Cleaning Your Wood Stove

Cleaning your Wood Stove

Recently in the United States there has been a surge of wood stoves being installed in homes as an alternative to traditional heating methods. While these rustic heating appliances have an aesthetic appeal they also have economic advantages. Having a wood burning stove greatly reduces the heating costs associated with central heat and air. As with any fireplace however, wood stoves do require a certain amount of upkeep to maintain a safe and energy efficient system. One absolute necessity is scheduling an annual chimney inspection.

The first step to cleaning a wood burning stove is to locate the stove’s catalytic combustor between the fire and the stovepipes. The catalytic combustor acts similarly to a filter. Heat activates the catalyst on the grid that the smoke passes through and converts the ash, particulates, and gases to carbon dioxide and water vapor which harmlessly escapes through the chimney and into the atmosphere. To clean the catalytic combustor you need to use a wire brush to remove any ash that has collected on and inside the combustor. This should be done every 2 months or so.

Did you know you can use cooled ash in your compost pile or garden?

Did you know you can use cooled ash in your compost pile or garden?

Next remove the ashes from the stove using a fireplace shovel or similar tool. These ashes should be kept in an air-tight non-combustible container until they have cooled. Once this has happened they can be disposed of or used in gardens or in compost piles. If you decide to use the ashes in the garden it pays to do a soil test first. The main result of using wood ash in the garden is to raise the pH of the soil. If your soil is has a pH of 7 or higher then you should not use the wood ash. Also be aware of the plants you have and if they thrive in high-acidic soil. Examples of these plants would include potatoes and blueberries.

The next step to cleaning your wood stove is to remove any debris from the outside of the stovepipe. Use a wire brush to scrape the outside and clean all the creosote out of the inside. Creosote is flammable and can cause serious problems if left in your stovepipe. You can identify creosote as a yellowish oily compound. If you can’t identify it by sight you should be able to identify the bad smell. Creosote is created when gases in the stovepipe cool and turn to liquid. Make sure to shovel out any debris that may have fallen while you were cleaning the stovepipe. Always double check your work to make sure all the ash and creosote have been removed.

The last step is to clean the window. This is usually done with fine steel wool. If you chose to use a chemical based cleaning product be sure to let it dry completely before use as it can be a fire hazard and can cause dirt and soot to cake onto the window defeating the purpose of cleaning it in the first place. Of course if all of this seems like more work than you care to take on you can always call your local chimney sweep!