If you’re camping, you’ll probably need to use wood for cooking anyway. So it’s not that hard to imagine a situation in which knowing how to clean cooking gear with wood ash will come in handy. I mean few people carry dish soap with them while camping. And it’s also polluting. Why not use the leftover ash to clean up after yourself when you’re done?
Ashes from hardwoods such as oak, maple and cherry will all act as more effective cleaning agents instead of softwood ash such as pine and Douglas fir. You’ll need to boil a pot of water, so make sure you collect enough wood to build a fire big enough to warm a pot that will boil about four cups of water.
Boiling the water can be done while you’re waiting for the fire to burn and create the ash you’ll need. It’s even better if you can add a bit of charcoal to the fire. Once the fire has burned down to ashes and the water is boiled, you then need to let the ash cool enough to the point where you can extract it from the fire pit.
The formula that makes this method so good is:
Wood Ash + Hot Water + Grease (from the cooking gear) = Soap
So you’ll need a bit of oil or grease in order to get the wood ash working as soap. This might already be present in your cooking gear but if it’s not, add a bit of butter, oil, or animal fat into whatever you’re about to clean. You don’t need a lot, just a couple of drops. Then add two or three cups of the wood ash and, if using, a couple of lumps of charcoal, as this can help you really scour that gear. Pour a couple cups of water into the cooking gear with the ash and coal and stir to make a paste. Then, use this paste to scrub the pots and other gear until all debris is removed.
Once the gear is cleaned, use some of the boiled water to rinse the gear fully so that no ash residue is left behind. Then you just need to dry them off or let them sit in the sun to dry on their own before packing them up for your next meal.
Remember that wood ash can be very harsh, which is why it makes such an effective cleaning agent for your cooking gear. But it’s also for this reason that wood ash should never be used to clean your body, or anything else that won’t be able to stand up against harsh cleansers. Also remember when cleaning your gear – using wood ash or anything else – to always do so away from fresh water. The cleaning agent, as well as the debris you’re cleaning, can pollute the waterways that we rely on for survival.
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