk, walkway or patio? Seeing those little anthills on your pavement can be an eyesore, but wood ash can help you banish these beastly pests. Simply sprinkle the ash over the anthills to deter the ants and force them to move to a different location.
#6 Making Soap
When you combine ash with water, you create lye, an ingredient that has been used in soapmaking for many years. However, lye is a highly caustic substance, and we caution that you handle this mixture with great care. You will need goggles, heat-resistant gloves and boots to protect yourself. To learn more about making lye, check out this article from The Spruce Crafts.
Making soap from scratch using lye is called cold process soapmaking. To learn more about how to make soap with this method, check out this other article from The Spruce Crafts to find all the ingredients, supplies and steps necessary to make your own soap this way.
#7 Ashes as a Cleaning Aid
As previously mentioned, mixing water and ashes creates lye, which can be effective for cleaning. It does seem counterintuitive, but this ash mixture is quite effective at buffing out grime on windows, glass fireplace doors and silverware. To clean windows and your fireplace glass doors, simply take a damp sponge and dip it into the ash and scrub the surface with this. To clean your silverware, make a paste with the ashes mixed with water and use the mixture to polish your silverware (please be cautious when using these materials for cleaning and always take the proper safety precautions, especially for mucous membranes like your eyes, nose and throat).
#8 Dust Bath for Chickens
Did you know that chickens enjoy taking dust baths? Supplement their hygienic habit by placing a small bucket of ash near their area (but be sure to keep it far away from water, and to remove if there is a chance of rain). The ash is beneficial for the chickens, as it can prevent pests, such as mites, from infesting your feathered friends.
Enjoying time with friends and family is one of the best experiences you can have with a fire pit. Cleaning out the leftover ashes may not be quite as pleasant, but now you know there are ways to reuse and repurpose this material in a way that can be beneficial to your everyday life. Which of these tips would be the most helpful to you? We would love to hear about it in the comments below!