Inevitably, your woodstove is going to need cleaned out from time to time. For us, it never fails that it needs to be cleaned out during our stormiest and coldest days.
While starting a new fire might not be too hard for some people, letting the fire go out and stove completely cool down to clean it out means losing your heat not only in your stove, but in your house as well.
December and January around our home means temperatures between teens and close to negative 30. Even if you aren’t in an area as cold as ours, letting a fire go out (when that is your only source of heat) is not always what you want to do every couple weeks. It can get very cold very fast.
So what do you do? Let the ash build up? Try to carry out hot coals and hope for a safe place to put them so you can start a new fire?
For us, it is neither of the above.
Although our method is simple, I will admit it took me a while to catch on to it. Now that I know how to do it this way, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to any other method.
You will need:
- Ash pan (or metal bucket)
- Ash shovel
- Leather gloves (optional–it gets pretty hot)
To start, you need to let your fire burn down until you only have some hot coals. Once you have this, carefully move all the hot coals to one side of your firebox in a stack, and all the other ashes to the other side. Using your shovel, carefully remove all your ashes and place them in your ash pan/bucket. Be sure to get the ashes under your coals too–you’ll have to move your hot coals back to the other now-clean side to do this.
Once all you have left in your stove are your hot coals, spread them out in an even layer across the floor of your firebox with your shovel. Since our stove feeds air in at the front, we move our coals toward the front. Your placement technique will vary depending on where your air is fed in. (Click any picture to enlarge.)
Immediately place a few pieces of wood on top of the hot coals, and close the door on your stove. If your wood does not start burning pretty soon (like a minute), go ahead and turn the air flow up all the way.
If you turned your air flow up for the wood to catch on fire, let it burn for a few minutes before turning it down again. Turning it down immediately could cause your fire to go out.
Caution: Your ash pan or bucket can get very hot during this process. You may even get hot coals in it. Make sure it is not setting on something flammable (like carpet). Ideally, your wood stove should be sitting on a hearth pad, and your pan will sit on this as well.
Use your leather gloves to quickly take your ashes out and let them cool in the bucket/ash pan. Again, make sure where you are setting your pan down is a safe place for it.