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 How To Clean A Hot Wood Burning Stove

This article with cover cleaning a wood stove and how to clean a hot wood burning stove.

Anyone who has owned a wood stove understands how unique it really is, especially on those cold chilly 10 degree days.  There is not a day that goes by that our family does not huddle near the stove to get the morning chill out of their bones before we head to the kitchen or shower.  Who can forget the daily manuevering, pushing matches or finding the warm spot on the hearth to get their feet warm. And there is no better way to ride out a snow storm than sitting by the wood stove reading a book or watching tv.

With all that said, if you want to continue to enjoy the absolute best heat found on earth, then you also need to take care of your wood burning stove.  Fire needs oxygen and as the ash builds up inside your wood stove, that oxygen robbing material needs to get cleaned out. Below are the steps we take to clean our wood stove on a weekly basis, during normal buring.  Keep in mind during really cold snaps we have to clean our box more often and a lot of times there are still a lot of coals in the box. We'll show you how we do that as well.

Cool The Box Down

It is easy to tell when your wood stove needs to be cleaned. Ashes start to bury your wood as you add it to the fire. At this point we do not add anymore wood in the morning before work and turn the air flow button wide open.  

crack window

If we are cleaning a hot wood stove we follow the same procedures with the exception of opening the glass door as well as crack a window open.  This adds as much air as possible to help burn the coals further down.  More importantly we can get inside the firebox within 3 hours or less.

NOTICE:  PLEASE USE METAL and be careful when handling your tools.

If we have a ton of ash, I like to use a small square shovel (this one) because it can hold a ton of ash. We use four different metal buckets for ash which I will explain later.

We carefully scoop the ash and then softly dump it into the metal bucket. This continues until the majority of ash is removed from the firebox. We are not worried about every bit of ash because it will be there next week.

When your stove has cooled down for 3 hours or whatever you deem workable (it will be warm inside) I divide the stove in half and move coals from one side to the other.  Once I have the majority of coals over, I clean half the box. Then I carefully move the hot coals to the other side and clean underneath them.

As you can see on the left is the hot coal and on the right it is now clean.
hot firebox

Tips and Tricks to Cleaning Firebox
  • The problem with using this larger shovel is the dust that it will create.  If there are two people in the home we will have one person cleaning the firebox and the other will use the wood stove vacuum sucking up the ash near the bucket.
  • If you own a glass door this is a good time to take newspaper, get it wet and then dip it into ash. After that smear the wet ash on the glass to help you clean it.  After the initial application of ash you can just use dry newspapper to remove the creosote and ash.
  • If you don't like this then take a piece of wood charcoal (not a hot one) dip it in water and then rub the creosote off the glass.  Trust me it works really well.  You might need to scrap some of the black off but go ahead and run a test to see which way works best for you.
  • It is easier to clean the glass door if it is warm to hot.  My wife likes to use this stuff when she cleans the door when it is warm.  I prefer the newspapper method and she is slowly coming around to it.
  • Shop vac's are not good for cleaning your wood stove firebox.  Trust me on this, we burnt out a couple of them real quick and finally broke down and got this one.  This sucker will eat coals no problem.  Just don't make it a habit.  Check out the link and read the reviews if you don't believe me.  

Removing Ash From The Home

metal bucket When you finish removing ash, make sure and use thick gloves or we like to use an old towel to carry the metal bucket outside. Our landscaping on one side of the house has rocks in it and this is where we will place the bucket full of ash.  This will sit there for a week or two before we dump it into a empty dog food bag and then the garbage.  
I can't tell you how many times in the past we received calls from our
neighbors telling us our garbage can was on fire. My wife insisted that the ash be removed from our yard immediately. Now, she understands why it must stay out there for at least a week.

Why don't we add the ash to our yard, garden or wherever?  We do when it does not contain nails.  We receive broken pallets and will use the wood for kindling or daily burn (4x4 pieces) and they have nails in them.  When we are burning this wood you would not believe how heavy our ash can is when we dump it. Those nails add up, therefore we place this ash in the trash.

Now you see why we have 4 metal buckets and will rotate them throughout the winter.  During heavy use we can fill two buckets every 4 days.

Give me a few days and I will add another article on how to clean your chimney pipe.  We will have a few tricks for you again.



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how to clean a hot wood burning stove