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What To Do With Charcoal Ash?

13 Mins read

What To Do With Charcoal Ash? Many people enjoy grilling and barbecuing during the summer months, and charcoal is a popular fuel choice for these activities. However, once the grilling is done and the charcoal has burned out, you are left with a pile of ash. Instead of simply discarding it, there are several practical and creative ways to put that charcoal ash to good use. Whether you want to enhance your garden, clean household items, or even create unique art projects, charcoal ash can serve a variety of purposes. Let’s explore some interesting ideas for what to do with charcoal ash and discover how it can be transformed from a waste product into something valuable.

What is charcoal ash

Charcoal ash is the residue that remains after charcoal has been burned. It is the powdery substance left behind when the carbon-rich material in charcoal undergoes combustion. Charcoal is typically made from natural materials such as wood or coconut shells, which are heated in the absence of oxygen to remove impurities and create a highly carbonized product.

The ash produced by burning charcoal consists of various minerals and trace elements that were present in the original material. It is predominantly composed of calcium carbonate, which gives it alkaline properties. Charcoal ash is typically light gray or white in color and has a fine texture.

Charcoal ash is different from wood ash, which is the residue left after burning wood. While wood ash also contains minerals and can be used for certain purposes, charcoal ash has some distinct characteristics due to the carbonization process it undergoes during charcoal production.

Because of its alkaline nature and mineral content, charcoal ash can be used in various ways, ranging from gardening and composting to cleaning and deodorizing. Its versatility makes it a valuable resource that can be repurposed rather than discarded.

What To Do With Charcoal Ash 1

What to do with charcoal ash? Best methods!

There are several practical and creative ways to put charcoal ash to good use. Here are some of the best methods for utilizing charcoal ash:

Repurposing Charcoal Ash

Repurposing charcoal ash offers several benefits and can be done in various ways. Here are some additional methods for repurposing charcoal ash:


Charcoal ash can serve as a natural fertilizer for your garden. The minerals present in the ash, such as potassium, calcium, and phosphorus, can provide essential nutrients that promote plant growth and health. Here’s how you can use charcoal ash as a fertilizer:

Sprinkling: Take a small amount of charcoal ash and sprinkle it evenly around your garden or plant beds. Aim for a thin layer to avoid excessive alkalinity. Gently work the ash into the topsoil using a rake or hand tool.

Mixing into compost: Another way to utilize charcoal ash is by incorporating it into your compost pile. Add a moderate amount of ash to the compost, mixing it in with the organic materials. The ash will enrich the compost with its mineral content, resulting in nutrient-rich compost for your plants.

Balancing pH levels: Charcoal ash can help balance the pH levels of the soil, especially if it is too acidic. However, it’s essential to conduct a soil test to determine the current pH levels before adding charcoal ash. This way, you can ensure that the ash is used in appropriate quantities to achieve the desired pH balance.

Specific plant preferences: Certain plants, such as roses, tomatoes, and peppers, benefit from the potassium content found in charcoal ash. If you have these plants in your garden, consider applying a bit more ash around them to provide an extra boost of nutrients.


Deter Pests

Charcoal ash can be an effective natural pest deterrent in your garden. The abrasive texture and alkaline properties of the ash can discourage pests such as insects, slugs, and snails from crossing into your plant beds. Here’s how you can use charcoal ash to deter pests:

Create a barrier: Scatter a line of charcoal ash around the perimeter of your garden or plant beds. This creates a barrier that pests will find challenging to cross. Make sure to create a continuous line to prevent any gaps.

Protect vulnerable plants: If you have specific plants that are particularly susceptible to pest damage, apply a thicker layer of charcoal ash directly around those plants. This provides extra protection and makes it even more difficult for pests to reach them.

Reapply after rain or watering: Charcoal ash may get washed away by heavy rain or watering. Therefore, it’s a good practice to reapply the ash after rainfall or when you water your garden to maintain an effective pest deterrent barrier.

Combine with other natural pest control methods: Charcoal ash can be used in conjunction with other natural pest control methods to maximize effectiveness. For example, you can use companion planting, such as planting marigolds or garlic, which naturally repel pests, alongside the charcoal ash barrier for enhanced pest control.

Monitor and adjust: Keep an eye on your garden and observe any signs of pest activity. If you notice pests still entering the area despite the charcoal ash barrier, you may need to reinforce it or consider using additional pest control measures.

Control Algae

Charcoal ash can be utilized to control algae growth in ponds or water features. Algae often thrive in water bodies with imbalanced pH levels, and the alkaline nature of charcoal ash can help counteract this. Here’s how you can use charcoal ash to control algae:

Determine the pH level: Start by testing the pH level of the water in your pond or water feature using a pH testing kit. This will provide you with information about the current acidity or alkalinity of the water.

Sprinkle charcoal ash: If the pH level of the water is too acidic and favorable for algae growth, sprinkle a small amount of charcoal ash directly into the water. Be cautious not to use excessive amounts, as this can disrupt the natural balance of the water.

Monitor and adjust: Regularly monitor the pH level and observe the condition of the water and algae growth. If necessary, you can gradually add more charcoal ash to maintain the desired pH balance.

Combine with other methods: While charcoal ash can help control algae, it may not be a standalone solution for severe cases. Consider implementing additional measures such as proper filtration, aeration, or the use of beneficial aquatic plants to further combat algae growth.

Maintenance and observation: Maintain a regular maintenance routine for your pond or water feature. Remove any excess debris, trim plants as needed, and ensure proper circulation of water. Regular observation and maintenance will help prevent algae from proliferating.

Lye Soap

Charcoal ash can play a significant role in the traditional process of making lye soap. The ash contains potassium carbonate, which, when combined with fats or oils, produces lye. This lye is a crucial component in soap making through the process of saponification. Here’s how charcoal ash is used to create lye for soap production:

Collect wood ash: Begin by collecting wood ash from hardwood fires or from the remnants of burned charcoal. It’s important to use ash from natural sources without additives or chemicals.

Create a lye solution: Place the wood ash in a container such as a bucket or barrel, and slowly pour water through it. This process is known as leaching. The water will dissolve the potassium carbonate in the ash, creating a lye solution.

Strain and collect lye: Allow the mixture of water and wood ash to sit for some time, typically a few hours or overnight. Afterward, strain the liquid through a cloth or fine mesh to remove any solid particles, collecting the liquid portion that contains the lye.

Combine with fats or oils: In soap making, the lye solution is then combined with fats or oils. This mixture undergoes a chemical reaction called saponification, resulting in the formation of soap. The specific recipe and ratios of fats or oils to lye depend on the desired properties and characteristics of the soap being produced.

Soap curing: After the saponification process, the soap is poured into molds and allowed to cure for several weeks. This curing period allows the soap to harden and any remaining lye to fully react and dissipate, ensuring a safe and mild soap.

Water Filtration

Charcoal ash can be a valuable component in DIY water filtration systems, particularly in emergency situations or during camping trips where access to clean water may be limited. The porous nature of charcoal allows it to effectively trap impurities and toxins, making it a useful material for water purification. Here’s how you can use charcoal ash in a DIY water filtration system:

Prepare the materials: You will need a container or bottle, gravel or small rocks, sand, and charcoal ash.

Construct the filtration layers: Start by placing a layer of fine mesh or cloth at the bottom of the container to prevent the charcoal ash from escaping. On top of the mesh, add a layer of gravel or small rocks as the first filtration layer.

Add the charcoal ash layer: Follow the gravel layer with a layer of charcoal ash. Make sure to spread it evenly across the container.

Add a layer of sand: On top of the charcoal ash layer, add a layer of sand. This acts as an additional filtration medium.

Repeat the layers (optional): For enhanced filtration, you can repeat the layers of gravel, charcoal ash, and sand, depending on the available space in the container.

Filter the water: Pour the water that needs to be filtered into the container. The water will pass through the layers of filtration media, with the charcoal ash helping to trap impurities and toxins.

Collect the filtered water: Place a clean container or catchment system beneath the filtration system to collect the filtered water as it passes through.

Road De-icer

Charcoal ash can be a viable substitute for commercial de-icers on icy roads or walkways. Its gritty texture provides traction and helps to melt ice, making it useful for improving safety and mobility during icy conditions. Here’s how you can use charcoal ash as a de-icer:

Prepare the area: Clear any snow or loose ice from the surface you wish to treat. This will allow the charcoal ash to come into direct contact with the ice and provide better traction.

Spread a thin layer: Sprinkle a thin layer of charcoal ash evenly over the icy surface. Use a shovel, broom, or your hands to distribute the ash, ensuring it covers the desired area.

Allow time for melting: As the charcoal ash comes into contact with the ice, it absorbs heat and accelerates the melting process. Give it some time to work and let the ash interact with the ice to help break it down.

Increase traction: The gritty texture of the charcoal ash provides increased traction, making it easier and safer to walk or drive on the treated surface. It helps to prevent slips and falls.

Reapply as necessary: Depending on the severity of the ice and weather conditions, you may need to reapply charcoal ash periodically. If you notice that the surface becomes icy again, simply add another thin layer of ash to maintain its effectiveness.

Recycling Unused Charcoal

Recycling Unused Charcoal offers several practical uses and can help minimize waste. Here are additional methods for repurposing and recycling unused charcoal:

Diminish Bad Odors

Unused charcoal can be an excellent natural odor absorber, helping to eliminate unpleasant smells in different environments. Here’s how you can use charcoal to diminish bad odors:

Refrigerators: Place a few pieces of unused charcoal in a container or wrap them in a breathable fabric pouch. Put the charcoal in the refrigerator, preferably near the back or in an area that doesn’t obstruct airflow. The charcoal will help absorb and neutralize food odors, keeping your fridge smelling fresh.

Closets: Hang a fabric pouch filled with unused charcoal in your closet. Alternatively, you can place small bowls or containers with charcoal on the closet shelves. The charcoal will help absorb moisture and odors, preventing musty smells and keeping your clothes smelling clean.

Shoes: Tackle shoe odors by placing a few pieces of unused charcoal in each shoe overnight. The charcoal will absorb moisture and odors, helping to neutralize the smell. Remember to remove the charcoal before wearing your shoes.

Pet areas: If you have a pet, you can use charcoal to minimize odors in their bedding or litter box. Sprinkle some unused charcoal in the bedding or litter box to help absorb and control odors. Remember to remove any charcoal before allowing your pet to use the area.

Bathroom: Place a small bowl or container with unused charcoal near the toilet or in the bathroom to absorb unpleasant bathroom odors. The charcoal will help neutralize the smells, leaving the bathroom fresher.

Car: To combat odors in your car, place a fabric pouch filled with unused charcoal under the seat or in a cup holder. The charcoal will absorb and reduce any unwanted smells, keeping your car interior more pleasant.

Remember to replace the charcoal periodically to maintain its effectiveness. As the charcoal absorbs odors, it may become saturated over time. You can refresh the charcoal by placing it outside in direct sunlight for a few hours to help release absorbed odors.

Turning It Into Compost

Incorporating unused charcoal into your compost pile can be a great way to enhance its quality and improve the overall composting process. Here’s how you can turn charcoal into compost:

Crush the charcoal: Take your unused charcoal and crush it into smaller pieces. You can use a mortar and pestle, a hammer, or any other suitable method to break the charcoal into smaller fragments. Aim for a size that is easily mixable with the other compost materials.

Add to the compost bin: Once the charcoal is crushed, add it to your compost bin or pile. Spread the charcoal pieces evenly throughout the compost, mixing them with the other organic materials.

Balance the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio: Charcoal is high in carbon content, which can help balance the carbon-to-nitrogen (C:N) ratio in your compost. The ideal C:N ratio for successful composting is generally considered to be around 25-30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. By adding charcoal, you can contribute to achieving this balance.

Enhance moisture retention: The porous structure of charcoal helps with moisture retention in the compost pile. It can absorb excess moisture and release it slowly, preventing the compost from becoming too wet or compacted. This improves the overall moisture balance in the pile, promoting healthy decomposition.

Mix and maintain the compost: After adding the charcoal, mix the compost pile thoroughly to ensure proper distribution of the materials. Continue regular compost maintenance, such as turning the pile, providing adequate aeration, and monitoring moisture levels.

Remember that charcoal should be used in moderation when adding it to your compost pile. Aim for a balanced mix of organic materials, including kitchen scraps, yard waste, and other compostable materials. Additionally, it’s important to use natural charcoal without additives or chemicals.

Turning It Into Compost

Preserving Cut Flowers

Using unused charcoal in the water of a vase can help extend the lifespan of cut flowers by providing a cleaner and bacteria-free environment. Here’s how you can use charcoal to preserve cut flowers:

Prepare the vase: Start by cleaning the vase thoroughly to remove any dirt or residue. Rinse it well with water to ensure it’s clean and free from any contaminants.

Crush the charcoal: Take a piece of unused charcoal and crush it into smaller chunks or powder. This will increase its surface area and maximize its effectiveness in the water.

Add the charcoal to the water: Place the crushed charcoal directly into the water in the vase. You can use a fabric pouch or a mesh bag to hold the charcoal, or simply add it directly to the water. Ensure that the charcoal is fully submerged.

Arrange the cut flowers: Trim the stems of your cut flowers at an angle and remove any leaves that would be submerged in the water. Arrange the flowers in the vase, making sure they are well-spaced and not overcrowded.

Monitor and replace the water: Check the water in the vase regularly and replace it every few days or as needed. When replacing the water, rinse off any accumulated debris or old charcoal residue, and add fresh water and crushed charcoal.

The charcoal helps prevent the growth of bacteria in the water, keeping it cleaner and clearer. This, in turn, helps preserve the freshness of the cut flowers by providing a healthier environment for them to thrive in.

Reduce Rust

Charcoal can be used as a natural remedy to combat rust on metal surfaces. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use charcoal to reduce rust:

Grind the charcoal: Take unused charcoal and grind it into a fine powder using a mortar and pestle or a blender. The finer the powder, the easier it will be to create a smooth paste.

Mix with water: Add a small amount of water to the powdered charcoal and mix it thoroughly until you achieve a paste-like consistency. The water helps bind the charcoal particles together and creates a spreadable mixture.

Apply the paste: Using a brush or a cloth, apply the charcoal paste onto the rusty areas of the metal surface. Ensure that the paste covers the rusted spots evenly, forming a thick layer. The charcoal’s abrasive properties will help remove rust and promote a clean surface.

Allow it to sit: Let the charcoal paste sit on the rusted areas for a sufficient amount of time. This will allow the charcoal to penetrate the rust and loosen it from the metal surface. The recommended time can vary depending on the extent of the rust, but leaving it for a few hours or overnight should be effective.

Scrub off the paste: After the paste has had time to work, use a brush or a cloth to scrub off the charcoal paste. As you scrub, you will notice that the rust begins to loosen and come off. Continue scrubbing until you have removed as much rust as possible.

Rinse and dry: Once you have scrubbed off the rust and paste, rinse the metal surface with clean water to remove any remaining residue. Dry the surface thoroughly to prevent any moisture that could contribute to further rusting.

Prevent future rusting: To help prevent future rusting, you can apply a protective coating or paint to the metal surface. This will act as a barrier, shielding the metal from moisture and oxidation.

Charcoal’s abrasive properties, combined with its ability to absorb moisture, make it an effective natural solution for rust removal. It’s important to note that while charcoal can be effective for light to moderate rust, severe or deeply embedded rust may require professional treatment or stronger rust removal products.

Suppressing Weeds

Crushed unused charcoal can be a natural and effective method for suppressing weeds in your garden. Here’s how you can use charcoal to help control weed growth:

Crush the charcoal: Take unused charcoal and crush it into small pieces. You can use a mortar and pestle, a hammer, or any other suitable method to break the charcoal into smaller fragments. Aim for a size that is easy to sprinkle and distribute.

Identify weed-prone areas: Identify the areas in your garden where weeds tend to grow or where you want to prevent weed growth. These can include garden beds, pathways, or open spaces where weed seeds may have access to sunlight and soil.

Sprinkle the charcoal: Sprinkle the crushed charcoal evenly over the identified weed-prone areas. Create a thin layer of charcoal, ensuring that it covers the soil surface where weeds are likely to emerge. Pay particular attention to areas between plants or in spaces where weed seeds can settle.

Reapply as needed: Over time, the charcoal will break down and decompose, so it’s important to monitor the weed-prone areas and reapply the crushed charcoal as needed. Reapply after heavy rain or when you notice the charcoal layer has diminished.

Maintain garden practices: While charcoal can help suppress weed growth, it’s important to continue practicing good garden maintenance. This includes regular weeding, proper mulching, and cultivating healthy soil to create an environment that is less favorable for weed establishment.

The charcoal acts as a natural barrier, hindering weed growth and germination by blocking sunlight and preventing weed seeds from coming into contact with the soil. Additionally, the porous nature of charcoal helps with moisture retention, reducing competition for water between weeds and desirable plants.

Suppressing Weeds

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About author
As the founder and chief editor of Scills Grill, I'm a self-proclaimed BBQ nut. I love cooking outdoors over live fire and smoke, no matter the weather. I use various grills, smokers, and wood-fired ovens to produce epic food. Peter Cobbetts is the president and founder of Scills Grill, with over 15 years' experience in barbecue. He's an exceptional pitmaster and grill expert who specializes in smoking briskets, pork shoulders - using charcoal, wood or propane grills/smokers - as well as reviewing kitchen appliances such as grills, smokers etc., having tried out almost every model available on the market.
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