How to Burn Paper to Make Ashes

Written by helen sterling
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How to Burn Paper to Make Ashes
Plain white paper produces fine grey ashes. (paper aeroplane in flames image by IKO from

Many religions use ashes during religious observances. A tradition in the Jewish faith is to dip bread or a hard-boiled egg in ashes during the last meal before the fast of Tisha B’Av. Burning paper can create ashes suitable for use. Since the ashes are eaten in traditions, use white paper without coatings, inks, dyes or printed lines. This will produce a fine grey ash without any residual chemicals from inks or coatings on the paper.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • White paper
  • Heatproof container
  • Trivet (optional)
  • Matches

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  1. 1

    Tear a clean piece of white paper into quarters or strips that fit completely in the heatproof container, such as a stainless steel bowl or cast iron pan. This ensures the ashes stay in the container and reduce the risk of burning paper overhanging the container dropping onto a flammable surface.

  2. 2

    Place the heatproof container outdoors on a sturdy surface away from overhanging branches or shrubs. Alternately, if no outdoor area is available, place the container in the kitchen sink. Place the container on a trivet to prevent damage to the sink.

  3. 3

    Light one strip of paper and place it carefully in the heatproof container. Don’t place the extinguished match in the container as it may not burn and you’ll only need to remove it later.

  4. 4

    Burn the strip completely before adding another strip. This keeps the fire from becoming too large, particularly if doing this in the kitchen sink. Keep adding paper until it is all burnt.

  5. 5

    Remove any unburned paper pieces once all the paper is burnt. Use your fingers to crush the burnt paper into fine ash.

Tips and warnings

  • One sheet of paper yields approximately 2 tsp of ashes.
  • Use caution around open flame. Have a readily available source of water to extinguish any flare-up or out of control fire.
  • Do not burn paper in glass ashtrays. They are not tempered and will crack under the high temperature of direct flame.
  • Do not burn paper in glass cookware. Even though tempered glass cookware can withstand high temperatures, thermal shock and breakage can occur if the glass cookware is exposed to sudden extremes of temperature, such as direct flame.

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