How Ashes Can Save You Time and Money

How Ashes Can Save You Time and Money

Clean fireplace doors
You normally wouldn’t think of using dirty wood ashes to clean glass fireplace doors, but it works. Mix some ashes with a bit of water, and apply them with a damp cloth, sponge, or paper towel, or simply dip a wet sponge into the ashes. Rub the mixture over the doors’ surfaces. Rinse with a wet paper towel or sponge, then dry with a clean cloth. The results will amaze you, but remember — wood ash was a key ingredient in old-fashioned lye soap.

Use as plant food
Wood ashes have a high alkaline content and trace amounts of calcium and potassium, which encourage blooms. If your soil tends to be acidic, sprinkle the ashes in spring around alkaline-loving plants such as clematis, hydrangea, lilac, and roses (but avoid acid-lovers like rhododendrons, blueberries, and azaleas). Avoid using ashes from easy-to-ignite, pre-formed logs, which may contain chemicals harmful to plants. And be sparing when adding ashes to your compost pile; they can counteract the benefits of manure and other high-nitrogen materials.

Repel insects
Scatter a border of ashes around your garden to deter cutworms, slugs, and snails — it sticks to their bodies and draws moisture out of them. Also sprinkle small amounts of ashes over garden plants to manage infestations of soft-bodied insects. Wear eye protection and gloves; getting ashes in your eyes can be quite painful.

Clean pewter
Restore the shine to your pewter by cleaning it with cigarette ashes. Dip a dampened piece of cheesecloth into the ashes and rub it well over the item. It will turn darker at first, but the shine will come out after a good rinsing.

Remove water spots and heat marks from wood furniture
Use cigar and or cigarette ashes to remove those white rings left on your wooden furniture by wet glasses or hot cups. Mix the ashes with a few drops of water to make a paste, and rub lightly over the mark to remove it. Then shine it with your favorite furniture polish.
Tired of those annoying discolorations on your concrete work? To get rid of them, scrub with 1 cup ammonia diluted in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water. Hose it down well when you’re done.

Fight mildew
Ammonia and bleach are equally effective weapons in the battle against mold and mildew. However, each has its own distinct applications, and under no conditions should the two ever be combined.
Reach for the ammonia for the following chores, but be sure you use it in a well-ventilated area, and don’t forget to wear rubber gloves:

  • Clean the mildew off unfinished wooden patio furniture and picnic tables with a mixture of 1 cup ammonia, 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup baking soda, and 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water. Rinse off thoroughly and use an old terry-cloth towel to absorb excess moisture.
  • To remove mildew from painted outdoor surfaces, use the same combination of ingredients.
  • To remove mildew from wicker furniture, wash it down with a solution of 2 tablespoons ammonia in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water. Use an old toothbrush to get into hard-to-reach twists and turns. Rinse well and let air-dry.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest