It may come as a surprise to some but there are right and wrong ways to dispose of fireplace ash. Improper disposal of this ash can lead to a higher risk of fire hazards, burns, or become a carbon monoxide risk.
While we all love to huddle around a cozy fireplace when the weather turns cold, it can become highly dangerous. By discarding ash outside and away from your home in the correct manner, you can enjoy fires in a safer way for a long time to come.
The good news is that the safe disposal of fireplace ash is pretty straightforward. It just requires a few steps to ensure that the ash has fully burned out and ready for disposal or recycling. And we are going to show you how in this article. We will guide you through each step so you can safely remove the ash from your fireplace to another, safe location.
Dispose of fireplace ash safely
Step 1 - Allow the ash to build up in the fireplace
One common mistake people make when clearing ash from their fireplace is disposing of it every time the fire is burned. As soon as they see a small layer of ash at the bottom of the fireplace, they believe it should be removed the next morning.
However, this small blanket of ash found at the bottom of the fireplace can help your fire burn stronger and brighter. It helps to insulate the fire so it can burn longer than usual. Therefore, you should allow for around an inch of ash to form at the bottom of your fireplace.
Only consider clearing away this ash once it has piled up over this point. Don’t let the ash grow too high though. If it begins to touch the bottom of your fireplace grate, then you are long overdue for ash removal.
Step 2 - Allow the fire to cool down
You must be patient and give the fire enough time to cool down properly. The hot embers inside your fireplace can hide beneath and within the ash bed for a long time after the fire has supposedly burned out.
It is critically important that you’re sure the fire has completely cooled before any attempt is made to remove the ashes.
We suggest waiting at least 24 hours after the fire has been snuffed out before removing the ashes. This will prevent the risk of serious burns and accidental fires. Many people have moved the ashes only to drop some red hot embers in their house. The result, as you can guess, has been a catastrophic fire that should have been avoided.
Step 3 - Use a shovel to remove the ashes
One useful tip is to always treat your fireplace ashes as if they were still burning hot. With this mindset, you and your surroundings will always be safer.
When it comes to removing the ashes from the firebox, put on a pair of safety gloves and use a metal shovel. Once you have shoveled the ashes out, place them into a galvanized steel or metal ash bucket.
If you want to keep your ashes in your house, for the time being, the bucket must be closed with a secure, firm-fitting lid. You can also store them in your garage or a well-ventilated space.
If combustion is still occurring, the ashes can emit harmful carbon dioxide. When inside your home, this can become a serious danger to your health and others around you.
Step 4 - Wet the ashes with water
We recommend using a water bottle or watering can to wet down your ashes or any wood pieces that are in your bucket. You should use enough water to completely saturate the bucket so everything is thoroughly wet.
You can do this whether you’re inside or outside but you can place a plastic trash bag under the bucket to protect your floor if required.
Step 5 - Dispose of the ash or recycle
After several days, the ashes should have cooled down completely. Therefore, they should now be safe to dispose of properly.
You have a few options available. You can either:
- Bag the ashes and throw them away in your regular garbage
- Reuse the ashes around your home
If you’re a gardener, fireplace ashes can become your best friend. Adding them to your backyard or front yard is a great and safe way of disposing of them. It can be used to add nutrients to compost, spread around the plant beds to keep slugs, snails, ants, and other pests away, or mixed into the soil around plants that love and need calcium.
You can also use fireplace ash to create some sort of traction on icy surfaces. No more slipping and sliding on the way to work during the winter months anymore. Just spread it across your driveway or sidewalk and you can improve your grip.
It can also be used to camouflage certain stains on cement. One other use is to scrub ash onto fireplace glass doors or silver to maintain a cleaner looking surface.
Carbon monoxide poisoning
As we mentioned, carbon monoxide poisoning can occur if you do not dispose of your fireplace ash in the correct manner. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a very poisonous gas that is often present in the fumes from the combustion of fuels that haven’t burnt under the right conditions. These fuels include oil, gas, solid mineral fuels, and biomass.
This gas cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted making it extremely difficult to detect and know if it’s in the air around you.
If you own a stove or fireplace, we recommend fitting an audible CO alarm. This will raise any alarm if carbon monoxide is found to be present in your home.
As you can see, proper disposal of fireplace ash is quite simple. However, you must follow these simple steps to keep you and your home safe from accidental fires, burns, and even carbon monoxide poisoning.