As winter rolls in and the temperature drops across the U.S., it’s time for many to fire up their wood stoves. That means it’s also time to clean your wood stove, in every sense of the word. From a literal scrub of the glass-ceramic front to choosing cleaner-burning wood to using a modern woodstove with lower emissions, here’s a guide to getting your wood stove up and running.
A safer, cleaner wood stove
Fire is one of the most important technologies harnessed by humans, and for centuries, homeowners have used wood stoves as a primary heat source. Today there are about 12 million wood stoves in U.S. homes, and new technology makes these wood stoves cleaner and safer than ever. New EPA-certified wood stoves are 50 percent more efficient than the wood stoves of the past, and produce 70 percent less pollution.
The glass-ceramic used in modern wood stoves can transfer heat more effectively from the fire to the room, is designed to withstand temperature fluctuations without breaking, and can stand up to extreme temperatures — SCHOTT ROBAX glass-ceramic can withstand temperatures up to 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. Wood stoves that use ROBAX burn 26 percent hotter and use 43 percent less wood compared to open wood stove systems.
But technology can’t solve every problem, and one problem we’ve had since the discovery of fire is what it leaves behind in ash and soot. Even today, wood stoves need to be cleaned and maintained before every use. Proper maintenance and upkeep of your wood stove will keep it burning cleanly and safely, and ensure it remains a beautiful addition to your home for years to come.
The quick way to clean wood stove glass
Cleaning the glass-ceramic on your wood stove is simple. In fact, the byproduct of fire — ash — will aid in the cleaning process. Below is a quick four-step process on how to clean wood stove glass-ceramic.
1. Let your wood stove cool completely before cleaning. You should never clean a hot wood stove.
2. Insert a moist rag or newspaper into the white ash of the cooled stove.
3. Rub this damp ash onto the glass insert of your wood stove. Wood ash contains calcium carbonate, a liming agent, and is therefore a basic substance. As a mild abrasive with a high pH, the ash makes for a simple cleaning solution.
4. Wipe off with the moist towel, and polish with a clean, soft towel.
A number of commercial cleaning and care products are also available, and SCHOTT produces a Dry Wiper cleaning pad for cleaning ROBAX glass-ceramic without the use of chemicals or cleaning fluids. Note that chemical glass cleaners are not recommended for coated glass. You should also never use an abrasive cleaning product or scratch pad on wood stove glass.
Find the right wood for the best burn
Burning a clean fire in your wood stove starts with the wood. Softwoods like pine and spruce will work, but hardwoods like maple or oak will burn longer and produce less smoke. A wood-burning stove should be smoke free. If you see or smell smoke, you have a problem, so extinguish the fire and clean your stove using the steps above.
Below is a list of “best burn” practices from the EPA to ensure you choose the right wood and operate your wood stove safely.
1. Use only seasoned wood that has spent months drying outside. Seasoned wood is darker, is cracked at the ends, and will sound hollow.
2. Burn hot fires, and only open the door to your wood stove if adding logs or stoking the fire.
3. Regularly clean the ashes out of your wood stove to maintain proper airflow.
4. Install and regularly check the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Keep a fire extinguisher near your wood stove at all times.
Wood stoves are designed with the simple purpose of heating a home. Advances in technology have made wood stoves cleaner and safer than ever, but be proactive in cleaning and maintaining your stove. By regularly cleaning a wood stove and using some best-burn practices, more homeowners can efficiently, smartly, and safely heat their homes.