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Clean Your Camp Cookware with Ashes

When Bugging Out or Hiking, you have to consider every ounce and every cubic inch of your gear to determine what is really essential. Don’t carry extra soap just to wash your dishes, instead clean Your camp cookware with ashes.

Clean Your Camp Cookware with Ashes

When I go camping, I do not bring along soap to clean my camp cooking gear, instead I use an old Cub Scout trick.

“What is this magical Cub Scout trick?”, you ask.

In Cub Scouts we used to wash our dishes with wood ashes.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds.

The History and The Science:

What is soap?

Soap = Lye + Fats or Oils

Wood ashes are a source of lye. When this lye, from wood ashes, is mixed with fats (or oils) there is a chemical reaction that occurs and this makes soap.

Ok, we know that you have some wood ashes, from your campfire. Where can one find the required fats or oils?

Hopefully, you fried up something a tad greasy for dinner. Your fats and oils should be sitting there in the bottom of your pan.

Camp Soap from Ashes

  1. Cook and Eat some food.
  2. Select the greasiest pot from your meal. If you don’t have much grease, you can add a few drops of fat or oil from butter (or margarine), vegetable oil, olive oil, animal fat or anything like that.
  3. Toss a few handfuls of ashes into the pan or pot. Don’t panic if there are pieces of charcoal mixed in with the wood ash. Having some charcoal in the mix, will add some grit, and aid you in the scrubbing and scouring process.
  4. Use just enough hot, clean water with the wood ashes to form a paste. If you don’t want to boil more water just add some hot coals to the ash and water mixture in the pot. Make sure to heat the water enough to destroy any harmful organisms.
  5. Wash, scour, and scrub your pots, pans and dishes.
  6. Rinse with clean, treated, drinkable water.


  • Don’t pollute. Do not wash your dishes within 200 feet (300 feet is even better) of bodies of water (brooks, streams, ponds, lakes, springs, etc)
  • Make sure to only use ashes from wood. If you burned any trash, like plastic, or anything else, then those ashes are NOT suitable to wash your cookware.
  • Lye can give you burns, or make your hands really dry if you let it sit on your skin for too long. Wear gloves or rinse your hands in clean water immediately after doing your dishes.This means you should not use wood ashes to wash your body, you should pack soap for washing your body. I always bring along some Dr. Bronners peppermint soap, it’s All Natural, Organic Certified Ingredients, Bio-Degradable. You can use it for washing your body, pets, fruits, vegetables and for shaving. It’s the perfect soap for Camping, Backpacking, hiking or traveling.

You can clean your camp cookware with ashes and save quite a bit of room in your backpack and reduce the weight. There’s no reason to carry supplies into nature when nature already has all the supplies you need!


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