Cleaning up: outside

Keep ash out of buildings, machinery, vehicles, downspouts, water supplies, and wastewater systems (e.g., storm drains) as much as possible. The most effective method to prevent ash-induced damage to machinery is to shut down, close off and seal equipment until ash is removed from the immediate environment, though this may not be practical in all cases.
Coordinate cleanup activities with your neighbors and community-wide operations. Know what plan your community has developed for disposing of ash. See [Link] Prepare for Cleanup. After an ashfall, remove ash from roofs in a timely manner to prevent streets from being repetitively cleaned.

BE SAFE DURING BUILDING CLEAN UP! See Safety Considerations and Personal Protection PPE.

Things TO DO:

  • Prioritize areas to be cleaned.
  • Use a 'top down' and 'up-wind' method to prevent recontamination of cleaned areas.
Safety considerations:
  • Always work safely when cleaning up ash outdoors.
  • See 'Health and safety considerations for ashfall clean-up' on the Resources page. For details on recommended masks, safety considerations for working on roofs and ladders, see Safety Considerations and Personal Protection PPE.
  • Shovels, buckets and wheelbarrows are very useful for moving loads of ash. Ash is very heavy, so avoid overloading these.
General considerations
  • Wait until ash has stopped falling, and you have cleaned up indoors, before starting any outdoor clean-up.
  • Cover open drains so ash does not enter drainage systems.
  • Use dry methods where possible, but if ash is fine, dampening it with a small amount of water can help prevent it lifting into the air. However, too much water may cause the ash to become cemented and much more difficult to remove.
  • During clean-up, cover windows, doors and air intakes (e.g. for heat pumps) with plastic to keep ash out of buildings.
  • Remove outdoor clothing before entering a building.
Cleaning building exteriors
  • Clean the outside of houses (e.g. windowsills) by sweeping ash off with a soft brush.
  • For air intakes on heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, including heat pumps, vacuum or gently blow away excess ash from air intakes, then wipe down with a cloth. Avoid cleaning with water as this may clog radiator fins and increase the risk of short-circuiting. Wait until all outdoor areas are cleared of ash before turning on HVAC systems.
  • If it can be done safely, clear ash gently from solar panels using soapy water and a soft brush such as a long-handled window cleaning brush.
Cleaning driveways and other hard surfaces
  • If ash is fine, lightly wet the surface of the deposit to prevent it lifting into the air and becoming a breathing hazard.
  • Use shovels for removing the bulk of thick ash deposits then sweep up with a broom.
  • Sweep up thinner deposits with a broom.
Cleaning roofs
  • Small amounts of ash will be removed naturally from your roof by wind or rain, but any ash remaining on your roof after approximately a week should be removed, to prevent corrosion damage to roofing materials.
  • A broom is usually the best method for cleaning your roof. Sweep the ash off the roof onto the ground.
  • To prevent unnecessary damage to roofing materials while clearing a roof, consider using roof ladders or crawl boards. Be aware that lap shingles and other lap roofing material is very prone to damage.
  • Clean gutters with a gutter scoop or a small trowel. Alternatively, consider removing gutter sections during roof clean-up to prevent them breaking.
  • If you have soak pits under your gutters, disconnect downpipes from gutters to prevent ash clogging of soak pits.
Disposal of ash:
  • Follow any official instructions for collection and storage of ash.
  • Do not dispose of ash into drains. It will cause blockages and will be very difficult to remove.
  • Do not dispose of ash in your regular rubbish collection. Ash will make rubbish bags and bins too heavy to collect and does not need to be disposed of in landfills.
  • Dispose of small amounts of ash (a few millimetres) on your own property by spreading (e.g. raking) thinly over your lawn and garden, where possible. Rainfall, or a light sprinkling of water, will help mix the ash into the soil.
  • In urban areas, it is usually best to pile ash outside your property where it can be collected by trucks as part of co-ordinated clean-up efforts.
  • Rural households will need to dispose of ash on their own property. When identifying suitable sites and methods for ash disposal, consider:
    • Is there shelter from wind? Windblown ash may cause ongoing problems.
    • Can the ash dump create a new hazard? When fine ash covers soil and reduces infiltration, it can cause increased runoff and flooding when it rains. Consider location in relation to waterways and water sources used for drinking water.
    • Deposits can be stabilised by covering the ash with a layer of soil, gravel, lawn clippings, old hay, and/or crop stubble, then fertilising and seeding to encourage vegetation cover.

Things NOT to do:

  • Do not soak the ash as it will cake into a hard mass, making cleanup more difficult. On roofs the added weight of the water will increase the risk of roof collapse.
  • Do not dump the ash in gardens or on the roadside.
  • Do not wash the ash into the guttering, sewers or storm drains. (It can damage waste water treatment systems and clog pipes).
  • Do not drive unless absolutely necessary, driving stirs up the ash.
  • Furthermore, ash is harmful to vehicles.