how to clean a wood burning stove exterior

Clean A Wood Burning Stove Exterior

Cleaning the exterior of a wood burning stove removes creosote buildup. It also improves heating efficiency and heat output by allowing proper airflow through the stove and flue system. Making starting fires easier is another benefit, as creosote can lead to smoke buildup that chokes a new fire.

Cleaning also extends the lifespan of the stove by preventing corrosion and rust damage from accumulated creosote deposits eating away at the metal over many seasons. It enhances the visual appeal too by restoring painted or enameled surfaces to like-new condition.

When to Clean Your Wood Stove Exterior

The best times to thoroughly clean your wood stove include at the end of every winter season after you’ve stopped using it for the year, allowing no time for creosote to solidify over the summer. Cleaning after any chimney fires is also recommended, since the high heat accelerates creosote deposits.

Visible smoke stains or sticky black buildup are signs it’s time to clean again. It’s also wise to clean annually as part of your wood stove maintenance routine. Stove manufacturers recommend at least one deep clean per year.

Gather the Right Stove Cleaning Supplies

Cleaning a wood stove requires having the proper supplies on hand. Steel wool pads, from ultra-fine 0000 grade to coarser pads, remove stubborn creosote. Nitrile gloves protect your hands from harsh chemicals. Soft cloth rags apply cleaners and polishes safely to surfaces.

A spray bottle of white vinegar helps cut through creosote staining. Specialty wood stove glass cleaner dissolves smokey film on glass doors. A soft brush attachment for your vacuum cleans loose debris from crevices. Avoid abrasives that could scratch finishes.

Techniques for Cleaning Different Exterior Surfaces

Painted metal surfaces should be wiped down using a soft damp rag and mild dish soap, which removes general dirt and grease. For tough creosote stains, apply 0000 super fine steel wool lightly in the direction of the grain. Avoid chemical cleaners or scouring pads that could scratch the paint.

Enameled cast iron or steel surfaces require only a soft damp cloth to wipe away ash, then mild detergent and water for stuck-on grease or creosote spots. Avoid abrasives on enamel that could damage the glossy surface.

Allow stove glass to fully cool before applying a specialty glass cleaning product, which can sit for 10 minutes before wiping away all residue with newspaper or cleaning cloths, avoiding abrasives.

For steel and cast iron legs, frames and accents, use a cloth with mineral spirits to cut grease. Bronze wool in the direction of the grain removes carbon deposits. Apply a small amount of stove polish and buff any unpainted cast iron or steel.

Cleaning the Venting Pipe

The venting pipe that vents smoke outdoors will also accumulate creosote. Use the soft brush attachment on your vacuum to clean it. For stubborn buildup, carefully scrape deposits off using a plastic scraper designed for the purpose. Severely corroded sections may need replacement.

Proper chimney flue cleaning is also required to prevent indoor fires. Always check the pipe after chimney cleanings as falling debris can collect there.

Important Fire Safety Tips

Always allow the stove, venting pipe, ashes and coals to fully cool before cleaning to avoid burns or damage to materials from heat. It’s wise to clean outdoors if possible to avoid spreading ashes inside. Have a fire extinguisher on hand in case of sparks or hidden embers reigniting. Wear protective gloves during cleaning along with eye and face protection.

Recommended Exterior Cleaning Frequency

At the absolute minimum, the stove exterior should be cleaned after every winter season when you stop using it. For optimal efficiency and cleanliness, cleaning the outside 3-4 times throughout the heating season is best.

Always clean after chimney fires, and inspect monthly for any exterior creosote accumulation that indicates it’s time to clean again soon. More frequent cleaning may be necessary for stoves that get heavy use.

Keeping Your Stove Exterior Cleaner

Regular cleaning is best, but burning only seasoned, dry firewood keeps smoke production lower. Periodically using compressed fire logs instead creates efficient burns and less creosote. Leaving the air vents fully open allows for hotter fires that output less smoke as well.

Monthly inspections of the exterior surfaces and venting pipe also allows catching buildup while still manageable before it gets out of control.


Properly cleaning your wood stove exterior both after winter and periodically year-round removes creosote, maintains efficiency and safety, and extends the stove’s lifespan. Allow all surfaces to fully cool before cleaning, and always take proper fire precautions. Follow these tips for a clean burning stove.

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