Cleaning a wood burning stove is the best way to guarantee the appliance will be functional for a longer period of time. However, there are certain precautions and safety measures to observe. This is to ensure the safety of the owner (cleaner) as well as the maintenance of the stove. For instance, there are certain materials that are sensitive to chemicals and other cleaning solutions. Therefore, answers to the question ‘How do I clean a wood burning stove?’ are important because the answers outline do’s and don’ts during the process. Also, it will help in maintaining the original state (new) of the stove.
There are two ways owners may choose: do-it-yourself (d-i-y) cleaning or professional cleaning. These two have accompanying benefits and costs. Homeowners may want to assess these two before selecting which one fits best with their needs, their time and their finances.
How do I clean a wood burning stove at home?
With d-i-y cleaning, owners will be able to prevent being dependent upon professionals. This will not only provide best practice, but will also reduce payment obligations. However, the homeowner must be equipped with knowledge and safety gear to achieve successful cleaning. Almost all the time, proper cleaning guidelines are found in the stove’s users manual.
Most manufacturer’s user manuals are available online. Most sites will charge a small fee (around $10 USD) for downloading a user manual. Usually the manual is in .pdf format for which the (free) Adobe Reader is required.
Restrictions as well as recommendations are published in the user’s manual. An important thing to remember is to avoid scratching or destroying warranty labels especially if the stove is still covered by the agreement.
How do I clean a wood burning stove with an expert’s help?
To avail yourself of professional cleaning, there are certified chimney sweeps equipped with special tools and experienced teams to clean wood stoves. The advantage of this choice is that owners will no longer worry about cleaning because professionals will do the tasks properly. Not only is this route safer, it may be preferred especially when the stove requires extensive cleaning. However, this requires payment, researching, third-party insurance verification and other people’s time schedule.
Wood stove users must determine which type of method to apply when cleaning a wood stove at home. Read and follow the user’s manual to the smallest detail!
Always allow the stove to fully cool-down. Usually suggested is a full 24-hour cool-down time.
A most suitable solution for cleaning the glass front door is a mixture of ammonia and water placed inside a spray bottle. Start wiping the glass with soft towels after misting with the solution. Non-scratch scouring pads will also be good to scrub stubborn dirt, but do not scratch the glass. Then use dry cloths to finish buffing the glass door. Wiping with solution moistened newspaper as well as ashes may work also when removing harder deposits.
Another method, somewhat controversial, is making a hot fire for a considerable time using very well-seasoned hardwood. Most deposits that are black or dark are caused by inadequate wood combustion. Therefore, intense heat with minimal moisture will help in making both the chimney, the inside of the stove and the glass cleaner. Cleaners may also consider scraping stubborn build-up, but with the utmost care.
The controversy comes from the inability of the average homeowner to determine exactly when this method will assist cleaning versus when it may ignite a chimney fire.
Important cleaning reminders and warnings:
When in the process of cleaning, owners must follow instruction details to ensure the task will be accomplished in a safe way. First, make sure the stove is cool before starting cleanup. Do not spray cold water to cool down a hot glass door because it will cause damage.
When scraping is the last resort, avoid scratching the stove’s glass. This will not only affect the appearance of the appliance, but will also cause weak places in the glass. When cleaning, be equipped with proper apparel such as gloves and protective goggles. Also, be warned that some commercial cleaning solutions are harsh to bare skin and eyes. Read the label and follow the precautions.
This article is not a comprehensive document about the cleaning and/or maintenance of any specific wood burning appliance. See your user’s manual or your local stove, insert and fireplace dealer for specific recommendations and instructions.
Most manufacturers suggest periodic cleanings and frequent ash removal to prevent heavy creosote and tar build-up. Periodic cleaning is much more maintenance oriented and can certainly be accomplished by a moderately handy d-i-y homeowner. Tackling severe build-up is something best left to professionals with their special tools and certified skills.