Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Just Throw Out Water Damaged Wood Pellets

Woodpellets.comAs you probably know, wood pellets turn to sawdust when water is applied, because they absorb moisture immediately and return to the original state of clean wood fiber. Did you have some packaging damage that let in some snow or rain – and now you have leftover sawdust? Don’t throw it out, because you can put it to good use! Here are some of the ways wood pellets can come in handy – aside from heating.

Organic Mulch and Garden Additive

Woodpellets.comThe left picture shows a hydrangea bush planted with mulch made from water damaged wood pellets, then again 9 weeks later.

Many experienced growers claim that using a sawdust mulch around the base of plants helps them thrive. This is especially true for blueberry plants, because they grow best in an acidic soil with a lot of moisture – which is what the sawdust provides.

Unfortunately, clean sawdust has been harder to come by for small outfits and DIYers. This is where softwood pellets come into play!

In the photos below (by the folks at Demers Garden Center) you’ll see how to use wood pellets as organic mulch. Each blueberry plant is carefully surrounded by the contents of a standard 40lb bag of Cleanfire Pacific softwood pellets, then sprinkled with water. Because wood pellets are made of tightly-compacted, kiln-dried wood fiber – they immediately soak up the water and expand into fluffy, moisture-retaining sawdust mulch.

Wood Pellets as Organic Mulch for Blueberry Patch Wood Pellets as Organic Mulch for Blueberry Patch

Does your garden have a slug infestation? Save the burned wood pellet ashes during the heating season to sprinkle around your plants. It will act as a barrier against slugs and snails trying to get to them. After a heavy rain, however, the barrier will need to be reapplied. Stay on the safe side when using ashes in the garden, by using protective gloves, eyewear and mask.

Fire Starters

You only need a few things and a little time to turn the natural fibers that make up wood pellets into fire-starters. (Not for use in a pellet stove!) Gather together softwood pellets, an empty paper egg carton, scissors and wax candles or flakes.

FireStartersFirst, spread your sawdust out on a paper towel to let them dry out completely. While that’s happening, set up a double boiler system to melt your flaked wax, or to get the leftover wax melted from old candles. Be sure to take caution!

Sprinkle your dried wood fiber evenly into each cup in an empty paper egg carton, almost all the way to the top. Once your wax is liquified, carefully pour the hot wax into each cup to the brim right away.

Wait a few minutes for the wax to cool a bit, then use a spoon to squish the mixtures down. Once that’s completely cooled, cut each egg cup to make individual fire-starters!

(Check out the video tutorial here)

Animal Bedding

Wood Pellet Animal BeddingAll you’ll need to prepare wood pellet animal bedding is a bucket of water, a pair of scissors, and softwood pellets. To get started, lay the bags spaced out on the floor where you need the bedding.

Use scissors to carefully cut a cross shape in the plastic, then tuck the flaps inside the bag.

Pour a bucket of water into the opening. Warm water will speed the process up a bit, but cold water works just as well. Warm water takes about 20 minutes to fully change the pellets into bedding, and cold water will take approximately 60 minutes.

Wait for the water to fully absorb into the pellets. You’ll see them expand to about 4 times the original size! Once the pellets have completed the absorption – just flip the bag, dump out the fluffy sawdust, and rake it into even bedding.

A standard 40 pound bag of softwood pellets will cover a space about 5.5 feet by 5.5 feet, with a depth of about 1.5 inches. Use however many bags you need to cover your area, and to reach the depth you desire.

Oil Cleanup

The super absorbency of wood pellets is also used to help safely clean up oil, gas, solvent spills and sludge on both large commercial and small residential scales.

Absorbency of Wood Bricks

Absorbency of Wood Bricks

Wood bricks are similar to wood pellets in terms of their 100% natural makeup and absorbency capability. As you can see in the photo, a team member used them to soak up an oil tank overflow in his basement!

Depending on the material that needs to be cleaned up, the wood pellets can in some instances absorb, biodegrade and neutralize spills, and be left as is. In other cases, the pellets will absorb the spill and solidify into clumps that are easy to remove and transport away from the site responsibly.

One notable example of large-scale wood pellet cleanup is a former General Motors factory in northern New York has contaminated sludge that needs to be removed before it can be safe to sell.

The pellets are brought in by the truckload to help solidify the sludge, making for easy transport off site. Anne E. Kelly, Project Manager for the Environmental Protection Agency explains, “There’s no odor or anything. I can’t believe it’s just wood. It starts out as soupy, nasty sludge. Over the course of a day it binds up.”

Kitty Litter

Yes, you can use wood pellets as a natural kitty litter! Not only is it less expensive than traditional kitty litter, but it has zero silica particles, toxins, and significantly less mess/dust. All you need to get started is a clean cat box, baking soda, and a bag of 100% softwood wood pellets.

Ahead of time, moisten a few handfuls of wood pellets with water until they turn into sawdust. The video below shows a timelapse of wood pellets absorbing water to create fluffy horse bedding. You’ll basically be doing the same thing, but on a smaller scale.

Spread out the saw dust in a place set aside to let it dry out before use.

Woodpellets.comMeanwhile, sprinkle the bottom of the litter box with baking soda. Pour in enough wood pellets to fully cover the bottom of the box, plus enough extra on top to allow for any digging/moving around.

Once your pellet sawdust is dried out, mix that in with the regular pellets in the box. The sawdust part isn’t completely necessary – it just makes for a fluffier substance that may be more comfortable for your cat.

Your pellet kitty litter will absorb any moisture quickly, and will turn into clumped together sawdust. This is easily sifted away from the remaining pellet mixture, which saves the still usable dry pellet litter.


Have you heard of other non-heating uses for wood pellets? We’d love to hear them!

1 Comment

  1. A person in the Berkshires Author January 25, 2018 (2:29 pm)

    This year I used a bag of water damaged pellets on the sheet of ice covering my dirt driveway. It is a million times better than any sand/salt I’ve used. I highly recommend them now.

    They also helped for traction in the mud when my ride on mower got stuck last spring.

    Reply to A person in the Berkshires

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