More of us than ever are switching to wood burners and solid fuel stoves as a way of heating our home. A wood burner provides a great focal point, is eco-friendly and will work out cheaper than using gas or electricity. Many modern stoves are very clean and produce only small quantities of wood ashes, but if you usually throw what little is produced straight in the bin, there are a lot more interesting things that you could be doing with it.
Use It as Fertiliser
Wood ash is full of potassium and this is one of the main components of commercial fertilisers, so wood ash can be used directly on your garden in the same way. Dig it in around the base of your plants to feed them.
The beauty of this sort of fertiliser is that it is free of chemicals and completely organic too. Ash is slightly alkaline in nature so is good to balance out acidity in the soil. It can be used on nearly all of your garden’s plants, with the exception of potatoes as the ash can alter the balance of the soil and encourage potato attacking pests and fungus. Ash can also be added to the compost heap for an extra boost of nutrients. While we’re on this subject, here’s 10 more things you didn’t know you could compost.
Clean With It
It may sound odd to use something we think of as dirty as a cleaning remedy, but if you mix up ash with a little water to form a paste, you can use it to clean a multitude of surfaces around the home. It’s ideal for taking ring marks off your wooden furniture and cleaning silver items.
Ash paste is slightly abrasive, so work carefully as scrubbing too energetically could scratch your silver candelabra or oak dining table.
Clear Ice off Your Drive
Ash is alkaline which means it starts to melt away ice and snow when it is spread on top. It works even better on a sunny day, when the dark coloured ash absorbs the sunlight and speeds up the melting process. It’s safe and eco-friendly to use on pavements and your driveway, and will also help to make the surface less slippery for passers-by.
Stockpile ashes in an old dustbin over the year to use when the weather turns icy.
By the way; if you’re having to shovel snow away first, be sure to read this guide on how to do it properly.
Make Soap With It
The two basic ingredients in soap are lye and fat, and lye is found in wood ash. Boil up some wood ash in water for about half an hour. Rainwater is best to use as it has not been through water treatment and filtering. Skim the lye off the top of your pan, and repeat every day until you have enough to fill a small pan. Boil the lye to reduce it to a thicker consistency, and then add in fats such as lard, cooking oil or grease saved from cooking. Boil it all up until it thickens, pour it into a greaseproof paper lined tray, and leave to cool.
Once you’ve mastered the technique, you can experiment with adding colours and perfume to your soap.
Patio Stain Remover
Ash makes the ideal thing to use as a stain remover on your drive or patio if someone spills engine oil or something else greasy. Sprinkle the ash generously all over the stain and rub the ash in. Sweep up the ash and repeat as many times as is necessary to clean the slabs. Once the ash has absorbed most of the oil or grease, detergent can used to clean the area.
Get Rid of Garden Pests
Slugs and other creepy crawlies can be the bane of a keen gardener’s life and can easily wreck a carefully tended crop in a few days. Slugs don’t like crawling through ash as the composition irritates their slimy bodies. Carefully sprinkle a layer of ash around your plants which seem to be particularly attractive to the slugs and it should deter them completely.
This is a particularly good method of pest control for homes with pets and small children, where putting down poisonous slug pellets is inappropriate. Just remember that you have to replace the ashes after every heavy shower of rain.