Your time spent grilling is finished, the meat has cooked, the plates have been cleared, and now it is time to dispose of your used charcoal. You can’t use it any longer to light fires. So, what do you do with your charcoal after grilling?
There are several different types of charcoal you could be disposing of – wood-based charcoal and ash leftover, or the black charcoal briquettes or lumps commonly sold in bags. The wood charcoal is easier to dispose of, since it’s more natural.
As long as you’re dealing with charcoal that is wood based and free of any additives, there are all kinds of uses for it. When it has been used to the point of ash, then follow the below steps to find out how to take care of it.
But First, Some Safety Tips
Used charcoal after grilling at some point came into contact with harsh chemicals such as lighter fluid, and it was also quite literally, on fire. So, you want to practice all safety the precautions before disposing of, recycling, or reusing charcoal. If it had lighter fluid on it, that is extremely toxic and it must be kept away from both children and pets.
Also, it’s an excellent practice to wait 48 hours for charcoal to completely cool down after its final grilling. Then it is safe to handle properly and disposed of in one of the below ways.
Yes, You Can Throw it Out
You can dispose of used charcoal in the trash. Just close the lid and all vents to the charcoal grill for at least two full days. That gives the ash a complete chance to cool down.
Take sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil. Scoop out the cooled charcoal ash and place it into the foil. Wrap it up tightly into a packet and dispose of it in a non-combustible garbage bin. Alternatively, you could find a local dump or trash place that can take it and dispose of it that way, if you don’t feel comfortable leaving it in your local garbage bin. Many grillers keep a bucket specifically to store the used charcoal dust or ash until they can dispose of it properly. You are certainly welcome to do this and keep the bucket in your garage or a secure location.
Plants Love Charcoal Ash
You can take your leftover charcoal to a local garden center, since the ash contains a powerful nutrient called potash (potassium carbonate). Potash is very nutritious for all kinds of plants, and potassium salts are often used in fertilizers. It increases the pH in soil. The garden center will appreciate having a free supply. You can spread some on your own flowers and plants, too. It’s best for plants that don’t like acid or for freshly planted seedlings or seeds. It’s best to use wood based charcoal for this purpose.
A Natural Bug Spray
Yes, your leftover charcoal ash can also become a natural bug spray that will keep beetles and lice away. Mix the ground up ash with some lime and water. Only an ounce of ash and one of hydrated lime with at least one gallon of water should do the trick nicely. Spray around your plants and also around the edge of the garden.
More Cleaning Solutions
Are you a do-it-yourselfer who likes to make things? Then you can actually make your own lye soap from charcoal ash. Lye soap is natural and helps clean all kinds of household products.
Add to Your Charcoal Chimney
When you are starting up hot coals for your next time grilling, you can reuse charcoal briquettes and charcoal ash. They will go nicely inside the charcoal chimney. Simply place some fresh charcoal pieces in the top section of the chimney. Then sprinkle the used charcoal or charcoal ash on top. Add newspaper and then light it. Don’t use too much charcoal ash on top, or the fire might choke itself out. Watch the fire to monitor its heat and temperature.
Recycle to Add to the Next Grilling
By far, the easiest and simplest solution is to simply recycle the charcoal briquettes and ash for the next time you grill. You can use tongs to knock any gray ash off the charcoal briquettes that you have already used. Then just gently nestle them back into the bottom of the grill.
The fine gray charcoal dust can be cleaned out of the bottom of the grill and then thrown out in any kind of garbage receptacle that you see fit.