Should I Remove My Fireplace Ash?

by | Jun 28, 2024 | Heating System Maintenance

Imagine: it’s one of those rare nights when everyone is home. The smell of wood smoke wafts through your chimney as you all gather around a crackling, dancing fire. The scene is picture-perfect. But, to safely enjoy nights like these, it’s important to care for your fireplace system. Sure, you remember to get your system inspected and cleaned out every year, but what about your ash dump? When was the last time you cleared it from all the debris? 

Removing your fireplace ash is a practice that is often overlooked and forgotten about, but can drastically impact your system’s performance if left to accumulate for too long. Read on to learn the whats, hows, and whens of proper ash removal etiquette.

Have a burning question about something else fireplace or chimney-related? The pros here at Mr. Smokestack Chimney are just the people to call for help in the Raleigh/Durham, NC area. Get in touch by filling out our online contact form or give us a call at 919-747-1859.

When Should I Remove the Ash from My Fireplace?

Before we go over the process of how to remove the ash in your system, it’s important to go over the when. This is largely determined by the frequency with which you use your wood-burning appliance, which means that there isn’t really a hard and fast rule to follow. However, you want to be sure that the level of debris littering your firebox floor does not reach your grate and restrict your ability to spark a flame or exceed a one-inch layer. 

During the burning season, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) actually recommends retaining a thin layer of ash (up to one inch) to help insulate the firebox and fuel future fires. But, when you know you’re not going to be cozying up and enjoying a fire anytime soon, get rid of all ash, soot, dust, dirt, and all other debris that might’ve accumulated during months of regular use.

How Do I Safely Remove Fireplace Ash?

Another thing to note is whether or not your system is equipped with an ash pit underneath the grate. When we talk about removing ash from your fireplace, we’re talking about everything that remains on the floor of your firebox and can negatively impact performance, not the ash dump beneath it. Those pits are designed to hold a significantly larger amount of ash and are usually cleared out by a professional chimney service company every few years.

For regular, firebox floor ash removal, consider the following steps to ensure your safety:

  • Wait until the ash is completely cool – a few days after your last fire. Though this should go without saying, do not immediately find a way to dispose of your fireplace ash when the flames dwindle out. Let everything cool and settle for a few days before going in to scoop it out.
  • Utilize the right tools. Even when you hold off for a few days, there may be some lingering hot embers. To eliminate the possibility of catching anything on fire, always use heat-resistant tools. Stir the ash around a bit with a metal poker or shovel before scooping it into a metal bucket. When deciding on buckets to use for fireplace ash, be sure to pick one with a tight-fitting lid so the oxygen supply is completely cut off.
  • Be intentional with where you place the bucket. Because there is still a risk of live embers, place your ashes somewhere far away from any combustible materials. Ideally, you should put it on your driveway or another flat, concrete-based surface that is far away from any shrubbery, dry grass, or overhanging trees. Places like a garage, a porch, or anywhere right next to your home are a definite no-go.
    original infographic depicting proper ash removal

    What Do I Do With Fireplace Ash?

    After leaving your ash bucket to cool off for a few days, now it’s time to dispose of it. But, before you take it over to the trash, consider these clever ways to reuse them:

    • For Gardening: Wood ash can neutralize particularly acidic soil, encouraging growth in otherwise non-plant-friendly dirt conditions. It also makes for a great fertilizer because it is high in elements like copper, sodium, iron, and more that plants need to grow big and strong.
    • For Ice Removal: Keeping some ash (in a closed container, of course!) in your car could help you out if you get into trouble with icy roads in the wintertime. Like salt, it helps improve traction and melt away the ice.
    • For Stains: Whether you’ve got a stubborn grease or oil stain on your driveway or your silver has seen better days, old fireplace ash may just be the answer. Leave a bit on the troublesome areas of your driveway to brush away later or mix it into a paste and get to polishing!

      Need a Hand? The Experts at Mr. Smokestack Are Here To Help

      Whether you’ve got questions about what to do with your ashes or aren’t sure when you last had your chimney swept out, the Mr. Smokestack team of pros is here for you.

      Reach us online or call 919-747-1859 to learn more.

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