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How to Clean Your Wood Burning Stove

by Damien Andrews

Now it’s time to clean the outside of the stove, and any exposed chimney sections. How you do this depends entirely on what your wood burning stove and chimney are made of. If you have a porcelain or powder coat finish, your vinegar and water solution will work quite well. If you have cast iron, you’ll need to follow one of the preferred cast iron cleaning methods, such as a stiff brush and vacuum. Brass and gold trims should not be cleaned with flammable products, but rather rags that are designed to clean and polish such finishes. Most trim finishes have clear coatings on them, so you don’t want to be too abrasive. If your wood burning stove has gold or brass trim, the owner’s manual will usually have the name of a recommended product for cleaning.

Chimney pipe comes in three basic finishes: stainless steel, galvanized steel and black steel. Vinegar and water works well on these, but if you have a flat black finish you may just want to use a rough, dry cloth for a wipe down. Liquid solutions tend to streak flat black finishes.

If your wood burning stove has a glass door, then it is likely very sooty. Again, vinegar and water is the cleaning solution of choice. If the soot buildup is modest, a paper towel will do the job. If the buildup of soot is thicker, then use newspaper instead of a paper towel – and be prepared to clean the glass two or three of times.

Cleaning the Glass

From top left to right: As you can see, the glass door on my wood burning stove is quite dirty. I simply give it a very light sprits of my vinegar and water solution and then wipe it briskly with the paper towel. You can see how quickly the ash deposits are removed. I turn the paper towel as necessary, but not too often as the ash works as a mild abrasive and helps remove the ash deposits. I used a final sprits and a new paper towel to finish the job and polish the glass. This whole process took about 1-minute and leaves the glass door shiny and clean. If you're lucky enough to have a glass door on your wood burning stove, keeping it clean will substantially enhance your enjoyment of the fires you build.

If the soot buildup on your glass is severe, you have a couple of options. You can buy some soot remover or you can use your vinegar and water solution. If you but soot remover, then follow the manufacturer’s directions. Make SURE the product is okay for use on glass before using it. If you opt to go with the much less costly vinegar and water solution, follow these instructions:

• Spray the glass and wipe it down with a paper towel to remove the outer layer and reveal what’s really thickest.

• Lightly mist the heavily sooted areas and allow the solution to sit for a minute or two and then wipe it off with newspaper – using some elbow grease.

• Again, lightly mist the areas of soot. Now, dampen a wadded up piece of newspaper with your solution – don’t get it too wet! Dip the dampened portion of the newspaper VERY GENTLY/LIGHTLY into some fireplace ash and then use it to scrub away the soot. Remember, ash is abrasive and it removes the soot quite effectively.

• Repeat the last step until the glass is clean.

• Finish by using a light spray of solution and a paper towel or newspaper to polish the glass.

Clean Wood Stove

Here' the thorough cleaning of my wood burning stove has been completed. Note that the ash deposits that were once between the fire bricks (shown in an earlier photo) are now completely gone. The exterior has also been cleaned, and the brass trim polished with a rag designed to do so.

Now close the firebox door and make sure all your wood burning stove parts have been replaced, especially the catch pan, and set the dampener(s) as desired: open to start a fire, closed when no fire will be built. Keeping your dampener(s) closed when your fireplace is not in use will prevent unwanted drafts in the area of the stove.

NOTE: If your catch pan or box has a lid, be sure it is in the OPEN position underneath the firebox.

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