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Wood Stove Ash Removal Safety

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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!