Wood burning stove

There's nothing like warming up next to a cosy wood stove on a cold winter day. But that comforting warmth and ambience require regular cleaning and maintenance to keep your stove operating safely and efficiently.

This guide will walk you through the key steps for keeping your wood burning stove in tip-top shape.

Key Takeaways

  • Wear protective gear and gather the necessary supplies
  • Ensure ample workspace and open windows for ventilation
  • Regularly remove ash and soot from the firebox, focusing on creosote and debris removal for safety and efficiency
  • Keep the stove body clean with gentle, non-abrasive cleaners to maintain appearance and function
  • Use specific cleaners for wood stove glass to maintain clear visibility and safe operation
  • Clean the chimney and flue pipe to prevent creosote buildup and fire hazards
  • Regular maintenance is key to ensuring optimal performance and safety

How To Clean Wood Burning Stove

Prep Work

Before cleaning your wood stove, you'll want to assemble all the necessary supplies and prepare your work area. This helps ensure you have everything you need and can clean efficiently and safely.

Safety Gear

Be sure to wear appropriate safety gear when cleaning a wood stove. Gloves, protective eyewear, and a mask or respirator are recommended. The ash and soot can be harmful to your eyes and lungs. Close-toed shoes are also a good idea, as you'll be on your knees.

Supplies

You'll want stove brushes, chimney brushes, ash buckets and mini-shovels, a vacuum, paper towels, rags, drop clothes/tarps, and a spray bottle with either vinegar, dish soap, or commercial stove glass cleaner.

Prepping the Area

Clear a large working space around the stove. Place tarps or drop cloths beneath the stove to catch ash and debris. Open any nearby windows or doors to maximise ventilation while cleaning. Make sure your ash buckets, vacuum, and other supplies are within easy reach.

Cleaning Inside the Wood Stove

man cleaning the inside of a wood burning stove

Keeping the inside of your wood stove clean is important for safety and efficiency. Begin by removing any large ash or debris buildup with a small shovel or scoop. Then, vacuum or sweep out the remaining ash and soot using a brush or vacuum cleaner attachment.

Focus on cleaning the firebox, which is the main compartment where the fire is built, using a wire chimney brush or a soft-bristled stove brush. Scrub the walls, floor, baffles, and air tubes to remove any creosote, soot, or fly ash.

These brushes have long handles that allow you to reach all areas inside the stove. Scrub stubborn buildup and scrape off any large chunks.

Make sure to clean under the air control damper handle and around any bricks or log retainers inside the firebox. Get into corners, around air intake vents, and behind any baffles or heat shields. The key is to remove all accumulated ash and unburned fuel debris throughout the entire firebox.

Vacuum again when finished brushing to remove all loose material. Your stove's interior should look clean when you are done. Proper cleaning helps your stove burn safely, efficiently, and reduces risks like chimney fires.

Cleaning the Wood Stove Body

The stove body itself needs regular cleaning to keep it looking nice and working efficiently. So, wipe down all exterior surfaces with a soft cloth to remove any dust or residue.

You can use a mild soap and water solution if needed to cut through more stubborn dirt. Avoid abrasive cleaners or scouring pads that could scratch the finish.

For stubborn stains or buildup, opt for a gentle, commercially available wood stove cleaner specifically designed for your stove's material (cast iron, soapstone, etc.). Always test the cleaner on an inconspicuous area before applying it to the entire surface.

Cleaning the Wood Stove Glass

Cleaning the glass of a wood stove is essential for safe operation and maximum heat output. For a proper and thorough clean, do the following:

  • Let the stove cool completely before attempting to clean the glass. Cleaning when hot can crack the glass.
  • Use a paper towel or vacuum to remove any ash or debris that has collected on the glass. Pay close attention to the edges and corners of the glass, as debris often collects there.
  • Use a cleaner specifically designed for wood stove glass. These often contain ammonia, which helps cut through residue. Make sure to let the cleaner sit for a few minutes to allow it to penetrate any built-up residue.
  • Next, use paper towels to wipe the glass clean. Apply pressure as you wipe to remove any stuck-on ash or creosote. The cleaner should loosen up most debris with minimal scrubbing. Focus on small circles working outward.
  • For stubborn buildup, carefully scrape with a single-edge razor blade or a flat ceramic cooktop scraper.
  • Use cold, clean water and a clean rag or sponge to thoroughly rinse all areas of the glass until there is no more residue. You may need to rinse multiple times to remove it all. Pay close attention to the edges and corners where residue can linger.
  • Allow the glass to air dry for 10-15 minutes before relighting your stove, just to be safe.

Pro Tip: Avoid using abrasive cleaners or scouring pads, which could scratch the glass.

Cleaning the Wood Stove Chimney

To clean the stove chimney, start by brushing down from the top of the chimney. You'll want to brush from the top down, starting with the chimney cap and working in sections until you reach the bottom.

Gently guide the chimney brush down each section, using light downward pressure as you scrub the interior walls. Make long, steady strokes as you work. This dislodges built-up creosote so it can fall to the bottom of the chimney and be removed.

Be thorough and meticulous as you brush to ensure you clean the entire interior surface area. Pay extra attention to the horizontal areas of the chimney, as creosote accumulates more in these spots. Make sure to brush each section several times before moving to the next.

Avoid scrubbing aggressively, as this can damage the chimney liner. The goal is to remove creosote, not brickwork.

Pro Tip: If your chimney has numerous bends or offsets, you may need a professional chimney sweep's assistance. They have specialised tools that can reach the entire chimney path to ensure a thorough cleaning.

Cleaning the Flue Stove Pipe

The flue stove pipe connects the wood stove to the chimney and can accumulate significant creosote deposits that need to be removed. For easier cleaning, detach the stove pipe from the wood stove and chimney. Then, take it outdoors for cleaning.

Wear gloves during this process, as the creosote will be messy. Use a long-handled wire brush to scrub the entire interior surface of the stove pipe to remove all creosote deposits. It's worth mentioning that if you're dealing with a twin wall flue, use a nylon brush.

Pay special attention to seams and joints where creosote tends to accumulate. You may need to use a scraper for hardened deposits. Scrub until all interior surfaces are clean and smooth.

Once scrubbing is complete, rinse the pipe with a garden hose. Allow it to fully dry before reattaching.

Wood Burning Stove Maintenance Tips

Wood burning stoves require maintenance on different schedules to keep them operating safely and efficiently. Here are some key tips.

Weekly Maintenance

On a weekly basis, remove ash from the firebox, as buildup can block airflow, leading to poor performance and an increased risk of overheating. Then, give the stove a quick wipe-down.

Inspect the glass window for any buildup of soot or creosote. If there is any, use a damp cloth and wood stove glass cleaner to scrub the glass window clean. This helps ensure you get the beautiful view of the fire that wood stoves are known for.

Monthly Maintenance

Once a month, do a deeper clean by removing all components from the stove that can be taken out. Use pipe cleaners and brushes to clean inside stove pipes and chimneys. Vacuum out any ashes or buildup inside the stove body itself.

Annual Maintenance

Annually, it's important to have the chimney fully cleaned and inspected by a professional. Creosote buildup in chimneys can pose fire hazards, so an annual chimney cleaning helps ensure safety. And, of course, a professional will be able to identify problem areas and suggest repairs or replacements.

Final Thoughts

Maintaining and cleaning your wood burning stove is integral for both the longevity of the stove and your safety. Regular attention, including weekly, monthly, and annual tasks, ensures efficient operation and optimal heat output while minimising hazards.

If you want to know more about stove flue pipes and chimneys, check out our FAQ page for detailed answers to common questions. For tips and how-to guides, don't miss our informative blog.