Cleaning a wood burning stove


Suitable for heating a wide variety of different living spaces, wood burning stoves (also known as wood burners) are incredibly popular. Not only do they provide an efficient and carbon neutral form of heating, they also convey an enormous sense of wellbeing, a phenomenon which was explored by American scientist Professor Edward O Wilson in his 1984 publication of the biophilia hypothesis which suggested that human beings have deep intrinsic connections with the natural world, including fire.

One of the most efficient ways to heat a property, a wood burning stove or wood burner is capable of heating just a room or even an entire home, while helping to keep your energy bills low. Functional and aesthetically pleasing, a wood burning stove or wood burner also provides an attractive focal point in any living area.

But how do you clean a wood burning stove?

During the winter months, when the majority of homeowners use their wood burner regularly, it’s easy for wood burning stoves to become dirty and in need of some care.

A dirty wood burner can potentially make your room messy, but not only this, keeping the stove clean will make it more efficient and can increase the lifetime of your stove, saving you money in the long term.

But before we begin, here are our top tips on how to clean a wood burning stove.

Top Tips on How to clean a wood burning stove:

  • Develop a regular cleaning pattern – weekly or fortnightly would be recommended.
  • Clean more regularly as you use the stove – as you use the stove more frequently in winter, you should clean it more regularly.
  • Only burn dry wood or wood pellets in your wood burner – avoid using fuel which contains painted or varnished wood as it’s often been treated with chemicals.

You’ll need to be ready to clean the outside, the inside and the flue of your wood burner – each of which will require a slightly different approach.

Some essential equipment you’ll need includes a mat or newspaper (to cover your floor), gloves, a small brush, a small ash shovel and metal ash container or an “ash-vac” which is a type of vacuum cleaner specifically designed for use with wood ash.

How to clean the outside surface of a wood burning stove

Many manufacturers of wood burning stoves use a process known as shot-blasting to prepare the outside steel surface prior to painting. This results in a slightly roughened surface which means that you should absolutely avoid using any form of cloth that contains lint. A cloth containing lint will catch on this rough surface and leave a trail of small fibres on the surface which will be difficult to remove.

In our experience the best tool to use for cleaning the external surface of a wood burner is a stiff nylon brush.

After brushing, apply a thin coating of olive oil using a lint-free cloth and polish the surface to restore that bright, new look.

How to clean the flue connected to a wood burning stove

This is arguably the trickiest job and is best done by employing the services of a chimney sweep.

Or if you’re a more practical person you can try to do it yourself. One of the most common methods is to use a drain rod with a brush attached to clear the chimney. However, drain rods are not flexible so if your flue has any 45 degree bends in it then this won’t work very well. It also means you’ll need to work on your roof – so if you do choose to do this then be very careful.

How to clean the inside of a wood burning stove

Always make sure that you wait for the fire inside the stove to cool before you empty the ash and wear protective gloves.

With your gloves on, use a small spade to move the ash from the fire into a metal ash container, or a metal bucket (DO NOT use anything plastic to store the ash). Be careful moving the ash (slide the ash off the spade at the bottom of the bucket, don’t just dump them in) and placing it in its metal container as you want to avoid spilling any ash.

With the ashes in the bucket, take it to a safe place outdoors and keep it contained there. A safe place generally means away from any bushes, trees or other materials that might catch fire.

An alternative method is to use an “ash-vac” which is type of vacuum cleaner especially designed for handling wood ash.

REMEMBER – Do not keep ashes stored in the bucket (or other metal container) inside your house. Storing it inside, especially if you keep adding to the ash without emptying it, can cause carbon monoxide to build up and eventually spread through your home. For this reason, it’s very important you take the ashes outside before disposing of them.

It’s probably best to leave the ash over 24 hours before you dispose of it in your garden. Just remember that wind can cause embers to reignite, so be careful when disposing of your ash in these conditions.

When cleaning your wood burning stove, take the opportunity to inspect the rope seals on the doors and flue. It’s not uncommon for the seals to succumb to everyday wear and tear, so it’s important that these are checked frequently and changed if necessary.

Follow these tips and your wood burning stove should look as good as new in no time at all.

Further Information

The Island Pellet Stoves website has a range of resources and frequently asked questions to help you get the best from your wood burning stove or wood burner. Follow the link below for more information or give us a call on – 0330 111 4747