How to Clean Your Wood Burning Stove
by Damien Andrews
If your wood burning stove has a cleanout on the floor, you can direct some of the ash to the opening of that cleanout. Be careful brushing the ashes too far to reach the opening as you’ll just end up stirring up ash dust and, if you have base firebricks, filling the pores of the bricks and the cracks between the bricks. You’re much better off using the brush like a small broom and the scraper as a dust pan. Once you’re satisfied with the cleanliness of your wood burning stove’s firebox, carefully close the ash can and set aside the shovel, scraper and brush. These items should later be taken outside and shaken to remove the fine dust particles.
Now that the ash has been shoveled and scraped out of the firebox, I use the front release catch to dump the ashes into the catch pan below. Use whatever system your model of wood burning stove has to rid the trap inside the firebox of any ashes that fell while shoveling and scraping.
NOTE: If the inside of your wood burning stove’s firebox fills with ash dust during any of the above processes, close the door and allow the dust to settle before proceeding.
Pro Tip: When you have a wood burning stove, the best gloves to own are gauntlet style leather welder’s glove. While these gloves are too bulky and heavy for cleaning, they are ideal for stirring the fire and putting new logs into a hot firebox. They are available at welder supply houses, and many hardware stores. They will last a lifetime!
If your wood burning stove has a floor cleanout inside the firebox, now is the time to dump it into the pan. Check your owner’s manual for instructions on how to open and dump it, if you don’t already know. This process will create ash dust under the firebox, so wait two or three minutes for the dust to settle and then slowly remove the catch pan – to minimize ash dust. There should be a lid on the collection box – carefully close it now. Check underneath the firebox, inside of the cavity where the catch pan was and make sure there are no small pieces of unburned wood or piles of ash. If debris is present, carefully remove it. A dampened paper towel will collect finer dust, if necessary.
The firebox of the wood burning stove has now been scraped and shoveled, and is pretty clean and ready for service – if you're doing a regular cleaning. Note that there is still a good bit of ash stuck between the firebricks, as indicated by the black lines.
Now it’s time to take your two ash containers and your tools outside and get rid of the ashes and dust. BE MINDFUL OF THE WIND when doing this. Carefully dispose of the ashes and shake the dust off of your tools. Again, a damp paper towel will do an excellent job of removing fine dust from the tools – so you don’t put it back into the house. When the boxes and tools are clean, go back inside and replace the catch pan under your wood burning stove.
Gently use the brush to sweep ash off of appropriate places. Be sure to sweep slowly so as not to make a bigger mess. Most areas can be swept into the ash can you're using. The brush also works well on may wood burning stove door seals – see other photo.
Here I gently clean the abrasive ash away from my wood burning stove's door seal using the disposable 4" paint brush.
Take your spray bottle of water and vinegar and lightly sprits the inside of the fire box. Amazingly, the vinegar solution will make the smell of the burned wood dissipate. You need not overdue this step. You may now close the door to the firebox and open the dampeners as necessary. Wipe away any dust that may have collected on top or the front of the wood stove to avoid unpleasant odors when you start the next fire.
Pro Tip: At the end of your fire burning season, place a small dish with ¼ cup of vinegar into the center of your wood burning stove’s firebox and close the dampeners and door. Leave the vinegar inside the firebox for 3-5 days and then remove it. The vinegar will remove all the smoke smell from inside of your wood stove’s firebox.
You have now completed a regular cleaning of your wood burning stove. The stove is ready for use immediately, even if you sprayed the inside with your vinegar and water solution. If your wood burning stove drafts well, your next fire should be easy to start and maintain.
For instructions on thorough cleaning of your wood burning stove, continue on to the next section of the article.
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