19 uses for wood ash that you wouldn't think of right away

Did you know that you can use the ashes when you're done burning wood? Today you will find out all the things you can use wood ashes for.

from Martin Gebhardt | Survival | reading time 4 Min
Updated on 30 May 2023 34.754 views 100% found this guide helpful
19 uses for wood ash that you wouldn't think of right away

Martin Gebhardt

From Martin Gebhardt. Check out my “About me” page.

👉 The key facts from this guide

  • Wood ash can be used to make lye water, which serves as a cleaning agent.
  • It can be used as a scouring agent to clean stainless-steel containers and surfaces.
  • Wood ash absorbs odors and can be used to neutralize them.
  • It can be used as a natural fertilizer for calcium-loving plants such as beans, tomatoes, and spinach.
  • Wood ash can be used as a natural insect repellent to deter insects and snails.
  • It can also be used to make a paste with vinegar that is effective against parasites such as lice, ticks, and fleas.

Did you know that you can use ash when you're finished burning wood?

There are uses for wood ash that you probably didn't know about.

And today, you'll learn about all the ways you can use wood ash.

Even if some ideas may seem strange to you. It could always happen that you find yourself in an emergency, and then you'll be glad you know about it.

Let's get started.

Are there differences in ash?

There are general guidelines that can help you properly apply ash. So, it can be useful to know whether the ash comes from hard or softwoods.

Hardwoods such as beech, oak, ash, and fruit trees weigh more and therefore also provide more ash than lighter woods. Hardwood ash also contains more nutrients than softer conifers such as pine or Douglas fir. In addition, deciduous trees contain very little resin.

This is how you make the ash: Start a hot fire with natural wood. The wood must not be chemically treated. Then let your fire burn completely down.

You should use hardwoods such as beech, oak, ash, and fruit trees as firewood
You should use hardwoods such as beech, oak, ash, and fruit trees as firewood

30 uses for wood ash that you probably didn't know about

As with so many waste products, most people think that ash belongs in the trash.

However, wood ash has been considered valuable for many generations.

Even in ancient Rome, scientists studied and documented the value of ash, especially as fertilizer for agriculture.

You can use wood ash in various ways:

1. Wash with lye water

One thing you can make out of ash is lye water for cleaning.

With ash you can wash wonderfully - make a lye
With ash you can wash wonderfully - make a lye

Mix about 8 tablespoons of clean white or gray fluffy ash with one liter of water. Let the mixture stand for at least six hours. This creates an alkaline solution (lye). Then strain it through a coffee filter if the ash doesn't stay completely in the container when pouring it out.

If you set the lye for 10 to 11 hours, you will get a full-fledged detergent. But don't set the lye for too long; otherwise it can become caustic (pH over 12, get pH test strips here).

Lye water is excellent for cleaning and other purposes. There are various ways ash has been used for washing. And the lye is wonderful for use as dish soap and floor cleaner.

Also read

Clean without electricity: The best methods and tricks for washing clothes in an emergency - Find out how to wash your clothes without electricity in an emergency. Here are 3 ways to get clean clothes without a washing machine.

2. Make abrasive cleaner

Make a thick paste from ash and water. This will give you an exquisite, mild abrasive cleaner with high grease-dissolving power. The cleaner is suitable for all stainless-steel containers and surfaces. It is also suitable for ceramic hobs, ceramic sinks, and enamel containers.

However, you should not clean aluminum, chrome, and plastics with it. These materials do not tolerate the ash scrubbing agent or the surface scratches.

3. Keep odors away

Wood ash is also used against strong odors. It tends to absorb and minimize odors. This is one of my favorite uses for wood ash.

4. Keep the fridge fresh

Another tip is to use wood ash to keep the fridge smelling fresh. It's done in the same way people use a box of baking soda. Simply put a plate of ash in instead.

5. DIY Toothpaste

Yes, you can actually brush your teeth with wood ash. This is especially useful when you're camping in the woods and value your oral hygiene.

You sift the ash finely through a sieve. This removes dental plaque and also provides your teeth with zinc, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

Most indigenous people clean their teeth this way, and even in Germany people used this method until the early post-war period.

I also included this method in my guide "How do I brush and care for my teeth when I'm outdoors?" integrated.

Ash is a fantastic toothpaste
Ash is a fantastic toothpaste

6. Strengthen calcium-loving plants

There are plants that love and need calcium. Wood ash is perfect for this. These plants include beans, tomatoes, spinach, peas, garlic, avocado and much more.

7. Repel insects and snails

Looking for another great use for wood ash in your garden? Use it to deter slugs, leaf beetles, cabbage flies and aphids with wood ash fertilizer. This will help keep these pests at bay.

For aphids, sprinkle fine ash on the leaves. For all other insects, scatter ash around the plant. This kills two birds with one stone: pest control and fertilizer.

Snails and insects don't like ash at all
Snails and insects don't like ash at all

8. Filtering Drinking Water

Charcoal and wood ash are wonderful filters for producing fresh drinking water. In fact, many ready-made filters sold in stores contain charcoal.

Also read: Building your own water filter [Survival Basics]

9. Repelling Ants

An easy way to get rid of ants without pesticides or poison is to put wood ash on ant trails and nests. They can't transport the ash, so the ant colony will move.

P.S. Never put ash on an ant colony in the wild. For example, forest ants are protected by nature.

10. Warding off Parasites

Mix ash and vinegar to make a paste. Rub this on where you're struggling with lice, ticks, and fleas. Rub the paste where it's needed.

It also works wonders for pets. It will get messy and dirty, but it helps.

Mixing ash and vinegar is good against parasites
Mixing ash and vinegar is good against parasites

11. Keeping Pests at Bay

To keep mice, rats, cockroaches and other creatures and pests away, use ash. Just sprinkle ash in the corners and on animal paths.

12. Sprinkle Ash instead of Salt to Fight Slippery Ground

Warm wood ash melts ice and provides grip. When it melts, the ashy meltwater flows into your beds and introduces potassium and other nutrients (no harmful salt). At the end of winter, the ash disappears completely into the soil.

13. Ward off Moths from Clothing

Avoid the foul smell of mothballs and still protect your clothes. Simply place ash in your closet as an alternative.

14. Remove Moisture with Wood Ash

Use wood ash in rooms with high humidity. The ash absorbs the moisture and results in less humidity.

Ash binds moisture - make this aspect advantageous
Ash binds moisture - make this aspect advantageous

15. Preserve Fruits and Vegetables

Dig a hole and sprinkle ash inside. Then put your fruits and vegetables in and preserve your food. This is a great tip for survival situations.

16. Extinguish a Fire

Occasionally you need to extinguish a fire quickly. Cover your fire with wood ash and it will go out.

17. Enrich Your Compost

For garden lovers: composting is always great, especially with wood ash. Even a small amount of wood ash can give the compost pile a boost.

18. Ash on the Skin: as Camouflage and Sunscreen

Want to be invisible to wildlife? Then rub yourself with ash. Or use ash as a sunscreen. Apply the ash on your skin. You can also moisten it and rub it on your skin.

19. For Tanning

Use ash as a soaking agent before you tan animal hides. This method has been used for generations by Native Americans. The alkaline reaction that comes with water helps to loosen the hair (Learn more about leather ash here).

With ash, you soak animal hides to loosen the hair
With ash, you soak animal hides to loosen the hair

Tips for Safe Handling of Wood Ash

If you are using wood ash for the above purposes, you must always handle it safely.

  • Only work with ash that has completely cooled.
  • Always store ash in a metal container with a lid that can be securely closed.
  • Dispose of wood ash properly. Never dispose of wood ash in paper, plastic or cardboard containers.

What other tips and tricks do you know about ash? Write it in the comments.

Take care, Martin
Martin Gebhardt

Martin Gebhardt

Hey, I'm Martin. On my blog, you will learn the basics and numerous details about living in the wild. I think survival, bushcraft and the good life in nature are the keys to happiness. Find me here on Instagram or on YouTube. You can find more about my mission on the About Me page.

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