Fireplace ash can be a nuisance. It can be messy. It can even be a hindrance to a healthy fire. Surprisingly though, fireplace ash can also be useful year-round.
Using Your Ashes in the Yard
- Plump Tomatoes – Because of the acidity of fireplace ash, they are often used in potted tomato plants for juicier, plumper, and overall healthier tomato fruits.
- Block Pests – Use ashes along borders of vegetable gardens or flower gardens to keep certain pests from your plants. Slugs and snails are deterred by ashes and cannot pass through them.
- Control Algae – Adding a small number of ashes to pond water will promote the healthy growth of aquatic plants, causing algae growth to slow. You need only a tablespoon for every 1,000 gallons of water.
- Enrich Soil and Compost – Cultivating ashes into your soil or compost will enhance the nutrients and change the acidity. Adding too much will make your soil too acidic, so it’s important to have your soil tested before beginning this process.
Using Ashes Around the House
When you have ashes stored and cooled on hand, you can use them for all kinds of things around the house.
- Neutralize Pet Odors – You don’t have to perfume your pets when you have ashes on hand. Rubbing a small handful of cool, dry dashes into your pet’s coat will neutralize even the most powerful odors such as skunk and decomposition.
- Minor Cleaning and Polishing – Adding a small amount of water to ashes can create quite the cleaner for glass and metal. Polish silverware, clean windows and remove carbon stains from fireplace doors.
- Stain Removal – Ashes thrown onto fresh stains on concrete or pavement can absorb and lift stains. Keep a bit of ash in a bucket in your basement or garage.
- Melting Ice – Hot ashes thrown onto icy sidewalks or pavements will melt the ice, but cool ashes can still help. A layer of ashes will provide traction on slippery surfaces caused by ice or rain.
- Homemade Soap – Believe it or not you can make soap from your ashes. Mixing water with wood ash results in lye which can be mixed with animal fat and boiled to make soap. This is exactly how the pioneers made soap and many still do today.
Safely Disposing of Fireplace Ash
Your ashes can be of great use if you know how to use them for your benefit. If they aren’t safely removed and used, however, your ashes can become a problem. If left in the fireplace or stove too long, the ashes can build up and crowd your logs and coals. This can stifle your fire as well as cause accidental burns and fires. In the same way, removing the ashes improperly and without the necessary tools can lead to burns and fire risk as well.
Tools and Accessories for Removing and Storing Your Ashes
Most homeowners will not wait for a fire to die completely out before removing ashes. This would mean extinguishing and relighting the fire repeatedly throughout the season. No, when ashes are removed, they are usually hot and can even include embers that are red hot. It is of most importance to remove only cool ashes when servicing your fireplace. Wait until after your fire has stopped burning long enough to give the ashes a chance to cool. Remove the ashes with a long-handled shovel and wearing proper gloves to protect your hands. Place the ashes into a metal bucket and remove them from the house. Store ashes inside a metal container such as a trash can and cover with a securable lid. Keep this container at least ten feet from your house, your firewood supply, or any flammable materials.
Finding and Using Your Ash Pit
If you have an old masonry fireplace, you likely have an ash dump, though possibly many years out of use. These pits are situated beneath the firebox and are usually accessed through an opening at the back of the firebox floor. The ash pit may hold many years’ worth of ash before removal and will need to be cleaned out professionally. If your ash pit needs to be cleaned, you can opt to save some of the ashes for your use, or your chimney professional can remove and dispose of it all.
Chimney Maintenance for Southern Maryland Residents
For over twenty years, Chesapeake Chimney & Co. has served countless families throughout our own and neighboring counties in Southern Maryland. Our technicians are members of the National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG), the Mid-Atlantic Chimney Association, and the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). We take chimney science and fire safety seriously as it’s our goal to keep families and homes safe in our communities and beyond.
Along with ash removal, we offer a variety of chimney services year-round for the benefit of homeowners in and around Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s, Southern Anne Arundel, and Southern Prince George’s counties.
Call Chesapeake Chimney & Co to schedule preventative services such as sweeps, inspections, and waterproofing or repairs to keep your system working safely and efficiently.
Dial 410-535-0052 or contact us online.