Cleaning your fireplace can certainly be a chore, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. A good and regular cleaning is essential for the safety and effectiveness of your fireplace, so how often should you do it?
A fireplace needs to be cleaned of ash anytime the ash pile is larger than 1 inch. This means the fireplace does not need to be cleaned after each use; in fact, keeping some ash is good insulation for your fire. However, once the ash pile exceeds 1 inch (especially if it is touching the grate), it is time to clean.
There are several methods to go about a routine cleaning of your fireplace (and your fire pit, for that matter). Believe it or not, there are also many ways to recycle your ashes around the home!
How Often Should You Clean Ashes From Your Fireplace?
Remove the ash once it has built up to a pile exceeding 1 inch in height. Also, if the ash pile touches the bottom of your fireplace grate, this is a good indicator that it is time to remove the ashes. Leaving an inch of ash is beneficial, as it helps ignite future fires.
The benefit of keeping a small amount of ash in your fireplace is that it provides a layer of insulation to the fireplace. The ash works to heat the coals and facilitates a better burn.
However, if you are about to clean your fireplace, it is perfectly fine to clean it all in one swoop. The inch of ash is helpful but not a necessity. It can be kind of a hassle to leave an inch or so of ash. And after all, your future fires will build up that inch of ash again.
A good rule of thumb is to fully remove ashes when they’ve reached 1 inch in height and definitely if they begin touching the fireplace grate.
How Often Should You Remove Ashes From Your Fire Pit?
A fire pit should be cleaned every six months or as needed to prevent airflow blockage to your wood-burning fire. If you use an outdoor grate in your fireplace, clean the ash out when the ashes reach the grate to prevent embers from getting stuck in the grate.
An outdoor fire pit differs from an indoor fireplace because a fire pit does not require the same safety measures that an indoor fire might. There is no furniture to catch fire.
Still, the same is true here. A good layer of insulating ash will improve the effectiveness of lighting and maintaining a healthy fire. So once again, it’s beneficial to leave about an inch or so of ash.
An outdoor fire pit should receive a seasonal cleaning to extend its lifespan and improve its use throughout seasonal use.
Is It OK To Vacuum Fireplace Ashes
Ashes can be vacuumed with a vacuuming machine that is manufactured for sucking in ash. A regular household vacuum is not equipped to properly or safely clean ashes from a fireplace or stove and should not be used in that manner.
Ash is too fine of a dust to be properly sucked up by a regular vacuum. Regular vacuums do not have the proper filter for trapping the ash dust. This means that if you do attempt to clean the fireplace with one, you run the risk of sending ash dust flying into your home via the vacuum.
Secondly, since a regular vacuum is not manufactured to clean ashes, there is also a matter of safety to consider. Most household vacuums have a plastic tube that could melt if a hot ember is accidentally sucked into the machine. There is also a risk of a fire starting inside the vacuum canister if the embers have not cooled entirely before cleaning.
To safely use a vacuum to clean a fireplace or stove, invest in a vacuum rated and constructed for such a task.
What Is The Best Way To Clean Fireplace Ash?
You can clean your fireplace in a few simple steps. One, let the embers and ashes cool. Two, use a metal shovel or metal dustpan to scoop the ashes out of the fireplace into a fire-resistant container. Three, wait until the ashes are completely cooled before disposing of them in the trash or repurpose the ashes around your home.
- Letting the embers cool. This step is essential in a matter of safety. If you remove ashes that are still hot, it can potentially start a new fire in the disposal can. Tip: spread out the embers to facilitate a quicker cool down.
- Scooping the ashes. Use a metal shovel or metal dustpan to scoop the ashes from the fireplace into a fire-resistant container—i.e. a metal one. Again, be cautious of warm embers that could possibly restart a fire. Keep your container of ashes away from combustible items and out of reach of vulnerable children and animals.
- Disposal. Once you are sure that your ashes have cooled completely, they can be disposed of. You may want to consult your local trash disposal for guidance, but typically, ashes can be disposed of with the regular trash.
How Can You Use Ash Around Your Home
Ashes can be recycled for use around the home. Ash works wonders in the garden because it raises the pH level of your soil and enriches it with potassium. You can also keep a portion around for wintertime to use for increased traction on icy surfaces. For these purposes, use non-contaminated wood ash.
- The Gardener. Ashes can be a great addition to your garden. They can supplement your soil or compost by adding nutrients like lime and potassium. There are a variety of plants that thrive with a dose of potassium. Used lightly and appropriately, a thin layer of wood ash can give your soil that potassium boost. An example of a plant that loves potassium is the tomato plant!
- The Homesteader. You can supplement your soap making with a little bit of wood ash. Some campers even use a bit of ash in their cook pots to clean them.
- The Snow Day Prepper. A roaring fireplace is common in the cold of winter. One way to recycle the ash build up from fireplace use is to spread a layer on snowy, icy surfaces to improve traction.