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Proper Ash Removal

When it comes to fireplace safety, many homeowners believe that their worries end as soon as the fire goes out. However, there is one important part of using a fireplace that should not be ignored – proper ash removal.

Knowing how to correctly remove and dispose of your ashes can not only make your home safer, but can also keep you from creating unnecessary messes and even be used in unexpected alternative ways. By taking the time to do it the right way, homeowners can rest assured that they have done everything in their power to keep their families and homes safe from accidental fires.

Proper ash removal - Ann Arbor MI - Clean Sweeps of michigan


Are ashes dangerous?

The limp and lifeless ashes that are left over after a fire are anything but menacing. While there is nothing inherently dangerous about ashes themselves, it’s what can be hidden in the ashes that can cause a safety concern.

Hot coals and embers can become trapped or hidden in pockets of ash; even after the fires dies out and the ashes begin to cool, these embers can remain dormant and ignite later on. “Wood ashes retain enough heat to ignite other combustible materials for several days.” This means that homeowners need to treat ash removal with care and caution, even if the fire has been out for some time.

Removing ashes – the wrong way

While everyone has their favorite way of cleaning the fireplace, many of the most popular ash removal methods are unsafe and incorrect. The following are a few examples of dangerous – or dirty – ash removal methods that should not be used.

  • Vacuum: Even if your vacuum has a HEPA filter, the fine ash particles often become airborne. This not only pollutes your air quality but can also stain walls and furnishings.
  • Paper bags: Putting ashes into a combustible container like a paper bag or cardboard box can lead to an unintentional fire if any coals or embers remain.
  • Trash cans: Many trash or dumpster fires are caused each year by not-quite cold ashes being mixed in with regular garbage.

Removing ashes – the right way!

Removing ashes the right way takes three things: time, patience, and a proper ash container. First, homeowners should let fires naturally extinguish. During this process, it is important to stoke and move the ashes frequently to prevent any coals or embers from remaining hidden in the ash. Depending on the size of the fire and how much wood was used, it may take a full day or longer for the ashes to cool completely.

After the ashes have cooled, it is important that they are placed in a proper container. A good ash container is metal, has a fitted lid, and does not sit directly on the ground. Ash containers should never be placed near combustible materials; this includes being stored indoors or in garages or sheds. Lastly, follow local rules or regulations when it comes to the time and location of ash disposal; many trash companies have rules about ash being picked up with regular garbage, even it is in a separate container.

If you don’t want your ashes to go to waste, consider using them in an alternative way. Ashes can be sprinkled in the garden to work as both a fertilizer and bug repellent. Likewise, they can also be used as a natural deicer for driveways and sidewalks – as long as you don’t mind dirty shoes!

Wood Stove Ash Removal Safety

Wood stoves make a beautiful addition to any room or home, providing heat, warmth, and comfort during the winter and throughout the year. Unfortunately, the use of this wood burning appliance is accompanied by the difficult and oftentimes dirty chore of removing ashes.
Wood Stove Ash Removal - Ann Arbor MI - Clean Sweeps of MI
Ashes are a natural byproduct of all wood burning stoves, regardless of their efficiency. Although ashes may seem more like a nuisance than a serious problem, failing to remove them or disposing of them incorrectly can negatively impact the effectiveness of your wood stove and create a safety hazard.

Are ashes dangerous?

Although ashes are not inherently dangerous, improperly disposing of them can create a fire hazard. The primary risk when dealing with ashes is the re-ignition of coals or embers. When surrounded or cushioned by ash, these coals remain dormant. However, if the embers are exposed to oxygen again – such as when the ashes are being moved or their storage container is disturbed – they can reignite, causing anything combustible in the vicinity to also catch fire.

According to forestry officials, “Wood ashes retain enough heat to ignite other combustible materials for several days.” Because of this, even “cold” ashes should be treated with caution.

Improper disposal methods

Some of the most common methods of ash disposal are also the most dangerous. First, even ashes thought to be completely cold should never be placed into a regular trashcan or dumpster. Likewise, they should not be collected or stored in combustible containers such as paper bags or cardboard boxes. Ashes should also never be dumped directly onto the ground, as any embers or coals could ignite nearby leaves, twigs, or branches. If metal ash containers have become rusted, damaged, or weak, they should not be used to store ashes and should be replaced.

While vacuuming cold ashes directly out of the stove may seem like a cleaner, more efficient way to dispose of them, this can actually create a large mess or impact the air quality in the home. When vacuumed, the ash can quickly turn into fine particulate dust, covering interior furnishings and hanging in the air. Even vacuums with HEPA filters cannot prevent ash from becoming airborne, and should also not be used.

How to properly dispose of ashes

The first step in removing ashes is to first make sure there are no remaining hot coals or embers. This can be done by letting a fire natural extinguish itself overnight, moving the ashes while they are in the stove to eliminate any hot spots. It is important that the flue remain open during this process to prevent any backup of smoke or gas into the home.

Safe Ash Removal - Ann Arbor MI - Clean Sweeps of MIOnce the ashes have been completely cooled, they can be removed from the stove. Using an ash trap, shovel and bucket, or the stoves ash pan, transfer ashes to a designated metal storage container with a tight fitting metal lid. Ash containers should be kept away from any combustible materials, and should not be stored in garages or near homes, sheds, or woodpiles.

Ash can also be used in a number of alternative methods, such as garden fertilizer, natural slug repellant, a way to prevent slipping on icy sidewalks and driveways, and even as an ingredient in soap. If you have questions about how ash affects the effectiveness or efficiency of your wood burning stove, contact Clean Sweeps today!

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