Disposing of fireplace ashes

By Jackie DavisJackie Davis


Photo by Shay Sowden

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The Question

What is the best way to dispose of ashes from the fireplace?

—Ian Clark

The Answer

Most municipalities will accept (cooled) fireplace ash with the regular garbage. But, assuming you’re looking for a useful way to recycle your ash—pure wood ash, mind you, not ash from wood that contained preservatives or was painted or varnished—you have a few choices. If you have acidic soil in your garden, raking a thin layer of ash into the soil can increase the pH. This is good: Many plants do well in soil that has a neutral pH. (However, adding ash to your soil is a bad idea if it’s already alkaline, so test your soil’s pH first.) You can also put a small amount of ash—just a dusting—between layers of compost to help break down organics and deter animals.

Got an outhouse? Toss about a quarter of a cup of ash in the hole (just enough to cover your business right after you’ve used the privy) to help the waste break down and to keep away odour and insects. Icy steps? Sprinkle some ash on slippery surfaces to de-ice and add traction. Plus—what can’t ash do?—mix some with water, and you’ll get an old-fashioned glass cleaner and silver polish. Thrifty! Grandma would be proud.

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Jackie Davis