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uses for wood ash

 
pollinator
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My wife makes soap. We keep most of our ash for the lye.
 
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I use wood ash to cover anything stinky: sometimes our own kitchen buckets that have sit for a while or sometimes the bucket I (used to) get from the local bakery.

It pretty much kills the smell on contact
 
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I seem to recall hearing of ashes being used to clean a cast iron skillet.  Anyone know anything on that?
 
gardener
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It was still light out and I needed to empty an ash bucket so here is the procedure. I use a fine screen to separate the biochar and nails. pick out the nails with a magnet. I am burning a lot of pallet fencing that is falling apart and much of it is oak. use a drop spreader to put it on mossy areas. Notice most of it is brown from an application a few days ago.  The coarse biochar serves as mulch around my tomato plants for the first year..
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Garbage can, screen, hoe, magnet seperation
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fill spreader with ashes, save biochar in bucket
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Spread on mossy areas ofthe lawn [second aplication]
 
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Nothing new here, I also have used ashes on driveways to melt snow/ice and provide traction.  Also, My Grandparents had a bucket of ashes in the outhouse to "sprinkle after you tinkle".  Helped to soak up liquid and cut down on the smell.  One caveat that I have learned the hard way.  Even metal buckets are not the safest to hold ashes.  My wife cleaned out the stove and left the metal bucket sitting on the carpet next to the tiled floor. Came back to find a scorch hole in the carpet and melted padding underneath.  We got lucky the ashes weren't hotter.
Michael
 
pollinator
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A few answers I didn't see posted:

1. Welding flux - it can be used to forge-weld steel and wrought iron. Straw ash is better than wood for this, and horsetails are even better.

2. Ceramic flux. If you can't seem to get your kiln or pit firing hot enough to vitrify the clay, you can mix in sifted ash in +5% increments in test tiles and get it to vitrify that way. - Another use is to make glaze. A mixture of ashes, clay, and ochre should yield a medium-high firing glaze. Add brown bottle glass to make it low firing.

3.
 
pollinator
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My husband gave me the coolest book as a (belated) birthday gift; The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen.  The author Sean Sherman says;

"Culinary ash seasoning dates back thousands of years.  Just as smoke was an important, primal flavor that cues our original use of fire to transform raw ingredients into delicious foods, burning trees and the hard, inedible parts of plants is an ancient method of creating flavorful spices....
Corn ash is slightly sweet, dark, and a bit creamy.
Sage ash is peppery and assertive.
Juniper ash will turn the foods it seasons a dark, inky blue and add an earthy, piney, peppery note."

Culinary ash was probably an important source of minerals as well as flavor.
 
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Location: Aroostook county maine
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paul wheaton wrote:researching ...

Using it for a polishing solution:  "polishing plow bottoms"

tanning hides.

rubbing on your face for camouflage (it takes the shine off).

Making lye:  and with lye you can make soap and lots of other things.

to unclog drains

I read something about dipping the cut part of a potato in ash before planting the potato.

preserving fish?

a dust bath for chickens - killing lice and mites

traction on ice.

apparently, when used right, it can act a bit like a bleach with clothes.

Here is an article that talks about ash vs. lime on soils: http://www.tbars.net/lime.pdf

Some people put wood ash on fresh wood when pruning trees - to help the tree heal.





You're not kidding about the ice , we got hit HARD this winter and the ash is perfect for driveways, steps anything icey you may fall on. It was a huge lifesaver. Word to the wise, make sure you wipe dogs paws off before they enter the house.... trust me .
 
Hans Quistorff
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I forgot to add last time that if creosote is built up on the inside of the glass in the door of your wood stove dip a wet cloth or sponge in fine white ash [ ma,e sure no scratching grit is in it] and rub it on the creosote to dissolve it, then rince it clean.
 
                                
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:Seems like I've heard of ash being used as part of the process for making hominy?

Kathleen



Yes, hardwood ash can be used for making hominy because mixed with water it creates lye which is the hominy ingredient that processes the corn.  I have made it with lye, not ashes though, because I did not have access to hardwood ashes to try it.  Here are the directions I keep on hand in case I get my hands on some clean hardwood ashes.

Make your own lye water by dripping rain water (distilled for those with no rain catching system) through hardwood ashes. You might have trouble finding a barrel to make the drip system. Don’t worry, plastic pails that stack work just as well. (Better yet if you can get the baker at the local grocery store to give you a couple for free.) Proceed to make lye water in the usual manner and remember, if it not strong enough to suit you or to float the egg, you can simply run the weak lye water through another pail of fresh ashes to make it stronger, or boil it down to concentrate it.

To use the lye water to make hominy, put 2 gallons of lye water, 2 gallons of dry corn, and 2 additional gallons of plain potable water in a large non-reactive pot (that enamel canner works just fine!). Simmer until the corn kernel skins start to slip off. Drain, rinse and rub the corn through 4 cycles to get the lye out. Boil in the cleaned pot in water to cover until the skins finish coming off completely and the hominy rises top of the water. Scoop the hominy out and cook it as desired.

You can even skip the lye making step and make hominy with wood ash directly. Put two double handfuls of clean ashes (meaning you did not burn anything but just the wood) from oak, maple or poplar wood fires into 2 to 3 quarts of clean water. Boil for 1 hour, and then let it set all night for the ashes to settle. In the morning, boil dried corn in the water (strained if you like) until the skins come off and the corn color brightens, about 1-2 hours). Rinse and rub in 3 changes of water. Use the fresh hominy right away or preserve for later.

I like home made hominy much better than store stuff.  To preserve it, you can can it, freeze it, or dehydrate it.
 
steward
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pollinator
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paul wheaton
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I just read this elsewhere on the internet:

We use ash in ruts in our driveway and it hardens up like concrete!



Anybody else experience anything like this?

 
pollinator
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paul wheaton wrote:I just read this elsewhere on the internet:

We use ash in ruts in our driveway and it hardens up like concrete!



Anybody else experience anything like this?



Hmmm...methinks I'm going to try this

Don't think it'll work as well as #304 stone but I think after collecting it in metal cans for the last two winters I'm just going to spread it in the driveway.  

The woodstove and everything associated with it is an evolving process for sure.
 
pollinator
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I too will dump my ash bucket in my driveway and report back if anything of note happens.
 
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Dan Fish wrote:I too will dump my ash bucket in my driveway and report back if anything of note happens.



How did this go?  We've had a ton of rain and our driveway is mush right now...  I'd love to be able to use our ash in this way.
 
Dan Fish
pollinator
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Well It didn't seem to do much. I dumped it on the muddiest part of my driveway and checked it for a couple days. Seemed about the same. But the thing is, we haven't had a drop of rain since... The spot is solid now but so is everywhere else in the drive. I will post again if I get any results better than "eh?"...
 
gardener
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I recently acquired a glass top range that I took apart to salvage the glass. The front door was all caked in meat juices and gunk which I tried to get off with all sorts of things: paint thinner, brake cleaner, Goo gone, citrus cleaner, 3 different kind of degreasers, vinegar and many more... nothing was doing hardly anything!
I then decided to use wood ash that I use to clean my wood stove glass door with. I sifted it through fly screen and then sprayed hot water on it. Using a scouring pad and a razor worked pretty darn good! I would say that the ash acted like an abrasive (and also perhaps helped to dissolve the grime) while the razor helped to get the crusties off a little faster.
 
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(I apologize that I did not read through every comment, so this may have been mentioned already...)

We recently took a homeschool field trip to the historical society’s “Pioneers of Texas” program and the program director said you can make baking powder by cooking down pearl ash. He explained it really fast and I was herding small people, so I regret that I didn’t catch all of it. I thought he said to make an ash and water slurry and cook that down (to lye?) and then do it again (to pearl ash?) and then a third time to fluffy, white baking powder. Maybe it was only two cooks? I dunno. I do remember him specifying that you want to have a separate pot for that and never use your good cast iron cooking pan for it (that you shouldn’t cook in the “lye pot”).
And he used this baking powder to make cornbread during the presentation (over coals, in cast iron, as he spoke through the program).
 
author & gardener
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Nikki, yes! Hardwood ash can be used for baking! I experimented with this for another book that I wrote, How To Bake Without Baking Powder. I confess that I never tried to make pearl ash because it sounded like too much trouble. So I tried some other methods that I learned about.

Here is my biscuit experiment



On the left: my "control" biscuit leavened baking soda and vinegar
Next biscuit: I replaced part of the milk with ash water and vinegar
3rd from the left: I replaced all of the milk ash water and vinegar
Right: 1 tsp dry sifted wood ash with 1/2 tsp vinegar (for a quarter batch of biscuits.)

I made the ash water with equal parts hardwood ashes and hot water. I let the solution sit overnight and then strained out the ashes the following morning.

I previously tried to make ash water with cold water, but that was a flop. I later learned that hot water should extract about 225% more potassium carbonate from the ashes. Potassium carbonate is alkaline and causes the leavening action by reacting with the acid to make carbon dioxide bubbles.

They didn't rise like modern baking powder biscuits, but my husband was brave enough to eat them and thought they were very tasty.

 
pollinator
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Just thought folks might like this

 
pollinator
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I burn through 6 to 8 cords of wood a year and end up with a great deal of ash each winter..  The things that I do with it...

I dump it in piles for my livestock and chickens to bath and roll in, helps to remove mites and body pests.

In areas where I get mud in or near walkways I dump ash, this tends to slowly solidify the area almost like a mild form of concrete.

In the past I dumped three years of ash into a 10 x 10 area and then eventually built a storage shed there.  It gave me a good plant free hard packed floor.

Every couple years I pour a few buckets of ash out on my brick fire pit area next to the house.  I found the fire pit a couple years after we bought the place, I kept catching the garden hose on a piece of metal sticking up out of the grass.  I finally caught the hose on it one too many times and decided to dig whatever it was out, I hit a solid surface about 2 to 3 inches down... I continued out further and further and soon I was 5 feet from the metal and still hitting the hard surface so I became very curious....   As I cleared the grass away I found a brick and mortar circle about 10 feet in diameter with a fireplace in the center.  I use the ash to kill of the grass and plants that grow up between the bricks.

Gotta love it when you find something like hidden in your yard...

 
Dan Fish
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Woah, that's awesome!

Anyway, I poured out some ash in the driveway this winter and haven't really been able to tell the difference. But maybe it takes some time/multiple applications as others have said. Fortunately, it looks like I will have to wait til next year as Spring appears to have sprung and I haven't had a fire in a week...
 
paul wheaton
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It looks like the guy from the video above has expanded his list to 30 things:

https://www.reddit.com/r/homestead/comments/jmxloc/30_ways_we_use_recycle_firewood_ash_on_our/

Boost Your Hen’s Laying Power

Use wood ash to supplement your chicken feed. You may be pleased with better lay rates and longer laying periods.

Mix in the wood ash with your chicken feed at a 1% ratio. This may even help to reduce the smell of your chickens, um-well stinky eggs!



I kinda wonder what would happen if, instead of mixing it in, the ash was provided as free choice on the side.  


Freshen Up Your Fridge/Freezer

Similar to how baking soda absorbs odors, wood ash will do the same. Only ash is free and you probably have a lot of it!

Use about a cup of fine wood ash. Put it in a mason jar or a small bag towards the back of your refrigerator or freezer.



And there are other suggestions to use it as a dessicant.  I like this idea.


Protect Fine Fabrics

Protect blankets and clothes from moth damage by giving them a little sprinkle of fine wood ash before putting them into storage.

Simply brush off the ash and wash as usual when you bring them out of storage.



I am curious how this one works.




 
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I make laundry detergent with wood ash.
Once I’ve sieved the ask I put it in a bucket so it’s half full. Fill it to the top with water, preferably rain water. Give it a stir then leave it for a couple of days, stirring it everyday. There will be a clear liquid above the sludge which is what you want. Gently take this away and store it. You can add more water and repeat the process.
Add the sludge to the garden or compost.
When using I add a few drops of essential oil for a scent.
 
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paul wheaton wrote:I have heard of a lot of folks using it in compost or in outhouses, and I've heard from even more folks that it isn't good for the compost pile and does nothing in the outhouse. 



Wood ashes will raise the PH in your outhouse which will inhibit decomposing. The smell in an outhouse is from decomposing so it will help the smell but your out house will fill up faster. There is an urban myth that lye or lime will dissolve waste in your outhouse, it is false.
 
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paul wheaton wrote:I have heard of a lot of folks using it in compost or in outhouses, and I've heard from even more folks that it isn't good for the compost pile and does nothing in the outhouse. 

I've been conveying the latter even though I have no significant knowledge in this space.  Basically, the first group seems unaware of the second group and the second group seems aware of the first group - that makes me think that the second group is probably more knowledgeable.    I'll admit that that's not a lot to go on.




Ash in the outhouse, helps with the smell
 
Leigh Tate
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We used to use wood ashes in the outhouse to deter flies from laying eggs in the poop. 1) It coats it and 2) as an alkali, the ash helps with that. Or so we were told.
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