Wood fly ash is an industrial by-product of the combustion of different wood materials and is mostly disposed of as waste on landfills. In our preliminary experiments, wood ash exhibited antibacterial activity against urban wastewater bacteria and we focused on wood fly ash as a potential substrate for wastewater disinfection. The addition of ash at a concentration of 10 g L⁻¹ (1%) caused an instant increase of pH in urban wastewater and landfill leachate. High pH (10.1-12.7) inactivated bacterial populations in the wastewater and the removal of faecal coliforms and intestinal enterococci after 6 h of contact was 100% (below the detection limit; <1 CFU per mL) with the most efficient ash sample (ash from combustion of beech) both in urban wastewater and landfill leachate. Properly chosen wood fly ash, i.e. one that tends to increase the pH to the greatest extent, proved to be a very effective disinfection substrate. Considering that water treated with wood ash has a high pH and needs to be neutralised before discharge, ash would be suitable for disinfection of leachates when smaller volumes are treated.