10 IDEAS: How To Use Sawdust From Chainsaws And Milling

| | ,

What can you do with sawdust?

We end up with a ton of it when cutting logs for firewood. If we’re cutting wood in the forest or out in the paddocks, the sawdust just stays there. But sometimes, when it’s on the front lawn, it’s good to put it to use.

Here are 10 things you can do with sawdust, many of which we’ve done ourselves, as you’ll see in the pictures. Let us know your good ideas if you’ve got them!

What To Do With Sawdust

what is sawdust good for
If nothing else, rake it evenly into the grass

What to do with sawdust…

An important thing to think about before using sawdust is the oil content.

We all use chain and bar oil in our chainsaws or mills and this is distributed through the sawdust. If you are not using a biodegradable or alternative bar and chain oil like vegetable oil then a lot of people say it’s no good for anything.

For the most part, I agree, but a little bit here and there has its uses. That’s for you to decide!

1. Compost

can you use sawdust in compost
Sawdust can be composted

Adding sawdust to your compost, as I have done here, is another good use for it.

I never put too much in because of the oil content and because it can decrease nitrogen levels in the soil. However, I also add horse manure and chicken poo to the compost so that helps combat any problems there.

My compost is also full of waste like lawn clippings and vegetable greens (broccoli plants, for example) which also help to increase nitrogen levels. Sawdust is just another ingredient that enriches your compost when used in the right amounts.

2. Straight Into The Soil

using ssawdust directly on garden
Sawdust can be put directly into the soil

In some parts of the garden, it might make sense to add sawdust right into the soil.

In the greenhouse pictured above, my nitrogen levels were too high. So much so, that the summer before this picture was taken, my usually fruitful grapevine produced beautiful glorious leaves everywhere but had no fruit.

I suspect this was because I added too much chicken poo to the soil the previous winter and spring. I’ve read that soil with high nitrogen content can cause this to happen. Adding a bit of sawdust will hopefully level things out a bit and earn me some grapes next summer!

As far as food goes, mushrooms can also be grown in sawdust. Shiitake mushrooms, for example, like to be in a mix of 95% hardwood sawdust.

3. Animal Bedding

using sawdust in chicken coop
Sawdust can potentially be used in a coop

We have about 20 chickens, and while I don’t use sawdust for them, some people do.

Our chickens do enjoy scratching around in the sawdust for insects, but because I use regular chain oil with my saw, I don’t like to put it in their coop. My preference is to use hay.

Most chickens roost to sleep, as ours do, so it’s not like they would be sleeping in it. But I wouldn’t want them laying eggs onto sawdust either.

You shouldn’t put eggs into water because the shells are porous and bacteria can transfer inside, so why would I want to have eggs sitting in oily sawdust?

Sawdust could be used effectively in a chicken house to help soak up the odd dodgy poo, but not as regular bedding.

We also have a rabbit, among other animals, and I wouldn’t use it for her either.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s not great for use with animals because of the bar oil from the chainsaw.

This means:

  • not for a cat litter box
  • not for a rat or mouse cage
  • and not for a rabbit or guinea pig hutch

Sawdust has such fine particles as well that it can be breathed in by animals and spread around your house. There are better bedding and litter materials for our animals out there!

4. Weed Suppressor

weed suppressing hacks
Smother weeds with sawdust

Use chainsaw sawdust as a weed suppressor.

I actually vacuumed all this sawdust up with my lawnmower and then dumped it as a weed suppressor along my front fence (yes, I need a new fence).

This means it’s a mixture of grass clippings and sawdust which is a bit better if I ever want to plant something along this fence line (once the new fence is in)!

Sawdust can be used along garden paths and other weed-prone areas as well, though remember it can get gunky when soggy.

5. Let The Kids Play With It

is sawdust safe for children
In general, sawdust is harmless to play with

This is the first thing that happens with sawdust around our home, and one of the most fun uses for sawdust.

The kids love playing with it, making it into mountains, putting it into a stew or potion, and otherwise making a mess with it. I have found that sawdust attracts kids as much as water and mud, as much as I try to keep them out of it sometimes.

Especially when your chainsaw chain is nice and sharp, it makes long lengths of sawdust (aka noodles), as in the picture above. This has less of a tendency to be an irritant so it is great to play with!

6. Mop Up Oil

things to do with sawdust
Sawdust will absorb oil

One of the most practical uses for sawdust is to soak up any oil or fuel spills.

It’s great for those larger spills as it really does just soak it right up. Once you’ve applied enough sawdust and left it a little while, it can easily be swept up and put in the trash.

Sawdust is very absorbent so could be used for a range of clean-up tasks similar to this as well.

7. Dry Out Old Paint

cool things to do with sawdust
Use sawdust to help dispose of paint

If you have old paint you want to get rid of, you are supposed to dry it out first. Runny paint is apparently more toxic than dry paint.

Some manufacturer instructions say to brush out unwanted paint onto newspaper, let it dry, and then throw it away.

An alternative is to add sawdust or wood shavings to unwanted paint. This soaks up the moisture and will harden the paint up quickly. It’s then able to be disposed of in the trash.

8. Compostable Toilet

sawdust for eco toilet
Sawdust is commonly used in eco-toilets

Sawdust is good to use in compostable toilets – though we haven’t tried this one!

It’s always combined with a variety of other items to help break down and compost waste. Other items that are commonly added are coffee grounds, hay or straw, leaves, newspaper, and other organic food scraps.

If you have plenty of it available, however, sawdust can be one of the major ingredients in the stew. These toilets are often called ‘sawdust toilets’ for that very reason. The sawdust is good for soaking up moisture and keeping the mixture from turning into a sloppy mess.

9. Make Firelighters

diy sawdust firelighters
You can even make DIT firelighters

If you have spare time and like to make things with your hands, you can use sawdust to make firefighters.

Sawdust and wax are the common ingredients. Most use paraffin wax, but some other types of wax are suitable as well. These are generally non-toxic and come out scented like the wood you have been cutting.

They have a long shelf life and can be used to start your wood fire stove, outdoor campfires, or wood cookers.

Materials Needed:

  1. Sawdust: Ensure it’s dry and fine.
  2. Paraffin wax or leftover candle wax: Acts as a binding and fuel source.
  3. Molds or an ice cube tray: To shape the firelighters.
  4. Double boiler or two pots: For melting the wax.
  5. Stirring utensil: Preferably something you don’t mind getting waxy.
  6. Optional: Wick or string (for easy lighting).

Melt paraffin wax in a double boiler, then mix it with dry sawdust until the sawdust is thoroughly coated and the mixture is moldable.

Spoon the mixture into molds or an ice cube tray, optionally embedding a wick or string in each for easy lighting. Press the mixture firmly to compact it, then let it cool and harden.

Once set, remove the firelighters and store them in a cool, dry place. Store the firelighters away from direct heat or sunlight.

10. Mixing With Cement

creative sawdust ideas
Sawdust accumulates quickly!

And last but not least, you can add sawdust to make a type of concrete.

Here’s a sawdust concrete recipe from a YouTube video:

  • 3 scoops of sand
  • 2 scoops of sawdust
  • 1 scoop of cement
  • 1 scoop of lime

This is a special type of construction method and it pays to do your research before trying it out. The resulting concrete is said not to be as strong as that which does not have sawdust.

Sawdust Uses

how to use sawdust
Sawdust and other wood scraps can be used in fire pits

These are some of the ways to easily recycle and use sawdust around the home.

We also sometimes rake up the sawdust and scraps and use them for starting and lighting the fire pit. So long as it’s dry wood, this can make a great base.

Using it in moderation in the garden or compost isn’t going to cause any harm, so don’t stress out about that sort of thing. Just don’t overdo it and you’ll be right!

If you have any other good uses for sawdust, please let us know in the comments below. We’d also be interested to hear your thoughts on any of the sawdust uses we’ve shared above – negative or positive!

And if you’ve got lots of sawdust, chances are you also have ash – check out this article on the best uses for wood stove ash.


Chainsaw Vs Axe: Which Is Best And When Should You Use Them?

How to Measure A Chainsaw Bar And Know Your Chainsaw Size


12 thoughts on “10 IDEAS: How To Use Sawdust From Chainsaws And Milling”

  1. Yeah I’d definitely feel dodgy putting sawdust in my concrete. Hadn’t thought of that possible use but it could work.

  2. Another idea is to use sawdust in a mix to grow seedlings in. I sometimes chuck a bit in with my selling mix and it seems to do it really good.

    • Cool, thanks for the tip. I’ll do a bit more research before trying it out myself. I have a feeling it might be alright for some plant varieties but not for others?

  3. Some of these ideas sound like they’d take more time to do than they’d be worth. On a small scale it would be a lot of work to make firelighters out of sawdust, and much easier just to buy them. I chuck my sawdust into the compost when I’ve got a lot of it otherwise it just sits on the ground and naturally gets worked into the ground and surrounding area.

  4. Wow, it was really informative when you mentioned that sawdust can be used to regulate high levels of nitrogen in the soil. When purchasing sawdust, I would imagine that it would be a good idea to purchase from a reliable supplier. I would think that you would only want to purchase the highest quality sawdust if you are going to be placing it on your soil.

  5. Thanks for all the great tips!
    I am just now left with a huge amount of sawdust from milling a large white pine using a Wood Mizer. It has a bandsaw and uses water for lubing the blade so there’s no problem with oil contaminating the dust.

    However has far as using the sawdust for animal bedding, I wouldn’t use it because I’m afraid the chickens, especially, would breath it in and hurt their lungs. Chickens scratch up their bedding. Even horses eat off the ground so when they are searching for that one stalk of hay they could breathe in the dust.
    I believe that a large pile of saw dust left alone can self combust. Anyone know about that?
    Also any added to compost would need to be mixed with other compostable materials otherwise I don’t think it would compost. Masses of it would probably become anaerobic and smelly. But having said that I will be putting some of it in my compost mixed with other stuff as well as on my garden paths and other places as weed suppressant.

    • Interesting! Yes, that’s a good point about animals breathing in dust particles. I only use hay for our chicken nests and rabbit bedding. I haven’t looked into it, but I imagine piles of sawdust could catch fire. We mulched a huge volume of tree branches after dropping a number of trees last year, and the temperature inside the mulch pile after a few days was incredible. It was a very wet mixture so I don’t think it would have ignited, but dryer sawdust would! The garden along the front of our house to which I added a lot of chainsaw sawdust appears to be very healthy. A year later, the soil is very rich and full of worms.

  6. Some good ideas here. I have used it instead of sand to cover Dog Poo. It provides a colour contrast to the green lawn before mowing. It keeps the flies off the poo especially if you get into the habit every few days. Sometimes we have 2 larger dogs visit, so it helps dry out the poo before using the pooper scooper. The poo goes into the garden bin with lawn cuttings and I can add sawdust over the top to reduce the smell and give the trapped flies something to play in (Ha Ha Ha). Cover up muddy pathways with a heap of it and tamp it down with your gum boots so it’s no longer loose.
    My dad used sawdust and metho (mentholated spirit) mixed in the bottom of the old fashioned (60’s) round BBQ. He never burned the meat as it produced an even flame and metho is not as dangerous as other fuels.


Leave a Comment