You Shouldn’t Use a Regular Vacuum to Clean A Fireplace
Cleaning the firebox of a wood-burning fireplace or stove is a necessary maintenance job homeowners must engage in. The first step is to shovel out the bulk of the ash and residual wood chips, followed by a thorough vacuuming and then a hand-cleaning with soapy water. The first and third steps are pretty straightforward; the second step is where some people run into trouble.
Problems with using household vacuums to remove ashes
When it’s time to vacuum ashes, don’t use your household vacuum, which is not designed for ash removal. Two problems can happen when you use a regular vacuum to clean your fireplace:
- The machine can be damaged. If there are hot embers unseen in the pile of ash, they will be sucked into the vacuum system and can damage vulnerable parts. It’s also possible for a fire to start inside the vacuum’s collection area.
- Ash particles can escape into the air. Ash dust is much finer than normal household dust, making it easy for it to escape through a regular vacuum’s filter. It’s not good for people (or pets) to breathe ash dust. (It’s good to point out here that any time you’re working around ash, you should use a breathing mask like painters wear along with protective eyewear.)
Special ash vacuums
When you install a new wood-burning fireplace or stove – or when you move into a new house with one – you should purchase a special ash vacuum immediately. Brands of top ash vacuums to look for include Stanley, Snow Joe, PowerSmith and Vacmaster.
Ash vacuums have metal holding canisters to contain the heat of embers you may accidentally lift out of the fireplace or stove. Additionally, ash vacuum hoses are heat-resistant for further safety, unlike the plastic from which most standard vacuum hoses are made.
Along with fire safety, ash vacuums come with specialized filters that are able to trap the finest ash particles. With a household vacuum, ash not only can be sprayed into the air, it also can get through the filter and into the system’s motor and cause severe damage.
Tips for cleaning ashes out of your firebox
- Wait at least 12 hours since the last fire.
- Thoroughly inspect the ash pile for live embers; remove or extinguish them.
- Scoop out large amounts of ash with a metal shovel and place in a metal bucket. When scooping is finished, put the bucket outside in a place not close to combustible materials.
- Use an ash vacuum to remove the rest of the ashes.
- Clean the inside surfaces of the firebox with soapy water and a sponge. For gritty areas that are hard to remove, try a strong scrub brush.
- Wipe down/rinse all cleaned surfaces.
We’ve talked about the best and safest way to remove ash from your fireplace or stove. Further cleaning of the system probably will require a professional. The CSIA-certified technicians at Chimney Solutions of Alpharetta, GA, are ready to help with complete chimney cleaning services to keep your fireplace and chimney running safely and efficiently all year long. Call us at (770) 255-1300 with questions or to schedule an appointment.