How to clean your wood stove before the winter season

Goodbye, summer and hello, fall; shorter days and cooler temperatures are on the horizon.

Those seasonal changes signal that it’s time to ready your wood stove for a long fall and winter of warming fires. Modern EPA-certified wood stoves are more efficient at emitting heat, and pollute less, than their counterparts built prior to 1995. But failing to take care of a wood stove will reduce its efficiency and its fires won’t keep you and your family as warm.

To keep your home cozy, do some “fall cleaning” to ensure your wood stove performs safely and properly throughout the cold-weather months. Here’s a refresher on how to properly clean and maintain your wood stove.

Autumn prep: Check the flue, firewood, and more

Fires burn more efficiently and cleanly in an EPA-certified wood stove or fireplace. New wood stoves burn hotter fires and require less firewood to generate the heat you need, while producing less smoke than non-EPA-certified wood stoves or fireplaces. But to get that performance, you should clean your woodstove after every use, and give it a good inspection before you fire it up for the first time of the season.

Check the wood stove to ensure it’s in good condition and free of hazards like broken firebricks. Also check that the venting system is in good working order, and the chimney or flue has no holes, cracks, or debris. Inspect that the flue’s damper opens and closes properly.

The chimney may need to be cleaned of creosote deposits. These deposits, which can accumulate over the course of a season, should be cleaned so fires burn safely and at hot temperatures. Because creosote is combustible, wood stove owners should get their chimney cleaned regularly.

A wood stove should never release smoke into the home – that could be a sign that there is a problem with the wood stove, or the wood is too wet to burn. Speaking of the wood you burn, it is best to use seasoned wood that has spent months drying; hardwoods like ironwood, rock elm, hickey, and oak have high energy per cord, meaning they’ll burn longer. Finally, never burn garbage, plastics, treated or painted wood, or cleaning agents in your wood stove.

A clear look at wood stove cleaning

Fires get messy. Left behind from a warm and glowing fire are flaky piles of ash and not-quite-burned embers. Disposing of a fire’s remnants should be part of a regular cleaning routine.

If you look closer at your wood stove, you’ll notice soot spots on another dirty surface: the glass-ceramic panel that fronts the wood stove. But how often is the glass cleaned?

Part of the beauty built into a wood stove is its glass panel, a feature you should clean after every fire. Just like the inside of the stove, the glass must cool down before it can be safely cleaned – remember, a glass panel radiates the heat generated by the fire.

One traditional method of cleaning the panel is to scrub the glass with a damp newspaper and ash, but that process creates an additional mess for an already dirty surface. A spray-on glass panel cleaner is another option, but patience will be required — some glass cleaners take a half an hour to set, and then more scrubbing to buff the glass crystal clear again.

SCHOTT’s Dry Wiper glass cleaner, with the help of some elbow grease, can return a wood stove’s glass panel to its original form in as little time as a commercial break. Take a look.

Wear a pair of rubber gloves if you use the Dry Wiper. The wiper’s tough textured surface (which does not need to be wet) will break up soot and ash on the glass without smearing, and it will not scratch the glass surface. No polishing is required.

Fall cleaning that lasts all season

Wood stoves have never looked better, but owners must do their part to keep the fires burning hot. Routine fall maintenance, like testing the damper and cleaning creosote deposits, will preserve the integrity and functionality of your wood stove. And don’t forget to clean the glass panel that fronts the wood stove, as this element radiates heat throughout a room and gives you clear views of the fire.

Wood stoves have returned to the role of household centerpieces, and they are more efficient than ever. A dedicated maintenance routine, some TLC, and a little bit of elbow grease will allow them to warm your house throughout the cold winter months.

October 13, 2015


Kim Kennell
Home Tech
SCHOTT North America, Inc.