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    How to Clean A Wood Heater

    Having a wood fire in the winter is the most comforting thing imaginable. It offers warmth, moving flames to capture your eyes and your imagination, and a relaxing ambiance that makes it enjoyable whether you are by yourself or with others. None of that, however, changes the fact that once your fire goes out, you are looking at a very dirty heater, with ash inside, accumulated dust outside, and soot-covered glass. Here are some tips to make the cleaning job a little easier so you can keep the area around the heater, and the heater itself, looking nice, and more importantly, safe.

    Exterior

    After the surface of the stove cools, clean the outside with warm water that includes just a little bit of dish soap, along with a clean rag or some paper towels. Then using a paper towel, apply a thin layer of stove polish — sometimes called hotplate protector — all over the outside of the stove. Read the instructions for your specific product before you use it. There might be small variances, but the general idea is the same. Use some elbow grease and make sure you rub it into the metal as thoroughly as you can, then remove any excess. Lighting a fire in the stove once you've finished will harden the polish, but make sure your windows are open and you have excellent air flow to deal with the smell while it hardens.

    Interior

    You will always need some sort of metal scoop and a metal container to dispose of excess ash whenever it builds up enough to prevent the fire from burning effectively. It is not necessary to remove ALL the ash from the heater's interior, since a shallow bed of ash can actually help improve the efficiency of the burn by insulating the existing heat.

    DO NOT put your ash into a plastic container. Even if you allow time for the fire to quit burning completely, there are likely to be small coals still smoldering in the ash. Also, you should always allow the ash bucket to sit for 24-48 hours before disposing of the ashes — on a non-flammable surface and in a sheltered area where wind cannot blow the container over or disperse hot coals. Once the ashes cool, many people put them into their gardens or compost heaps.

    Glass Doors

    There are apparently several approaches to cleaning the glass doors. You should check your manufacturer's warranty to see what method they prefer to prevent voiding your warranty. You can simply use an extra hot fire to burn the coating off the glass, since it's a result of insufficient combustion of wood particles. You can use a mixture of water and ammonia with paper towels. You can use commercial cleaners, but, again, be careful not to use something that will void the warranty. Newspaper and water mixed with ash also works (it forms a paste that breaks down the soot). After you've removed all the deposits, simply wipe clean with a damp cloth.

    Flue/Chimney

    You should have your chimney professionally inspected at least once a year to determine if creosote buildup could be a fire hazard. Creosote is the residue that accumulates on the inside of your chimney as the fire burns. Different things like gases, wood particulates, moisture, and other things combine and form a nasty, oozing substance running down the interior chimney surface. It hardens into a coating as it cools and is extremely flammable. It is possible to clean your own chimney, if you will put some extra work into and are willing to do a little climbing. If you are at all unsure of your competence or are not interested in taking the time or the risk, you MUST get that chimney clean, so pay someone if you don't wish to do the work yourself.

    If you plan to do it yourself, get a quality chimney brush — a long-handled brush that is the correct diameter of your chimney. Make sure you cover any surfaces inside around your wood heater with a drop cloth. Remove any firebricks in the stove that might hinder chimney brush access to the flue, and loosen any creosote that has built up around the bottom of the flue. Climb on the roof and remove the cover from the chimney / stove pipe. Use a scraper of some kind to remove creosote from the cover before replacing it. Then, use your chimney brush and vigorously move it up and down to break up the built-up creosote. Once you can feel it moving more smoothly, you can extract the brush, replace the cover, and climb down from the roof. Go back inside and remove the debris that has fallen down into the firebox. Don't forget to replace any firebricks you might have removed, and make sure you clean around the door seals. Finally, sweep up or vacuum any remaining ash and debris around the heating area.