Cleaning Your Wood Burning Stove

Posted on: 16 March 2015

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Wood burning stoves are a great way to add a bit of extra heat to your home during cold winter months, as well as a lovely aesthetic addition to any home. Even though modern wood stoves come with a variety of safety features, one way to ensure that your wood stove becomes a danger is neglecting the important task of cleaning it regularly. Despite all the safety features, wood stoves will inevitably produce ash, soot, and smoke which will build up residue that is potentially dangerous. You should clean different parts of your wood stove based on different things.

Cleaning the Exterior

If you don't use your wood stove to heat water, cook, or dry herbs, than the exterior should not get too dirty too often. Since woo stoves are enclosed, ash and soot usually doesn't exit the interior easily. The exterior of your wooden stove should be cleaned when it looks as if it has taken a beating, or after any period of extended use. For example, if you use your wood stove often during winter months, once the season starts to change you should clean the exterior.

Cleaning the exterior of your wood stove is quite simple. Ensure that it has cooled down, and then apply stove paste, which can be bought at most hardware stores, to the exterior of your stove. Rub the paste gently, removing debris as you do. Once you the exterior is clean and has been rubbed, light a fire inside your stove. This will help the paste set and give your stove a shiny, bright appearance. 

Cleaning the Interior

If you don't clean the interior of your stove often, you asking for an accidental mess of ash and soot to spill from your stove, creating a dusty, dirty room. Before you clean the interior of your stove, ensure that a fire has not been lit within the last 24 hours. This is important in order to prevent any accidental burns. 

If your stove is properly cooled, set a cloth down directly in front of your stove. Then, get a metal ash scooper and begin to transfer the ashes from the stove into a metal bucket or container. It is important that you use both a metal scooper and receptacle in case any hot ashes or embers do actually remain in the stove, which could melt plastic scoopers or containers.

Leave the ashes to cool for at least another 24 hours before throwing them away in order to ensure you don't start any fires. 

Use a damp cloth to wipe down the interior of your stove, and you are done!  

Cleaning the Flue and Chimney  

Cleaning the flue and chimney of your wood burning stove is the most important step of the cleaning process due to the creosote that builds up in the flue and chimney over periods of use. Creosote is a sticky tar-like substance that is formed from the process of burning wood. It will build up in your flue and stay sticky when heated, but will eventually harden. Creosote is very flammable and is a leading cause of chimney fires, so it is important that you ensure your flue doesn't have excessive creosote build-up.

To fully remove creosote from your chimney, you need to remove the top of the stove pipe on the roof in order to fully clean the chimney. Use a chimney brush to scrape up and down the chimney. You should be dislodging chunks of creosote that has built up. To clean the flue, use your chimney brush in the same way. The creosote chunks should dislodge and fall the to floor of your wooden stove. As the creosote dislodges, remove it from your stove and dispose of it in an area where it won't be exposed to heat. 

If you aren't comfortable on your roof, you can hire a professional chimney cleaner to come clean out your flue and chimney. If you take preventative measures, like burning wood that is less likely to build-up creosote, you will most likely not have to climb onto the roof to clean your chimney, but should clean your flue from inside regularly. 

A wood burning stove is a cozy, delightful addition to any home. However, you should follow the above advice in order to ensure that you have the best and safest experience with your wood burning stove.