Recently, one of our visitors asked this question about removing ashes from a wood stove.
"I have been using my Homestead Heritage woodstove as my primary heat source since 2010.
I love heating with wood, not only because it is warmer than a heat pump, but I'm still warm when the power goes out.
I would like to see more discussion on how to deal with the mess associated with using wood as a source of heat.
Specifically, I would love to see ideas on how to remove ash from a wood stove and getting it outside without spewing fine dust everywhere inside the living space.
This mess is the one significant downside to heating with wood, and I know it is a major obstacle to those who are considering using wood for heat."
Using a shovel and bucket when removing ashes from a wood stove is the most common way to clean out your stove. However, anyone who has ever dumped a shovel full of ashes into a can has watched that notorious cloud of ash rise out of the can and spread throughout your house.
Keeping a clean firebox is important when using a wood stove. About an inch or two of ashes on the bottom of the firebox is ideal but anything more than that should be cleaned out.
Here are a few tips to help clean out your wood stove without creating a dusty mess.
First, clean your stove in the morning or evening after the fire has burned down and only a few coals are left. While wearing protective gloves, use a modified garden rake or poker to gently slide all the coals to the front of the stove. Next, take a small metal ash bucket and hold it close to the open firebox.
Now, take a small metal shovel and gently scoop the ashes from behind the coals making sure not to overload your scoop. While holding the bucket near the firebox, gently lower the shovel to the bottom of the bucket and slowly let the ash slide off the shovel.
Don't just dump the ashes into the bucket. The ashes need to slide off the shovel which is much different. A slight side to side motion while you pull the shovel away seems to work well.
Holding the bucket close to the open firebox will allow the draft from the wood stove to suck any unwanted ash up and out of your house. You can also use a damp towel over the bucket to cover the top after adding the ashes, but I normally find this to be an extra step that's just an inconvenience.
Finally, if necessary rake the ashes to the sides of the firebox and clean out any additional ash.
Once you're finished take the small bucket of ashes (covered if necessary) and walk them outside and store them in a metal can that's away from your home and resting on a non flammable surface like bricks or cement. Since ashes can smolder for days it's important to store them in a non flammable container that's covered.
An ash scoop is available in many different styles. They're basically a tapered scoop with a lid that encloses the ashes in the scoop while you have the scoop inside the wood stove.
What's the benefit? You scoop up the ashes from your wood stove, close the lid and no ashes are allowed to escape into your home when you remove the scoop. Pretty good idea right!
When shopping for a scoop you'll quickly realize they're a little bit expensive but a good quality scoop should last for many years.
Plus with the ashes enclosed inside the scoop you can simply walk the scoop outside and dump the ashes into your designated container. There is no dust in your house and you're able to quickly clean out your wood stove.
Could you just build your own ash scoop? If you're handy building your own homemade ash scoop is a possibility, however, just remember the joints need to be air tight or the ashes will leak out into your home.
Whether you choose the old fashioned bucket and shovel method or try out an ash scoop, removing ashes from a wood stove doesn't have to be a dusty mess.
Take your time and develop a system that works well for you and you'll enjoy a nice clean wood stove without all the dreaded dust.