How to clean wood burning stoves

Updated April 17, 2017

Keeping a wood burning stove clear of ash, and cleaning the glass front, can increase heating efficiency. You only need a few tools to safely clean your stove.

Allow the stove to cool for at least 24 hours before attempting to clear the ashes. Clean the stove once a week if it is being used as the primary heating source for the house. Clean the stove less often when it is used infrequently. A good rule is to clean the stove after every sixth fire.

Scoop ashes into a metal container with a tight-fitting lid. Other containers, such as cardboard and plastic, are poor choices due to the danger of combustion. Place the metal container on a surface of rock or tile before filling it with ashes.

Place the lid on the metal container and leave it outside--away from wood and other combustible materials. Do not leave the container on a porch. The ashes may take as long as 3 days to cool completely before they are safe to throw away--or use for another purpose.

Wipe the inside of the glass front with a soft cloth to clean away soot. An easy way to get rid of soot and creosote build-up prior to cleaning by hand is to burn a few very hot fires. This will clean much of the build-up away and make the job of scrubbing much easier.

Spray stubborn spots on the glass with a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water. Use the fine steel wool to scrub away tough build-up. The steel wool will not scratch the glass.

Leave the door open and allow the glass to dry before lighting another fire. If any moisture is left on the glass, particles of soot will get trapped in the moisture and dirty the glass again.

Empty the cooled ashes into a plastic grocery bag after 3 days of cooling. Place this bag in another bag and tie the top of the bags in a knot to safely dispose of the ashes in an outdoor garbage can. Ashes also make good a good booster to fertiliser and compost. Sprinkle your garden with a dusting of ashes to help balance the pH of the soil and keep pests away.


Have your chimney cleaned by a professional once every 6 months.


Avoid harsh cleaners on the inside of a wood burning stove. If you use a product such as Windex, use the water and vinegar solution as a rinse.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand trowel or shovel
  • Metal container with a lid
  • Spray bottle
  • Vinegar
  • Fine-grade steel wool
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About the Author

Jessica Felix graduated from Western Washington University with a major in Education. Felix has been writing for six years and teaches child development classes to professionals and parents. She is also a certified parenting educator offering coaching and classes to families with young children.