The burning of solid fuels in your stove, fireplace or insert, be it wood, coal or pellets, will inevitably leave behind ashes that need to be removed, regardless of how efficiently your particular unit burns. These remaining ashes must be removed periodically to prevent them from harming both the performance and durability of your unit. The frequency of the ash removal will depend on the product itself, how efficiently it burns, and the type of fuel being burned. The primary concern should be keeping you and your family members safe.
There are many ways this ash can be put to good use. Did you know that it is not a good idea to remove the ash from the fireplace or wood stove every time you build a fire? As it turns out, having a 1-inch layer of ash on the floor of the firebox during the regular heating season will make it easier to build and maintain a fire. The hot coals tend to nestle into the ash and glow, adding more heat to the fuel and reflecting the heat back into the fire.
How to Safely Remove Wood Ashes from Your Fireplace
- Trash the ash. A wet/dry vacuum with a disposable bag will take care of the job once the pile has cooled for at least four days.
If you don’t have one of those heavy-duty suckers, or just don’t feel like hauling it out, here is an alternative approach: After the ash is completely cold, sprinkle it with damp tea leaves or coffee grounds to cover the stale smell and keep down dust (so you don’t inhale it). Then scoop the pile with a fireplace shovel leaving an inch or two behind, and dump it into a metal can, bucket, or even an old stockpot. Discard the mess outside, ideally in a metal trash container, but definitely away from your house.
- Brush it off. If you have smoke stains on your fireplace facing, begin by squirting them with water. It will keep the cleaning solution from soaking in too fast (this is particularly important with brick). Then dip a brush in a solution of ¼ cup all-purpose cleaner to 1-gallon water; give spots a quick scrub; rinse with a clean sponge; let dry. For marble or other stones, squirt with water, and then go over with a soft cloth dipped in mild dishwashing liquid and water. Rinse and wipe dry.
One exception: If brick facing is more than 50 years old, it may crumble if you scrub with a cleaner. Just vacuum the surface with your soft-brush attachment.
- Clear things up. To remove light soot or a cloudy film from glass doors, mix a solution of equal parts white vinegar and warm water and pour into a spray bottle. Spritz a bit on a paper towel and dip it into the fireplace ashes to use as a gentle abrasive. To finish, spray glass and wipe clean with a microfiber cloth. If soldered-on gunk won’t budge (and if you really care), scrape it away with a razor blade.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage occurs and dozens of families are displaced because of fires in their homes that are caused by the improper disposal of fireplace ashes. According to statistics released by the National Fire Protection Association, almost 10,000 fires are caused yearly due to improperly removing and discarding ashes. Fireplace and wood stove ashes retain enough heat to ignite other combustible materials for several days after a fire. All one of these coals needs to flare up again is the addition of more oxygen. Therefore, extra care should be used in the storage and final disposal of them. There’s a reason fire departments often return to the scene of a fire to spray more water on smoldering timbers and newly flared coals. Even though a fire may appear to be out, embers and ash are still capable of causing accidental fires.
Want to make sure your chimney and fireplace are in safe, working order for the winter? Call 317-500-1250 or visit our website us to schedule an assessment so you can keep your home warm all winter long!