We’re nearing the last weeks of winter, which means many fireplaces will soon be shut down for warmer weather. And if you’ve put your wood-burning fireplace to use a lot this year, we’re guessing you have a lot of ash built up in the firebox.

Now, some think removing ash is as easy as scooping it up and dumping in the trash, but it’s actually not so simple. In fact, that technique can be pretty dangerous! There’s a proper way to dispose of fireplace ash to ensure no hidden sparks or embers ignite and start a fire in your home.

Fireplace Ash

Learn about this process below, and be sure to count on Clean Sweep of Anne Arundel for all of your chimney repairs, sweepings, installation work, and more! And don’t forget to book that annual inspection before your next burning season – we’ve got your back.

First Things First – Wait Until the Ash Has Cooled

First things first, if your ash is still hot and glowing red, do not attempt to remove it. If possible, it’s best to wait a few days before starting the job to ensure no heat is hidden away in there. Believe it or not, embers can stay alive in your fireplace for days, so it’s always best not to take chances.

It’s also a good idea to use a metal tool to move the ash around, double-checking for embers before starting this process.

Use the Proper Equipment

Like we said, ash can stay hot for days on end, so always use a metal scoop to remove it. Along with this, be sure you are transferring the ash into a metal bucket with a tight-fitting metal lid. Ideally, the bottom of the bucket will be slightly raised off of the ground, and it should have a handle to ensure no one gets accidentally burned when moving it.

Why the lid? This is to avoid exposure to oxygen that could easily fuel a live ember. If your ashes get stirred up and that air hits it, it could ignite any surrounding materials (especially if it’s on dry grass or flammable woodwork).

Store Ash Away From Flammable Objects

To reduce any risk of flames starting up again and spreading, store your full ash bucket on a flat concrete or metal surface well away from your home. Make sure not to have any overhang from trees or shrubs.

Never store your ash bucket on your porch, in a dry/grassy area, inside your garage, or in or near your home. This could lead to severe property damage and threaten the safety of those inside of the home.

Finally, let your ash bucket sit for days before emptying it out – the longer you wait, the better! Like we’ve mentioned, embers can stay hot for a long time when they’re buried safely in your fireplace ash. It’s best not to take any chances. Let them sit for as long as possible to guarantee no flames have the opportunity to spread.

Should I Remove it All?

Not sure whether to clear out all of your fireplace ash or leave a small layer? Well, if it is officially the end of your burning season, then we’d recommended getting rid of all of it. If it sits in your firebox for months at a time, it can draw in moisture that will end up hurting your chimney system down the line.

That being said, if you still have fires to build this winter, then it’s fine (even beneficial) to leave a 1-inch layer. This coating can help fuel new fires and it will protect your firebox floor as well. Just make sure it’s not piling up too high, as this can eat away at your fireplace grate.

Uses for Fireplace Ash

Ok – so you’ve done everything right. Your ash has been safely sitting in a closed bucket for days, and it’s time to officially dispose of it. So, what now?

  • Well, rather than just dump it in your trash can, there are actually lots of ways to get even more use out of your fireplace ash! Try some of the following options:
  • Nourish Your Plants: One of the most popular ways people use wood ash is in their gardens. It can offer a boost to plants like tomatoes, lettuce, asparagus, garlic, and more. Just keep them away from plants that like acid (like blueberries, strawberries, potatoes, and azaleas)
  • Ward Off Garden Pests: Another way ash benefits your garden is by keeping certain pests, like slugs and snails, away. They’ll want to keep their slimy selves as far away from that dry substance as possible!
  • Clean Driveway Stains: Have a pesky oil stain in your driveway? Sprinkle some ash over it, let it sit for several hours, then sweep it all up. Easy peasy!
  • Melt Ice Away: Some people keep ash in their car in case they get stuck in a particularly icy spot. It helps improve traction and melt ice. It can also be used on sidewalks and driveways to reduce the likelihood of slips and falls.
  • Get to Cleaning: Ash can contribute a lot to your spring cleaning checklist. It helps to polish silver, you can use it to make soap, it gets your glass fireplace doors shining, and can even be turned into a bleaching agent!

Need Help? We’re Here for You

If you live in Anne Arundel, Howard or Prince Georges counties, count on the team at Clean Sweep of Anne Arundel County to help with any of your end-of-the-season care. From inspections to installations and more, we’d love to assist with it all! Stay safer by relying on us – call 410-590-4800 today!