50+ Ways To Use Wood Ash

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Burning wood for heat means we end up with quite a bit of wood ash. I have a few go-to’s for using it around the homestead but I recently decided to research what else I could use it for. Turns out wood ash is amazingly useful! So, weather it comes from a bonfire or a wood stove, save that ash and put it to use!

But first… a talk about Safety!

Many fires are caused each year by wood ash being improperly collected and stored. Wood ash should always be collected into an empty metal container, after being allowed to cool fully. Only use ash from fires burned from wood without chemicals (like many pallets). Also, don’t use black walnut ash as it will kill plants it is spread over. Gloves should always be worn when making or using lye water, and goggles should also be worn for making lye.

Lye and Lye water are NOT the same product. Never use lye in place of lye water as you could endanger your health.

Now that we’ve had the safety talk, some of the uses I’ve discovered or used wood ash for include:

1. Outhouse Deodorizer

We don’t have indoor plumbing, so I’m well acquainted with this use for wood ash. Just scoop your ash into a metal can and stash it in the outhouse. As for when to use, I find that one scoop per poop works well to limit smells 😉

2. Chicken Dust Bath

Add wood ash to sand for super cleaning power in chicken dust baths. Wood ash acts as a desiccant on lice and mites, killing them and keeping your chickens healthy and happy.

3. Enrich Compost

Wood ash is high in calcium, and contains phosphorous, potassium, and boron. This makes it a great addition to any compost pile. Just be sure not to use too much as wood ash contains salt. A sprinkle now and again will keep the compost from becoming to alkaline.

4. Deter Garden Pests

Sprinkle wood ash around the edges of garden beds with young plants. Slugs and snails dislike the salt in wood ash and will be deterred from snacking on newly planted beds. Angi at Schneider Peeps has more information on using wood ash in the garden here.

5. Melt Ice And Snow

Because of the salt in wood ash it makes a great ice and snow melt. It won’t stain concrete or asphalt like some commercial snow melts do.

6. Shine Silver (And Other Metals)

A paste of ash and water makes a wonderful silver cleaner. It can also be used on gold and other metals. Be sure to test this on an inconspicuous area as wood ash may scratch some surfaces.

7. Amend Acidic Soil

Add ash to amend acidic soil. Ash will change soil PH quickly so be sure to do regular soil tests.

8. Perk Up Plants

Calcium loving plants like tomatoes will perk right up if wood ash is sprinkled directly in the hole while transplanting.

9. Clean Fireplace Glass

Dip a damp sponge in ash and use it to scrub fireplace glace. Alternatively, you can use charcoal for this as well (read how here).

10. Use As Lawn Fertilizer

Sprinkle over browned lawns to turn them green quickly!

11. Use It To Kill Moss

Sprinkle around areas with unsightly moss. This can be used on lawns, or pavement as it will not stain.

12. Use As A Dehumidifier

Place ash in an open meal container and leave in rooms that are too humid.

13. Use As A Fire Extinguisher

While it won’t replace a store bought fire extinguisher, wood ash can be used in a pinch. Keep a bucket near the wood stove, compost pile, or in the barn to stomp out small fires quickly.

14. Control Pond Algae

Use 1 tablespoon wood ash per 1000 gallons of pond water will help keep algae under control. It’s also safe for use in aquaponics systems.

15. Homemade Tooth Powder

Wood ash is an abrasive material, as such it can be used to clean and whiten teeth. Only ash from soft woods should be used. Tooth powder made from ash should not be used every day, as it could damage tooth enamel.

16. Ash Tea For The Garden

For this you need 1 lb of ash and 10 gallons of water. The ash should be placed in a pillow case or similar and steeped for several days. The resulting tea can be poured around plants for a nutrient boost.

17. Deodorize Pet Bedding

Wood ash makes a great deodorizer. Sprinkle it on dog blankets and beds to cut down on their natural smell.

18. Create Lye Water For Cleaning

Lye water is great for cleaning glass, silver, certain dishes and removing rust. It can be made by boiling 3 tablespoons of ash per 1 cup of water. Always use gloves when working with lye water!

19. Use In Natural First Aid

Wood ash has been used for centuries to kill bacteria and cleanse wounds. Mix equal parts lye water and soap to clean the wound.

20. Use As A Pest Deterrent

Place ash in an open container and stash in moist or dark areas of basements and cellars. It will help deter mice, rats and cockroaches.

21. Use As A Livestock Pest Remover

Rub a paste of vinegar and ash into the fur of pets or livestock to get rid of lice, mites and fleas. This will be messy but it works!

22. Remove Ant Colonies

Pour fine ash around ant colonies and watch them pack up and leave!

23. Clothing Stain Remover

Create a past with ash and water, rub on stained clothes and let sit for 5 minutes. Clean off with a damp rag then wash the clothes.

24. Seed Preservation

Pioneers used to store seeds in wood ash to prevent mold from damaging the seeds. More proof of its great moisture absorbing qualities!

25. Fruit And Vegetable Storage

Pioneers also used wood ash to store fruits and vegetables in. After digging a hole in the ground the walls and bottom were coated in ash. Food products would be layered with ash coating each items so they did not touch each other. Food could be preserved for several months this way.

26. Hair Treatment

Use lye water to wash hair, then follow with an apple cider vinegar rinse. This is especially useful for oily hair.

27. Ice Preventative

Sprinkle wood as on walkways, windshields and satellite dishes to prevent ice build up.

28. Prevent Frost Damage To Plants

If there is an unexpected early or late frost cover plants with a healthy spread of wood ash. This will help prevent damage to the plants.

29. Use In Clothes Storage

I don’t know about you, but I really dislike the smell of moth balls. Instead, sprinkle ash on and between clothes to be stored for long periods of time.

30. Additive To Kitty Litter

Add wood ash to kitty litter, or other animal waste bedding to help prevent smells.

31. Preserve Eggs

In many middle eastern countries eggs are preserved without refrigeration with ash. Wood ash is mixed with clay, salt, lime and rice. Eggs are rolled in the mixture for storage.

32. Fridge Deodorizer

Use wood ash placed in an open container to deodorize a refrigeration.

33. Compost Citrus

I’ve always been told that things like citrus should not be composted for various reasons. Adding wood ash to the compost will help break down citrus peels.

34. De-Skunk Pets

If you’ve ever had a dog sprayed by a skunk you know how long the smell takes to fade. Using wood ash rubbed through the fur will make the smell fade faster.

35. Clean White Boards

Ash and water can be used to create a paste for cleaning white board. This will even remove permanent marker that has accidentally been used!

36. Make A Survival Water Filter

There will probably be chunks of charcoal hanging out in the ash you’ve collected. Use the charcoal and ash to create a small water filter in emergencies.

37. Use In Place Of Lime For Gardening

Ash has smaller particles than lime and is more water soluble. This means a little goes a long way, so don’t over do it.

38. Clean The Bathroom

Due to it’s abrasiveness, ash is great for cleaning the tub. Just sprinkle like Comet and scrub with a damp sponge.

39. Use To Lighten Clothes

Use 1 part ash to 4 parts heated soft (rain) water. Stir together, then let settle. Use the clear water on top as a bleach replacer in laundry. Roughly 1 cup per load.

40. Make Homemade Corn Nuts

Simply add ash to water and soak dried corn kernels in it. Once they’ve re-hydrated, pat dry, add spices and fry them up!

41. Clean Oil Stains From The Garage

Much like cat litter, ashes can be spread on freshly spilled oil to clean it up. Let the ash soak up the oil, then sweep it up and dispose of it.

42. Create Natural Pottery Glaze

Mix wood ash with a clay slurry, then dip or paint pottery. Because ash contains high amounts of calcium carbonate it creates a glaze over pottery when fired at the right temperature. Glaze coloring will depend on what is mixed with the ash and the type of wood burned, as well as the elements in the soil where the tree grew

43. Clean Furniture Stains

Create a paste of ash and water and spread over the stained area. Allow it to set for roughly 5 minutes, then wipe off with a damp sponge. In case this method damages the furniture, it should be tried in a hidden area first .

44. Add To Chicken Feed

Wood ash makes a great addition to chicken feed as a calcium supplement. Chickens with supplemented feed have been shown to have improved laying rates. Also, it helps make chicken manure less odorous, which is a huge plus.

45. Remove Hair From Hides

Mix ash and hot (soft) water to soak hides in. Afterward the hair should be softer so less scraping is needed. Here is a step by step guide for using ashes to tan hides from Live The Old Way.

46. Use As A Hardwood Tree Fertilizer

Apple trees especially love wood ash. It helps the roots by adding calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous and manganese to the soil. Also, these nutrients make for some delicious fruit too! Just be careful not to over do it!

47. Create A Wood Insect Repellent

Mix ash and water in a jar and let it set for a week. Use the mixture to paint raw wood as an insect repellent.

48. Clear Clogged Drains

Pour 1 cup of dry powdery ash into a clogged or slowed drain. Follow this with 1 cup of heated soft (rain) water. Flush the drain with fresh water after allowing it to set for several hours. After this treatment the drain will work much better.

49. Clean Paint Drips

Rub wood ash onto wet paint drips on pavement or concrete, then sweep up. This will also help conceal any tint the paint would have left behind as well.

50. Use As A Traction Agent

Keep a small bag of wood ash in vehicles for when the roads or icy or snowy. Spread it behind tires when you need a little extra traction.

51. Make Traditional German Pretzels

Ever wonder where pretzels get their amazing crusts from? Turns out the answer is lye, and lye comes from wood ash! This is a great explanation of using lye to make pretzels, along with a recipe.

52. Clean Cast Iron

A piece of cast iron cook ware can be soaked in a solution of soft water and ash for a day or two. This will clean the pan as well as remove the rust. Then the skillet can then be washed with vinegar and water to remove the lye. Afterwords the cast iron can be reseasoned and is ready for use.

53. Make Lye Water For Use In Recipes

Certain Chinese dishes call for the use of lye water, such as mooncakes. Likewise, it is traditionally used in ramen noodles and is what gives them their springy texture and yellow coloring. Because lye water can cause mouth, esophageal and stomach burns if used incorrectly caution should be used. Always follow the recipe instructions exactly!

54. Use To Improve Pasture

Wood ash provides substantial amounts of potassium and calcium, and lower amounts of phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and manganese. In addition, it also has trace amounts of boron and copper. All of these make it a great pasture fertilizer, as animals will ingest these through plants eaten.

55. Use Ashes To Make Lye

Lye can be used for soap making or stripping animal hides. Here is a great write up by Live The Old Way on how to properly make lye, and a homemade soap guide from Kathryn at Farming My Backyard. Warning: Lye can be dangerous and precautions should be taken when making it.

Now I will say I haven’t tried all of these, or even most of them! But I have used wood ash often enough to believe it is this versatile. I plan on testing these out as the homestead grows, so keep an eye out for updates!

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Going From 6 Figures To No Figures

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Going From 6 Figures To No Figures SledDogSlow.com

For how influential money is in our lives, people don’t like to talk about it. At least, they don’t like to talk about it unless they are talking about how to make more of it. Which is probably why so many people don’t understand the switch that Kyle and I made. We gave up good jobs, with a 6 figures income to homestead. Why? Because the old axiom held true for us that money can’t buy happiness.

When we moved to Alaska to homestead, we left a lot of our expensive modern lives behind. We traded a 6 figure income and life in a big house for always being worn out and feeling accomplished at the end of the day.

Of course we get lots of questions about our choice to leave our cushy lives to homestead. How could we just turn our backs on the American dream? The thing is, the house with a white picket fence, a dog, and 2.5 kids just wasn’t for us. When we lived that life, all we felt was worn out with it. I was often working 16 hours a day, up to 80 hours a week. Kyle was in a constant state of anxiety about work. Push the wrong button and poof! You just cost a company millions. We didn’t have time for each other, much less time for living.

Are there things we miss?

Of course there are. I really miss Mexican take out for one! But seriously, there are pro’s and con’s to the way we lived 2 years ago and the way we are living now. I miss having friends over, being able to run to the store for that last ingredient, and having people around to ask for help when I don’t know how to do something. On the flip side, the trade offs are so worth it. We have almost no bills, our schedule is to do what we want, when we want, and we get to enjoy each other and our daughter.

But what about money?

Honestly, we’re broke. I don’t mean living paycheck to paycheck broke. I mean borrowing money from family to hold us over broke. We have property in another state that we are in the process of selling, and that should let us pay back our families and purchase some things we need, as well as set some aside for savings. But, being broke out here is a whole different ball game than being broke living in town. We don’t have electricity bills (thanks to our solar system) or water bills. We have enough food storage to last us months, so if we don’t want to go to town we don’t. Realistically, we wouldn’t have needed to borrow money at all except that the beach is hard on vehicles, so we had both 4 wheeler’s need work at the same time. We can fix them ourselves but the parts are expensive.

Do we stress about money?

We stress about the same as we did in town. In town we had vehicle payments, high car insurance rates, electricity bills for a big house, and no irrigation on the lawn, just city water. Not to mention we ate out more than we ate in. Money doesn’t last long when you don’t spend it wisely. We are a lot more conscientious of our spending choices out here because we have to be. We buy a lot of stuff second hand, and we always try to find the best deals.

What income do we have right now?

Right now, this blog is 99% of our income. We make a little off of advertisements, and a little off of affiliate links. I am an affiliate for Infolinks, the ad company I use. Amazon is another company I am an affiliate of, which means I make a small commission off of purchases people make when they reach Amazon through my site. I am also a BlueHost affiliate, because they are my website host and they have a one click WordPress installation and 24/7 WordPress support. This makes it a snap to run my blog, and I can’t recommend them enough. I will suggest to anyone starting a website that they make sure to sign up for domain privacy though, no matter what hosting service used.

We also make a little money when supporters of Sled Dog Slow buy our t-shirts found here. And now that our sawmill is up and running, we are offering wood cutting to our neighboring cabin owners. I’m also in the process of putting together a cook book for all my wood stove recipes. Diversifying our income is a must out here.

Why don’t we just get normal jobs in town?

We have, and it doesn’t work out. Due to the access issues for us, having a job in town means having an apartment in town. Kyle had a temporary job for a few months to see how it would work out, and we ended up with $200 take home each month after town bills. It just wasn’t worth the vehicle wear and tear, or him missing out on our daughter and all the new things she was learning. We decided to live this life in part because we didn’t want money to control our lives, so having a 9-5 isn’t an option out here.

How much money do we need, really?

Setting up a homestead from raw land is expensive. We’ve probably spend $50,000 getting to this point. We had to buy vehicles and 4 wheeler’s, animals and feed, building materials and our sawmill. Raw land may be cheap, but turning it into a homestead is not. Now that we are a little more set up though, we’ve estimated that $12,000 a year is all we will need to live comfortably on. That’s not much in the scheme of things.

How are we going to get that $12,000 if we can’t work in town?

I plan on continuing this blog for as long as we live out here, so we’ll make some money from it. We also have pigs that we plan on breeding to sell the piglets next year. And once our property sells, we’ll take that money and buy a set net fishing permit and commercial fish next summer. Then there is also the Alaskan Permanent Fund Dividend, which should provide us with roughly $3,000 a year for our family of three. We’ll get paid a quarter of our needs just for living in Alaska.

Do we ever regret trading our 6 figure incomes for no figures while we learn how to live our new lives?

Never. While things are tight now, we have learned a lot about being fiscally responsible out here, more so than we ever were in town. We’ll know how to stretch our money better next year, and be able to stress a little less about it.

You couldn’t pay me enough to give up living out here. This is home.

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