While any fireplace can introduce some much-needed warmth and coziness to your home, there's something special about sitting next to a crackling, wood-burning fire. In exchange for that unmatched nostalgic vibe, you'll need to do a bit more work than flicking a switch. For example, you'll have to keep wood on hand, and for easy starting, cure the wood. It's also important to keep your wood-burning fireplace safe, so you'll want to have a chimney sweep on call to keep your chimney clear of soot.
It's also important to understand how to handle ashes. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends leaving a one-inch bed of ashes in your fireplace for optimal burning, but you'll need to shovel the ash out of the fireplace when it gets higher than that. You can, of course, toss the ashes in the garbage, but there are plenty of ways to get more out of the ash.
Here, 13 suggestions for what to do with fireplace ash in your home and garden.
Add It to Your Compost
Composting is a simple but powerful way to reduce your waste footprint. If you have a compost bin already, you're probably accustomed to throwing fruit and veggie scraps in it. But did you know you can also include fireplace ash in your compost? Not only does composting ash reduce waste; it can also boost soil nutrition. A win-win.
Remove Sticky Residue From Jars
There are plenty of DIY cleaners you can use around the home—and fireplace ash is one of them. Mix a bit of wood ash with water to create a gentle abrasive paste, which you can use to remove sticky label residue from jars with a microfiber cloth.
There's nothing worse than a smelly refrigerator or garbage can. You probably know adding baking soda to potentially pungent areas can neutralize odors. Fireplace ash, which is alkaline, can accomplish the same thing. Simply add a small bowl of ash to your fridge or put some in the bottom of your trash bag to get ahead of bad smells that could affect your kitchen. You can also add a few cups of fireplace ash to kitty litter to prevent smells in the litter box.
Clean Your Fireplace Glass
Glass fireplace doors can get dirty quickly—but luckily, it's super easy to remove all that pesky soot with leftover wood ash. After the glass is totally cool, apply an ash-and-water paste to the surface and scrub with a cotton cloth or sponge.
Protect Yourself From Icy Conditions
If you live in a cold, snow-prone climate, keep a jar of wood ash on hand. You can use it to create traction on icy surfaces, similar to salt or gravel, on a driveway or sidewalk. Keep some in your vehicle, too, in case you find yourself in a slippery spot.
There are all kinds of products and remedies for keeping outdoor pests out of your home. One of the simplest ways to prevent bugs and rodents from entering without chemicals is to line affected walls and corners with fireplace ash. You can use the solution on its own, or in tandem with recommendations from your local pest control expert.
Clean Up Oil Spills
Wood ash is a great (and very easy) way to deal with oil leaks from your vehicle in your driveway. To prevent the oil from staining your concrete, just soak the spill with fireplace ash. Give the ash several hours to fully absorb the oil, then sweep it up and discard.
Always make sure ash is totally cool before you collect it from the fireplace, and never use ashes from wood that's been treated or painted. (In fact, never burn those in your fireplace, either.)
Just like it can absorb moisture from your driveway, wood ash can also absorb moisture from the air. So if you have a particularly moist area in your home, such as a basement or garage, fill a few tin cans or jars with fireplace ash and set them in the corner of a moisture-prone area. Add a few pieces of charcoal to the mix to boost its effectiveness. (It may go without saying, but if you're concerned about mold or mildew in or around your home, it's always best to enlist an expert's help of your own health and safety.)
Brighten Your Whites
Whether you don't have bleach on hand or you'd rather not use it, consider using fireplace ash in your next load of wash instead. Wood ash mixed with water creates a substance called lye water, a common ingredient in soap. Lye water is also used as a bleaching agent, so you can toss a cup into your laundry for brighter whites.
Clean Your Grill
Cleaning grill grates can be hard work, and wood ash can make the job a whole lot easier. Create a thick paste with ash and water, apply it generously to the grates, and with a pair of gloves on, use an abrasive sponge to remove the burnt-on bits and grimes that so easily build up. When you're finished, rinse well with water.
Fertilize Your Garden
Instead of buying a bag of store-bought fertilizer, try wood ash to nourish your soil. According to the University of Vermont, five gallons of wood ash per 1,000 square feet of garden can raise the pH of your soil and provide all the essential nutrients needed for healthy plants.
Unclog Your Drains
Before you call the plumber, try fireplace ash down a clogged drain. Just pour a cup of dry wood ash down the affected drain, then chase it with a cup of warm water and allow the mixture to sit for a few hours before flushing it with more water. It's best to use finer white or gray ash that's never been wet, and for your own safety, don't combine ash with any other chemicals or cleaning products.
Has your silverware seen better days? If so, you can use fireplace ash to restore its shine and even to remove tarnish. Simply create a paste with water and ash, then apply it to silver or other dull metal with a microfiber cloth. Rinse and dry thoroughly after buffing the metal.