My workshop is more accurately termed my garage, with a small table saw, radial saw and a router table that I built. I don't have a central dust collection, and only the radial saw has any dust collection built in.

When I do any projects, I end up sweeping up a pile of sawdust. Most of my projects involve plywood of various thicknesses, poplar/pine up through oak for hardness. I don't work in anything harder/exotic (Such as purpleheart, cocobolo, etc). I know that it can be used as mulch, but I don't really have any plants that would need mulching.

How can I safely dispose of the bag or two of sawdust that I generate when working on a project?

  • 1
    Do you have a compost pile or firepit/fireplace? Mar 17, 2015 at 17:27
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    I'd be interested in knowing whether something like Ipe would be too rot-resistant to compost.
    – keshlam
    Mar 18, 2015 at 1:21
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    Somewhat off topic, but I use sawdust to flux molten lead when cleaning up wheel weights to make lead ingots for bullet casting. It is a fantastic material to use for this purpose. Mar 23, 2015 at 20:12
  • As an aside, I have a small shop vac that I use for rudimentary dust collection on more portable equipment like my mitre and contractor saw; It can make a garage workshop a lot tidier. Many hand tools also have a dust collection bag, you can remove the bag and attach a vacuum hose instead.
    – Daniel B.
    Mar 23, 2015 at 22:16
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    Take a tip from the character Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption and dispose of it a handful or two at a time.
    – rob
    Apr 25, 2015 at 23:59

9 Answers 9


One good use of sawdust is to make into a fire starting device. Sawdust is quite flammable, and obviously has a lot of surface area.

WARNING: Be safe. Certain glues (such as may be used in plywood), most finishes, and most pressure-treated woods may be dangerous to burn, due to the release of poisonous chemicals. Be sure that you are only burning wood that is definitely not toxic.

This article from Wood Magazine explains how to make them; basically, put them in a cup of some sort (such as a muffin tin) and add paraffin wax or some other flammable substance (I've seen homemade biodiesel used, for example). Then let it dry into a cake. It will then be a good fire starter for a campfire or your fireplace.

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    Pressure treated lumber would fall into the "treated" arena here. It has (I believe) arsenic in it which would be really bad if you inhale the smoke from it. Mar 17, 2015 at 17:34
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    I would certainly not use pressure treated lumber. Not all is treated with arsenic, though; most home-use lumber is not treated with CCA anymore (because of this concern). But I would be very cautious about using any treated lumber anyway, just in case.
    – Joe
    Mar 17, 2015 at 17:35
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    Just FYI for anyone reading this.... not all countries have stopped using CCA. (Some times america does lead the world!). Specifically in NZ at least most treated lumber from is still treated with CCA Nov 15, 2015 at 22:58
  • It doesn't really matter all that much what is in pressure-treated lumber offcuts and sawdust. By burning you are accelerating the process by which those compounds degrade into volatiles and freely available metals, and creating an immediate and highly active plume of dangerous stuff. not to mention the ash that is left behind is nicely concentrated toxins as well. This wood is design to release this stuff slowly over years, or be sequestered in a landfill. Don't burn it.
    – user5572
    Apr 24, 2020 at 2:12

If you do composting in your garden, sawdust is good to add to your compost bin. You will need to balance it out with enough "green" items to compost it though, so it will not work for large quantities of sawdust.

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    OP mentioned "plywood", which I think would be best kept out of the garden. Mar 23, 2015 at 19:26

Well it is good for mulch and finding neighbors that could/would use it is one option.

You could always join your local Freecycle and post it on there. Someone will likely want to come pick it up.

Some places might take it as they would regular yard waste, leaves grass clippings etc.

Of course this is for primarily clean (non-treated) sawdust.


It will depend on your city and what they accept in the various garbage collection programs, but in my area at least, saw dust can be disposed of in our "green bin" program along with other organic materials like food, small dead animals, etc.


Many equestrian centers will welcome the dust and woodchips for bedding. I'm told that's where Fort Belvoir's now-defunct woodshop (21 nail gun salute, moment of silence) sent its wood waste. The recipients did not seem to care that the dust included plywood and pressure-treated wood.

  • In retrospect, maybe it wasn't for bedding, but for "mucking". Mar 27, 2015 at 14:07
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    If you plan to donate your wood waste to an equestrian center, be very careful of the species of wood you work with and you should confirm the purpose for which it will be used. Black walnut, for example, is toxic to horses.
    – rob
    Apr 25, 2015 at 23:53

Be careful when disposing of black walnut sawdust and shavings.

To varying degrees all parts of the black walnut tree contain juglone, which is poisonous to many plants and even to some animals. See this article or Google "juglone".

It is not a good idea to use walnut as mulch. Regrettably, I put part of my garden out of commission for a time by doing this (my raspberry patch is very slow to recover).

Composting of shavings and sawdust containing walnut by-products can be achieved without excess concern, since by the time the bio-degrading has taken place (requiring six months and occasional turning and mixing with other materials) the juglone is rendered harmless.

Apparently juglone is quite poisonous to horses and walnut should not be used as bedding material.(@Jeromy French you are in the clear - mucking should not be a problem.)

Butternut is also of concern for the same reason, but not as seriously as walnut.

  • Consider emphasizing the composting aspect of the answer. The point about toxicity is important, but the larger question is how to dispose of sawdust safely.
    – Caleb
    Apr 26, 2015 at 19:54

This may seem silly but I'll include it. I had a large amount of cherry chips from my surface planer and I attempted to use it to smoke meat. Cherry is so expensive where I live that I did not want to waste a single molecule of it.

Sadly, it is no good for this application. I suppose it could be done but my box of chips smoked only briefly before having to be replaced. It was more trouble that it was worth.

  • Did you soak the chips (with water, sure, but wine would work very well, too) before subjecting them to the heat? Mar 26, 2015 at 1:58
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    Yes, I did soak them but perhaps I should have soaked them for longer. In retrospect, I could also have compressed the soaked chips into the box and gotten more smoke out of the given volume. And used a bigger smoker box. Lots of ways to approach this problem. But I learned from this experiment that I didn't really want to go to the trouble to smoke meat properly. Which is a different problem. ;)
    – glw
    Mar 26, 2015 at 14:16
  • Saw dust doesn't smoke slowly - it goes pretty quick and then is gone. You'll have to compress it or add it slowly over time, I suspect, to get the same effect as a chunk of cherry wood.
    – Adam Davis
    Apr 27, 2015 at 21:19

Why not collect your wood dust to make cheap wood filler?

You can mix the dust with wood glue to make a paste which can be used to fill anything without needing to stain as much to match the colours.

  • I do this, but for wood filler, I only use the finest particles (fine sanding). Sawdust is too large from saws and routers for this purpose and a little goes a long way as far as making filler. I actually bag my fine dust any keep them in snack sized zip-loc baggies labelled with the species. Apr 23, 2020 at 13:21

I use it around the house as an absorbent. I keep a box of sawdust in the garage (I have the same setup as you) and end up using it at about the same rate that I generate it.

  • Sawdust in the bottom of a kitchen compost collection bucket absorbs liquids and keeps the compost bucket from getting gross.
  • Sawdust also keeps the bottom of your garbage bin from getting nasty.
  • Sawdust sprinkled on an oil drip in the driveway picks it up pretty effectively.
  • If I have too much sawdust, I spread it in the grass to add organic material to the yard.

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