What Do You Do With Fire Pit Ash After a Fire?

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By J. Herwick

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I love using my fire pit as the centerpiece of an outdoor gathering. There’s just one problem. Fire pit ash. I wasn’t sure how to safely dispose of them, so I did some research. Here’s what I found.

There are plenty of ways that you will be able to use wood ash. You can use them in the garden, giving nutrients to your plants. They can also raise the pH levels in the soil. You can also wood ash around the home. For example, you can make pumice to clean glass or sprinkle them onto the ice to provide traction.

Wood ash is far from a useless by-product. There are dozens of ways that you’ll be able to use them. Let’s take a closer look at these suggestions so you’ll be able to put them to maximum effect.

How do you Safely Remove Fire Pit Ashes? 

Before we start looking at how you can use ash, it’s essential to know that you are safe. Part of this is knowing how to handle the wood ash safely.

Even if you haven’t had a fire for several days, the ashes may still retain heat. Because of this, you’ll need to carefully collect and cool them. Then, put them into a metal container. Pick one that has a sealable lid. 

Image of a fire pit ash bucket from above

Depending on how recent the fire was, you might need to wear gloves to handle the container. Use a shovel to handle ashes. Don’t touch them directly.

Once you’ve gathered all the ashes, close the lid and put the metal container into the water. This will give it a chance to cool. Then, leave the ashes outside for a few days.

Clear the area of potential fuel like dry grass and leaves. Wait until you are sure that the ashes are cold, then remove them from the metal container. Now, you’ll be able to start using them.

How to Treat Burns from Hot Fire Pit Ashes or Embers

Even if you are careful, you might burn your skin when moving ashes. In most cases, it will be a first-degree burn.

This means that just the top layer of skin will be affected. If it was worse than that, it’s a good idea to head to the emergency room. You can treat a first-degree burn at home.

  • First, run your hand under cool water. Don’t use cold water or ice. Leave it under the water for a few minutes. This should help reduce the pain.

  • Then, you’ll need to wrap the burn in a Band-Aid. Don’t use any oils or creams. If you have a petroleum jelly-based mixture you can apply it.

  • You can take an over-the-counter painkiller to numb the pain.
Image of a first aid kit used to treat fire pit burns
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You should notice the pain and redness start to dull after a few hours. If this isn’t the case, you might need to go to the doctor. You should also seek medical treatment if you have signs of swelling or infection.

How Much Fire Pit Ash Should I Leave Behind?

You might not want to gather up all the ash, especially if you plan to start another fire in that location. The ashes can retain residual heat. This will make it easier for the fire to ignite. This is more important during stoves or indoor fireplaces. The coals will lie in the ash, providing more heat.

You should aim to leave about an inch of ash. Anything over this and the fireplace won’t be working efficiently. It can get clogged up.

What to do With Ashes From a Fire Pit

So, you’ve gathered up the ashes, hopefully without burning yourself. Now, what do you do with them? There are plenty of options that you might want to explore.

  • You can add it to your garden, providing nutrients to the plants

  • You can use it to raise the pH of the soil

  • Wood ash can keep pests at bay

  • Use it to keep glass surfaces clean

  • Wood ash can absorb spills

  • It can provide traction on snowy walkways

Let’s take a closer look at each of these potential uses.

Can you use Wood Ash as Garden Fertilizer?

One of the most common uses for wood ashes is as garden fertilizer. Fire pit ashes valuable nutrients like calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorous. These are the things that plants will need to grow strong.

You can also use wood to change the pH of the soil. It will increase the pH levels faster than limescale.

There are plenty of ways that you’ll be able to unlock the benefits of wood ash by sprinkling it in your garden. Let’s check out some of the best approaches.

How to Add Wood Ash to Compost?

One of the most common ways to release nutrients from wood ash is by adding it to your compost heap. It’s easy to do this.

You’ll need to break down the ash. Then, add a sprinkle to each layer of compost. Mix up the compost pile. This will get the decomposition process started.

Image a compost heap with fire pit ash spread on top
Fire pit ash used in a compost heap

As time goes on, the ash will be able to get broken down by the worms and other bugs that live in the compost. The ash can also help absorb some of the unpleasant smells that the heap might be producing.

The composting process will also remove the lye and salt from the wood. These chemicals can damage plants if applied in high quantities.

How to Add Wood Ash to the Garden?

You don’t need to wait for the composting process to break down the ash. Instead, you can add it directly to the garden. There are a few tips to follow when doing this.

First, you’ll want to lightly scatter it through the garden. You might want to mix it into manure. This will stop the ashes from blowing in the wind. Try to prevent the ashes from touching the plants directly.

The soil will absorb the ashes easily. Because of this, you might be able to use between one-and-a-half to three-quarter inches of ash. Once you’ve finished distributing the ashes, you’ll need to water them.

In some cases, you might want to mix the ashes with water. This can be an easier way to distribute them. You’ll often need to use one pound of ashes for every ten gallons of water. This will be plenty of ash. Leave it to soak in the bucket for a few days. This will extract the nutrients. Then, water the garden. Remember, this can be a powerful brew, so you don’t need to use too much. 

Is Wood Ash Good for Grass?

The garden isn’t the only thing that can benefit from adding ashes. Sprinkling some over the grass can be a great way to boost growth.

There are a few reasons for this. First, as we’ll discuss later, it will raise soil acidity. Many lawn fertilizers are high in nitrogen. This can make the soil more acidic. Because of this, it can struggle to absorb nutrients. Also, ashes will contain plenty of minerals that will help the grass grow.

Image of fire pit ash being spread over a lawn

The way that you apply the ashes will often be the same as applying other types of fertilizer. First, you’ll want to wet the soil. Then, rake over it. This will mix it into the soil. Wet the grass again. Leave it to absorb the ashes. You should be able to notice a change in the pH levels within a few days. Often, 10 to 15 pounds per 1,000 square feet will be a good proportion.

Once you apply wood ash to the lawn, you should wait at least a month before you apply nitrogen-based fertilizers. You’ll only need to ash the lawn every five years.

How Does Wood Ash Change the pH of the Garden?

One of the best ways to use wood ash in the garden is to control the pH levels. Wood ash will be able to raise the pH levels in the soil. This will make it less alkaline and less acidic. It’s important to monitor the pH levels. This will determine how the plants absorb the nutrients.

The optimal pH levels will depend on what plants you have. For example, some will relish acidic soil. However, others will prefer more alkaline soil. You should research the plant species you have to see what pH range they will perform best in. Generally, though, the garden will perform best when kept between 6 to 7pH.

You can tell what the current pH level is by performing a simple test. You should be able to find this at most hardware stores. Test the soil and compare it to the strip provided. If it’s lower than 6, you’ll be able to use wood ash to raise the pH levels. This is often preferred to lime, as ash delivers results faster. Simply sprinkle the ashes around the garden and water them in.

If the test is indicating that your soil already has a pH level of 7, you might want to avoid using wood ash. You don’t want the soil to become too acidic. Retest the soil frequently. This will let you see when the soil starts to lose acidity, giving you a good idea of when you will need to apply more wood ash.

How to Use Wood Ash to Keep Pests Away From Your Garden?

No one wants to put the time and effort into building a thriving garden, just to have it eaten by bugs. But you might want to avoid using commercial insecticides. These might contain harmful chemicals. For example, Monsanto’s Roundup has been linked to chemicals that cause cancer. Thankfully, there is a natural alternative. You can use wood ash.

Image of a japanese beetle in a garden
Stop Japanese Beetles with fire pit ash in your garden

There are a few ways that you can use wood ash in your garden. First, you will be able to sprinkle the ash around your home. This will allow you to deter crawling insects. However, you’ll need to re-apply it regularly. This will stop the wind and the rain from blowing it away. You can also sprinkle the ash around the garden beds. This will help deter insects from crawling into them.

You might also want to use the wood ash to form a natural insecticide spray. Mix one cup of ash and one cup of lime. Add it to two gallons of water. Combine it thoroughly. This will create a mixture that you’ll be able to spray onto the top and bottom of the infested plants.

Can you use Wood Ash for Pond Algae?

If you have a pond, you are familiar with the difficulty that comes with maintaining it. Often, the biggest issue will be with algae growing in the water. There are several ways to keep pond algae in check. For example, you might need to routinely clean the water.

However, one of the easiest solutions might be to sprinkle some wood ash into the pond. When you sprinkle wood into the pond, it will slow the growth of the algae. This will make it easier to control.  You won’t need to use a lot of algae. Just one teaspoon per 1,000 gallons will be enough to do the trick.

Image of a house where fire pit ash is used for many things

How Can You Use Wood Ash Around the Home?

Though wood ash might be most commonly used in the garden, there are plenty of other uses that you might want to explore inside the home. You can use it for everything from cleaning windows to absorbing stains.

Because there are so many uses, it can often be a good idea to keep a bucket of ashes in the garage. This will ensure that you always have some when you need them. Make sure the bucket has a lid, to stop any ashes from blowing around the garage.

Can you use Wood Ash to Clean Glass?

Believe it or not, wood ash can be a great way to keep your glass clean. Better yet, it’s perfect for heavily stained glass. To achieve this, you’ll need to make an ash paste.

To do this, you’ll want to get the fine ash. Put this into a glass jar. You won’t need a large jar unless you want to make a lot of cleaning paste. Once the jar is mostly filled, add water to the mixture and stir thoroughly. This will combine everything, forming pumice.

Once you’ve got this pumice, select a damp cloth. Then, dip it into the mixture. Rub it over the glass surface, applying a liberal amount. You should notice that the stains are coming out. Continue until the glass is clean. The final step is to rinse off the pumice. This will leave you with a clear and shiny glass surface. This should be suitable for most of the glass around your house.

Some people claim that this paste can also be used to remove stains from clothing. However, it’s best to test this on a small area first, to make sure that it works.

Does Wood Ash Absorb Spills?

Another great option for using wood ash is to absorb spills. If you have spilled oil, sprinkle some ash on it. The ash will start to suck it up. However, it shouldn’t become sticky. Because of this, you’ll be able to sweep up the ash afterward, leaving you with a clean floor. This can be very helpful in the garage. This is especially helpful on the driveways. The black ash will be able to blend with the asphalt, so no one will know you’re cleaning up a spill.

Also, wood ash can be a great way of absorbing unpleasant smells. To do this, fill a glass with ashes. Then, add it to the kitchen. It works best if there are some bigger chunks of charcoal in the glass. These ashes will also absorb excess moisture, protecting against mold and other bacteria that develop in humid areas.

Can Wood Ash Provide Traction in the Snow?

Another useful application for wood ash is to provide traction in the snow. You will use it in the same way as you would apply gravel. Sprinkle it along the snowed path. This will provide some traction, stopping you from slipping over. You’ll often need to re-apply the ash, as it will blow away in the wind.

Because of this, you might want to put a small bucket of ash in your car. When you come across an icy spot, you’ll be able to sprinkle some ash around. This will give you traction.

What Other Uses for Wood Ash are There?

Though these are the main uses for wood ash, there are a few other possible uses for this material. For example, many survivalists use ash to treat wounds. This can come in very useful if you aren’t able to get to the hospital in time. The ash will act as an anti-septic, sealing the wound off and preventing you from getting infected.

Also, some groups might use ash to leach the tannins out of acorns. This made them safe to eat. Acorns used to be a very popular food amongst many native tribes throughout the world. Finally, you will be able to use the ashes as a type of fire extinguisher.

How to Dispose of Fire Pit Ash?

In some cases, though, you might not be interested in using the wood ashes. In this case, you’ll need to find a safe way of disposing of them. First, you’ll need to cool them off. Then, gather them into a bag. You can then throw this into the trash.

However, you might also want to list the bag of wood ashes online. As we’ve seen, there are plenty of ways that they can be used. Because of this, you’ll be able to find a lot of people who will be willing to pay for them.

Final Thoughts on Fire Pit Ash

You shouldn’t fire pit ashes as a useless by-product. Instead, they can be put to a range of uses. You can use them in the garden or in your home. You can even use them in a survival situation, sealing your wounds, and keeping you safe from infection. So, get into the habit of storing and using your wood fire ashes.

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