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During the cold winter months, a wood burning stove is the perfect way to make your home cosy and warm. But what about maintaining your wood burner?
We've put together this guide to help with cleaning a wood burning stove. We've divided it up into sections so that you can easily learn how to clean the various parts and sections of your stove.
In this guide, you'll find out:
- How often you should clean your wood burner.
- About the airwash system and how it helps with cleaning a wood burning stove.
- How to clean wood burning stove glass.
- How to empty your wood burner's ashpan.
- How to clean the inside of your stove.
- How to clean the stove's flue pipe.
- And how you can clean the outside of the wood burner.
Wood burning stoves are great for keeping your home warm and cosy during the winter, but should be cleaned regularly to keep them in good working order.
Let's take a look at how to clean your wood burner...
How Often Should You Clean Your Stove?
To keep your wood burner or multifuel stove performing at its best (and looking good), it's important that you clean it regularly. There is no uniform time frame for cleaning a wood burner, but it's always a good idea to keep on top of it.
A lot will depend on how often you use the stove. If it is on all day, every day throughout the winter, the chances are that you'll need to at least remove the ash every one or two days. If it's used more sparingly, you probably won't need to clean as often.
The fuel that you use in your burner will also have an impact on how often you clean it. Some fuels burn 'cleaner' than others, so will require less frequent cleaning of the stove. For example, wood produces less ash than the alternative fuel source of peat, so a burner using wood fuel would require cleaning less often than one which uses peat.
As a guide, check the ashpan every time you use the burner, and empty it if necessary. If you use the burner on a regular basis, aim to clean the inside every 4-6 weeks. The glass can be cleaned as and when you clean the inside of the stove, or you can give it a clean as and when required if you notice that it is dirty.
The Airwash System
A lot of modern wood burners and multifuel stoves now come with an airwash system. But what is airwash, and how does it help?
Airwash is a design feature that is built into wood burners to keep the glass clean. In traditional burners, tar is deposited on the glass when the fuel is burnt, meaning that the glass requires regular cleaning. Over time, the tar can cause the glass to darken and become black, making it difficult to see the flames inside.
The airwash system helps to avoid this scenario. In a stove with airwash, air is drawn into the burner above the window. The air is passed or washed over the surface of the glass, forming a barrier between the window and the flames and gasses in the burner. This means that less tar is able to be deposited on the window, keeping the glass cleaner for longer.
How To Clean Wood Burning Stove Glass
Although an airwash system helps to keep your wood burning stove glass clean, it won't keep it sparkling forever. Every now and then, you should clean the glass to retain a clear view of your wood burner's flames.
The first thing to note is that the glass should be cleaned when it is cool. If you use cold liquids or cleaning products on a hot wood burner window, it can weaken and shatter the glass.
There are several methods you can use to clean the glass:
#1 – Ammonia and water
Your first option is to dilute some ammonia in water and, using a spray bottle, apply to the glass. Wipe the glass using a cloth until the window is clean. If parts of the window don't clean straight away, let the solution react for a few minutes before wiping.
#2 – Commercial cleaning products
If you don't have access to ammonia, try using a commercial cleaner instead. There are plenty of products available which will be suitable for cleaning glass. Just ensure that you follow the instructions and that using the product will not invalidate the warranty on your stove.
#3 – Newspaper and ash
Yes, really. Dipping some old newspaper in water and the residual ash left from your burner can prove a cost effective (and environmentally friendly) way to clean wood stove glass. It might take more effort and work than other options, but at least you've found a use for all that leftover ash. Once the glass is clean, wipe down with a damp cloth to remove excess ash.
#4 – Burning it off
You might be surprised to learn that firing up your stove can clean the glass. It seems to defeat the objective, but the dark formations on the glass are caused by wood particles not been burned off effectively. A hot fire can help to burn these deposits off, and it'll also help to keep the chimney or flue clean.
#5 – Scrape it away
If there are stubborn build ups of tar that simply won't move, try carefully scraping them off with a glass scraper. Take care when doing this though, as you don't want to end up scratching the glass – scratches not only look unsightly, but can also cause a weak spot in the window which can cause it to shatter as it is exposed to hot temperatures.
Emptying The Ashpan
Many modern wood burners come with a built in ashpan, which enables easy removal of the ashes. You should find that the stove also has a riddling mechanism, which allows you to move the burner's grate. This enables ash to fall through the grate and into the ashpan for removal.
Remember to empty the ashpan on a regular basis, and don't allow it to overflow. If the ash in the pan gets too close to the grate, it can block the flow of air to the grate, causing it to become too hot and possibly warp or become damaged.
To be on the safe side, check the ashpan each time you use the burner, and empty if necessary.
Cleaning The Inside Of The Stove
Once you've removed the ashpan from the stove and emptied it, you may find some ash and debris left inside the stove. When cleaning the inside of your wood burner, again make sure that you leave it long enough to cool down.
Remove any debris using a metal dust pan, and place into the ashpan or a metal bucket. It's not advisable to use a plastic bucket, as heat trapped within the layers of the debris can cause it to melt.
You can use a vacuum cleaner to remove any remaining ash and dirt, or alternatively use a hand brush to gently sweep the debris into the ashpan. Try not to be too rough with the brush, as this can cause the dust to kick up.
Finally, ensure that the seal on the door of the wood burner is clean and free of excess ash. Again, this can be vacuumed or swept with the brush.
Cleaning The Flue Pipe
When it comes to cleaning your wood burner, you also need to consider the flue pipe which carries the fumes waste out of the stove. The flue can become lined with tar and deposits as the waste passes through, so it needs to be checked regularly to ensure it doesn't become blocked.
Here you have two options:
#1 – Do it yourself
There are plenty of chimney and flue cleaning accessories available for you to clean the flue yourself. Wear safety goggles and a dust mask to prevent injuries caused by the particles of dust, and remember to lay dust sheets in the house to prevent mess when you are cleaning the chimney.
Sweep the flue using a wire brush to remove the residue that has built up on the inside of the flue. Whilst cleaning the flue, remember always to keep safe. Also bear in mind that this can be quite time consuming and hard work.
#2 – Hire a professional chimney sweep
If you don't have the time to clean the flue yourself, or you are not feeling confident enough to carry out the work, hire a professional. There are plenty of chimney sweeps available who will clean the flue properly and professionally.
Whilst this does mean you'll have to pay for the flue to be cleaned, it can save a lot of hassle for yourself, as well as ensuring that your flue is safe to use.
You should have the flue cleaned once a year, or more often if it is used on a particularly regular basis.
Cleaning The Outside Of A Cast Iron Wood Burner
Cast iron is the material of choice for most wood burners and multifuel stoves, due to its strength and resistance to heat. To keep your stove looking clean on the outside as well as the inside, you can easily clean it by using a stiff brush and a vacuum cleaner.
Try to avoid liquid solutions when cleaning the outside of your burner, as these can leave streaks on the surface.
Before cleaning a wood burning stove, always refer to the manufacturer's instructions which came with the stove. The tips provided in this guide are meant as guidance only, and should be followed only in accordance with the guidelines of the manufacturer.
If you're wondering how to clean your wood burning stove this winter, follow these tips to help.