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How to Clean Your Wood Burning Stove


by Damien Andrews

How often you thoroughly clean your wood burning stove is entirely up to you. I like to thoroughly clean my wood stove every two weeks during the winter. The thorough cleaning helps prevent ash buildup in my firebricks and grates, which improves the draft and efficiency. Instructions on cleaning any wood burning stove will have some variations as stove models vary greatly. The more detailed the cleaning, the more these variations come into play. Modify the following instructions to suit your particular model.

Start by performing a regular cleaning, but do not replace the catch pan underneath the firebox until after you are through with the thorough cleaning. Once the regular cleaning is completed, proceed to the following steps…

It’s time to vacuum the wood stove’s outsides as well as the firebox, and the underneath area of the stove – where the catch can or pan is kept. There really is no substitute for vacuuming these areas. If you don’t have an ash vacuum, then you can use a shop vacuum – with the filter bag installed as described at the beginning of this article.

Start by putting the vacuum nozzle against any openings on the outside of the stove. Be careful not to scratch the stove’s finish if your vacuum uses a steel nozzle, such as ash vacuums frequently have. You want to suck all the dust out of the recessed areas of the outside of the stove. This is done first, while the vacuum is not cluttered with the bulk of the fine ash you’ll be getting from inside of the firebox. Be sure to vacuum all of the open areas, vents and grates.

Vacuum the stove out

Vacuuming out the firebox of your wood burning stove is a very important step in maintaining not only cleanliness, but the stove's efficiency. Here I am using an ash vacuum, which also allows for vacuuming up warm ashes – it has a steel nozzle, steel hose, metal container and fire retardant filter bag. For completely cold ash, a shop vacuum can be used, but see the article on proper precautions when using one inside of your wood burning stove. In the final picture I have lifted a fire brick and vacuumed under it. I only do this about every third time I vacuum oout the firebox.

Now vacuum out the area where the catch pan belongs. Reach all the way to the rear of the opening, and also get the sides and along the floor or stove base. Be sure to finish this step by vacuuming the opening that is between the firebox and the catch pan area.

Next, vacuum the door that allows access to the firebox. Be sure to carefully vacuum the fireproof seal that goes around the door. Ashes are abrasive, and vacuuming the seal will ensure that it lasts a long time and makes a complete seal. Be sure to vacuum the door closing mechanism, too. This gets the fine dust out of the moving parts and ensures maximum service life.

Finally, vacuum out the wood burning stove’s firebox. Be sure to vacuum the grates and/or bricks completely – to remove dust from crevices and pores. Reach all the way to the rear of the firebox and vacuum between the floor and rear wall. Do this for the sides also. Lastly, vacuum the door that opens to the ash catch pan stored below the firebox.

Finally, check the area where the ash catch pan is stored, and if any ash fell through during cleaning, vacuum it up. It won’t be much, if any at all. When this is done, you may replace the ash catch pan under the firebox.

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