Cozying up to a roaring fire is a winter evening pastime that no one would reject. Disposing of fireplace ashes? Well, that's a chore that many would prefer to do without. But the fact is, there are many productive uses for wood ash. Rather than emptying your ash can into the garbage, put those heaps of soot to work for you. Here's how.
1. ADD TRACTION
Did you know that wood ash gives traction to icy or snow-covered walkways? That's welcome information, particularly for gardeners, who know too well how commercial de-icing products damage lawns and plantings. Also, if the car gets stuck, sprinkling ash in front of and behind tires can help them get a grip.
2. POLISH SILVER
Many store-bought silver polishes are toxic; wood ash offers an all-natural alternative, free of cost. Mix one cup of the stuff with a small amount of water. A thick paste should form. Spread that evenly over your silverware and let it sit for a few minutes. Then wipe off the paste with a clean cloth and buff your silver to a shine.
3. AMEND SOIL
Because it contains about 25 percent calcium carbonate, wood ash works well as a liming agent for acidic soil. Steer clear of applying it near certain acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, but generally, if the pH reading of your soil is 5.5 or less, ash can provide a benefit when dug about six inches down into the soil.
4. CLEAN FIREPLACE DOORS
This may seem counterintuitive, but wood ash-being abrasive and alkaline-actually cleans sooty fireplace doors quite effectively. What you do is dampen some old newspapers, dip them into ashes, then vigorously scrub the glass. Employ the same technique with any windows in your home that show a buildup of limescale.
5. DETER PESTS
Are slugs and snails a nuisance in your garden? If so, try sprinkling wood ash around the plants most frequently affected. Acting as a desiccant, the ash dries up these slimy garden pests. Be careful, though: Ash can do the same thing to your plants if you don't take care to place it a safe distance from stems and roots.