By the way, the use of wood ashes is not a new science. Over 5000 years ago folks made lye by running water through ashes. Lye was combined with animal fat to make soap. It worked pretty well too. So well that lye water was also used for scrubbing wood floors and laundering clothing. Nearly 50 centuries later we grew up using homemade lye soap that our Great Grandfather sold in his grocery store. Believe it or not there are tons of other uses for wood ashes in and around your home. Here are a few:
Ashes contain calcium, potassium, and a variety of trace minerals important for plant health. They also work well as a lime substitute to raise the pH of acid soils. However, unlike limestone, which can take six months or more to change soil pH, wood ash is water-soluble and changes the soil pH rapidly. Apply roughly twice as much ash by weight as the recommendation for limestone. Oh, and donít apply ashes around acid-loving plants such as blueberries, rhododendrons, azaleas or hollies Ė they love the acid soil they live in. Wear eye protection, gloves, and a dust mask, and spread the ashes evenly on a dry, windless day. Mix them into the soil thoroughly. Hose off any ashes that settle on actively growing plants to prevent burning the foliage. CAUTION: Donít apply wood ashes to your garden, lawn, or ornamental plantings without first having a soil test.
Wood ashes will irritate a slugís moist body and send it running (so to speak). Sprinkle the wood ash lightly around all susceptible plants The repellent effect will disappear after rain or irrigation dissolves the ashes.
You can get traction on icy walks and driveways with a sprinkle of wood ash. Wood ash will melt ice and provide a safer walking surface. Ash doesn't work quite as well as salt, and ashes tracked into the house can make a mess. So, itís important to take steps to prevent the ashes from being tracked into the house. But ashes are free, and they wonít damage plants, animal paws, or paved surfaces, or cause rust.
If you have a fireplace you may already know that hardwood ash works great for cleaning glass fireplace doors. Hardwood ashes make fast work of grease, grime and tarnish on glass, silverware, ovenware, grills, and glass stovetops. Ash will also clean gummy residues left by stickers and labels. WD40 eat your heart out. Hereís how to do it. Dampen a soft cloth and dip it in the ashes (or you can make a thick paste of ashes and a few drops of water) scrub lightly and rinse with plain water and dry Ė again with a soft cloth. Wear gloves for these scrubbing tasks to avoid caustic burns. Remember, you are basically using a homemade lye cleaner.
Does your driveway look like an Indy 500 pit stop? You can reduce or remove oil stains on asphalt, stone, and cement by sprinkling ashes on oil or grease spills. Simply cover the area with ashes and then rub them into the affected area with a soft bristle brush and sweep up. Repeat if necessary.
CAUTION: Even though the ashes may appear cold, buried embers may remain live for days or even weeks. So, be very careful when collecting ashes. Be absolutely sure no embers remain. Filter the ashes through a fine grate and store them in a metal container. When using ashes treat them as you would any other caustic cleaner; safety glasses, gloves and a breathing mask.