The many uses for sawdust

Sawdust is an intriguing by-product of wood that has a variety of uses.


Although we must be sure not to breathe it in (sawdust can contain oils & potentially harmful compounds), for a woodworker, it’s very hard to beat the smell of freshly created sawdust.

We probably like it so much because we adore the smell of wood in general and sawdust is nothing more than small fragments of wood. Unfortunately, it may have as much to do with the chemicals used to treat our wood as it does with the inherent scent of wood.   Sawdust, often known as wood shavings, is a valuable by-product of woodworking that has numerous applications on both urban and rural areas.

Woodworkers make huge quantities of sawdust by cutting, planning & milling wood.   What you finish up doing with your sawdust is reliant on how much you’ve got stashed away, and it’s a good idea to keep your sawdust in a dedicated bin or barrel.   Sawdust has numerous uses in and around the garden. It has a wide range of applications, from mulching plants to growing mushrooms.

Use sawdust in and around plants to repel weeds, on a pathway between plants to deter slugs, mix with compost, clean up spills, it’s a good fire starter when mixed with some old candle wax, make fire bricks and smoker pellets out of it, you can grow potatoes in it, mix with glue to make a handy wood filler, use as a mulch around plants, kitty litter alternative, feed plants with it, and for those who live in colder climates, I’ve heard that if you sprinkle it on ice around your home, it makes it less slippery.

This naturally absorbent material is great for cleaning up huge spills or helping to soak away stains that are stubbornly stuck.   Sawdust is especially great for paint and oil spills that you can’t get up with regular cleaning and is particularly useful in the compost bin because it decomposes slowly and can be mixed in with heavy soils to help balance out the green materials.

It will take about a year for sawdust to decompose into compost; turn it on a regular basis to speed up the process.    It will feed the soil and enhance organic matter, allowing it to be used in plant soil the following year.

If you need your compost pile to decompose quickly, add a slow-release fertilizer.   Despite the fact that sawdust takes a long time to decompose, it will give nutrients to the compost and aid in the decomposition of other materials.

Turn your sawdust in the compost pile on a regular basis, and make sure you’re adding a diverse range of materials to the compost pile. Keep in mind that saw dust might deplete the soil’s nitrogen supply when used in the garden or compost pile. Using “green” or raw sawdust might cause nitrogen deficit, thus always let it “cure” in the compost for at least a year before using it in the garden.

Composting toilets require a chemical reactant to absorb liquids and function effectively, and sawdust is a great option for this because it is far less expensive than other options like peat moss.

You can eliminate odours for good by simply keeping a few buckets in the outhouse or bathroom area for your composting toilet.   Technically, you can put any type of sawdust organic material on your composting toilet, but you should avoid woods that have been treated with pesticides or chemicals. If you use treated sawdust, it may affect the compost’s capacity to be used in your garden in the future.

Sawdust isn’t always easy to come by. While many homes use wood to heat, sawdust resulting from the chain-sawing of wood may not be present; it depends of where the wood was harvested.

If you don’t have any, there’s a few things you could try such as contacting a nearby sawmill, any woodworkers you know, buy it from a hardware store, enquire with local farmers who cut wood on-site and have an excess of sawdust, tree loppers, and your local municipal waste centre.

If you see someone cutting trees and they are towing a wood chipper while you’re driving about, you can always ask if they need a place to dump the wood chips or sawdust.

Note: Before you bring your sawdust home from a local sawmill or store, be sure to ask them whether the wood used to make the sawdust has been treated with chemicals or pesticides.

When using sawdust in and around plants, always start with minimal amounts to see how your plants react. That way, if your plants start to ‘yellow,’ you may rake it out with less concern for plant harm. Plants that turn a light yellow colour could be deficient in nitrogen. If this happens, use a side dressing of manure or blood and bone.

Termites and carpenter ants are a problem in many locations, including mine. If you reside in such an area, keep the sawdust piles away from your house, sheds, barns, and any other structures on the land.

Sawdust should be entirely dried out before use. You run the risk of spontaneous combustion if you store large volumes of sawdust that hasn’t entirely dried out in a confined place.

Sawdust comes in a variety of particle sizes and avoid fine particles that can be inhaled by pets and people on your property.

Walnut sawdust includes a herbicide that may be harmful to your plants. Use it to eradicate weeds along a garden path, but avoid using it around plants that you want to save.

Cherry and apple woods make excellent smoker wood chips if you have a large supply of the correct size wood chips on hand; nevertheless, hardwood is preferred for heavier meats like beef and pork. A lighter hardwood is recommended for more delicate foods like chicken and fish.

Softwoods like pine and cedar should be avoided for smoking food, use these woods to produce fire starters and firebricks, Pine & Cedar are too resinous and can destroy meat and add an unwanted scent and flavour to the food being prepared.

As if there’s not already enough uses for Sawdust listed about, it was only a week ago I heard about a new disinfectant created from sawdust that kills nearly 100% of harmful micro-organisms and disease-causing microbes, including anthrax and numerous kinds of flu. It could also be effective against spores, which are a latent form of bacteria that can be tough to eradicate.

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