How to Keep a Wood Burning Fireplace Clean
The cleaning process is always important to ensure that you enjoy your fireplace for many years to come. It is even more important to ensure that you stay safe.
When wood burns, a substance called creosote/soot is left behind in the chimney. This black tar-like residue is commonly used as a preservative, and, as it is extremely flammable, removing any build-up of creosote in your fireplace after periods of use is very important to prevent the risk of house fires. When in doubt, it is always best to have your fireplace cleaned professionally once per year or no longer than once every two years. A closed combustion wood stove typically produces very little smoke and soot if used with the correct wood, so build-up is often minimal. An effective way to keep your fireplace in good condition is to check it daily after use the night before. Pushing the ash through the grid into the built-in ash tray drawer will open the airways for combustion air when the next fire is made. If there is a build-up of burnt ashes, the grid will be blocked and the fireplace will not be able to draw enough air. This will result in a very slow starting fire. In addition to cleaning the chimney flue itself, you will also need to keep the rest of the fireplace clean however. The areas that you will be able to easily clean yourself include the interior, surface and glass door.
Cleaning Your Wood Burning Fireplace
Some tips to keep in mind when cleaning a wood burning fireplace include the following:
- Use a metal scoop or a small metal spade to carefully remove ashes from the inside of your wood stove once it has too much ash for the fire to burn. This can be done simply by pushing the ash through the grid into the ash tray. The tray can then be taken outside to the bin. Very hot burning fires in this type of closed-combustion fireplace typically don’t create a large volume of ash, but as a thick layer of ash prevents proper burning, it’s best to clean the interior every few days. Ideally, you want a thin layer of ash remaining.
- For safety purposes, it is best to wait until the fireplace is cool before you remove the ash. If you need to remove any ash while the fire is still hot, make sure that you use protective gloves and only ever use a metal bin when transferring ashes into a container. Plastic bins will melt, and you could end up with burning embers all over your floor.
- Even if the ash has cooled a bit, it’s safest to leave the bin full of ashes outdoors somewhere where it cannot be knocked over, until you are certain that there is no risk of embers. You can sprinkle wood ash in the garden (it is alkaline and good for most soil). If your wood has been treated with any chemicals however, it is best to throw the ash in the bin. Creosote is acidic, and may not be good for your plants – any wood that has traces of creosote should be disposed of in the trash.
- Never use a wet cloth to clean the inside of your fireplace – the moisture can lead to corrosion and that can reduce the life span of your fireplace drastically.
If you use your wood stove to heat tea or coffee, or find that it needs a bit of a clean on the surface, you can use a dry cloth and gently clean the metal once it has cooled. Be careful not to touch the surface when it is still hot however. The metal can reach extremely high temperatures and burns can be nasty. Sleeperwarehouse offers a touch-up spray that can be used to re-spray the surface of your fireplace and can also assist with professional retouching. You will also need to clean the glass. A speciality product designed for fireplace glass is the best way to keep the glass clean. You can also dip kitchen towel or cloth into fine ash (ensure that there are no hard lumps however as these can leave scratches) and use that to clean the glass. Using chemical products can also work, but may leave streaks. As fires leave a very specific type of residue, organic cleaners or fine ash will help to restore the glass without the risk of damage to the glass.
Preserving your Wood Burning Fireplace During the Off-Season
After winter comes to an end, your fireplace will likely be standing for the duration of the hot summer months to follow. It is a good idea to spray the interior metal surfaces of the fireplace inside the combustion chamber with Q20 or a similar lubricant. Make sure that all air vents are left fully open, and leave the door slightly open. This will ensure that there is proper ventilation, which in turn will prevent condensation as the temperatures change. Condensation can put your fireplace at risk of corrosion and will prematurely shorten the lifespan of the fireplace. Having your fireplace professionally checked and cleaned at the end of winter after a good long stint is a good way to ensure that everything stays in excellent condition. While keeping your wood burning fireplace clean takes a little bit of effort, it is worth it to make sure that you can continue to enjoy it year after year.