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Saturday, May 5, 2012


I'm new to the recycling of ashes. Today, I cleaned out my chimnea. This left me with a 5 gallon bucket full of ashes . I had no idea how to dispose of them, and upon further investigation , I found lot's of great information ...

*Apply the ashes to your garden or around shrubs that like to be raised in alkaline soil. Do research to make sure the ash is not applied to plants that thrive in acid soil, such as rhododendrons, blueberries or azaleas.

*De-skunk - a handful of wood ashes rubbed into your hair neutralizes the lingering odor.

*Mix ash with water to make a paste. Rub on water rings or other wood blemishes. Buff with furniture polish to make the wood look like new.

*Spread ash around the perimeter of the vegetable and flower gardens to repel snails and slugs.

*Clean fireplace glass with ash. Sprinkle ash on a damp sponge. Scrub glass in a circular pattern to remove soot deposits.


There is a way to make soap similar to the method colonists used that doesn't involve a trip to the craft store. After a good fire, ashes are collected and processed into lye. The lye starts as a caustic liquid capable of burning skin but eventually evaporates into the crystals needed in soap recipes. Soap is a wonderful thing. Most folks are so used to simply choosing a brand from the supermarket shelf; they never think about whats in it or how its made or whether its even good for them.

Collect ashes from a fire

Drill a 1/8-inch hole in the bottom of a large plastic bucket.  Find a nail that if pushed in the hole, will fit snug enough to clog the hole completely.

Shovel in the cooled  ashes. Charcoal bits hinder the lye process. Smash down the ash so it's compacted in the bucket. The bucket should not be more than 1/4 full.

Fill the duplicate empty bucket that has no hole halfway with water. Pour that amount of water into pots and boil it.
Pour the hot water slowly over the ash.

 Let the mixture sit for 24 hours before coming back.The water allowed to sit in the wood ashes for a couple days so that the ashes (potash) could leech into the soft water. The ashes become very absorptive and the mixture looks like cement.

 Place the duplicate bucket underneath the full bucket with gloves and eye gear on. Slowly remove the nail and allow the lye water to drip into the bottom bucket. The process can take hours.

Replace the nail in the top bucket while wearing gloves. Take the drained solution and pour it into pots. Heat the lye water until boiling, then repeat .
Remove the top bucket with gloves. Place a fresh egg in the lye water. If the egg is submerged but floating, the concentration is perfect. Repeat last step only if the egg sinks. Add small amounts of cold water if the egg floats on top of the lye without being submerged at all.

Lye test
Take one egg (or a small potato), drop it into a small pan of lye-water and watch how it floats.
  • If it floats just below half-way up, then the lye water is at the right strength
  • If it does not float, boil down the lye water to make it stronger.
  • If it seems to float too well (too high in the water) add a little bit of the softer water a little bit at a time until the egg floats correctly; when it's head "pops up".

  • Take a chicken feather and place it in the lye-water. If it starts to dissolve, it is just right.
^^handle all lye-water mixtures very carefully. Even weak lye will burn you severely. 
Place the lye solution in a sunny location away from children or pets. Wait until the solution evaporates and lye crystals are remaining to make soap.
Place 3 lbs. lard or 48 oz. olive oil into a 10-by-12-inch dishpan.

  • Bring the lye inside the house . Pour 3 cups of water into a 2-qt. art glass or enamel saucepan and add 1½ tsp. salt. Turn the heat on high. Slowly add 12 oz. of lye crystals while stirring with a wooden spoon. Take care not to breathe any vapor while stirring the crystals until dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool one hour.
  • Pour the solution into the dishpan filled with lard or oil. Stir the mixture until it is completely mixed. Mixing can take as long as 15 minutes. Let mixture rest for a day or two (a week for olive oil) until hardened. Cut into soap bars.