Should You Clean The Ash Out Of A Fireplace?

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Nothing's more comforting than huddling up near the fireplace during the winter months. It's a wonderful time to relax and spend time with others. But there always comes the dreaded situation of cleaning up the ashes in the fireplace. But should you clean the ash out of a fireplace? If that's your concern, we've researched the issue for you!

Whether you should clean the ash out of the fireplace depends on your circumstances. If it's still the winter season, you should leave a one-inch layer of ash for future wood burning. Once winter is over, it's best to remove all the ash from your fireplace. This way, you can avoid situations where the ash can damage the fireplace grate. 

Ash can be beneficial to a fireplace. But it can also be detrimental if you're not careful with it. When you accumulate too much, there's a risk that the ash can become too acidic. What are the risks associated with too much ash buildup? If that's what you're curious to know, keep reading ahead to learn more about the topic.

Cleaning a fireplace with an open tray brass brush and shovel, Should You Clean The Ash Out Of A Fireplace?

The Importance Of Ash

Ash has a critical role in how easily you can start a fire. A layer of ash will improve heat output. Though, it's always a good idea to never let it build up too much. It will usually depend on the type of wood you burn. Some will produce more ash than others. 

Experts suggest that leaving a layer of ash and coal at the bottom of your fireplace can assist in the combustion process. If you're wondering how it helps, ash catches coals and insulates them. So, when you attempt to start a fire, it's going to burn at its hottest. 

A bucket full of fireplace wood ashes

When you have little to no ash when you attempt to start a fire, you'll find that it's hard to do so. It will be hard to start a fire without ash because the surrounding area will need to heat up first before the fire takes off. 

Still, leaving a beneficial layer is not the same as leaving all of the ash produced behind. 

When You Should Consider Removing Fireplace Ash

Hand holding shovel with ash

Now we know that ash can be beneficial in a fireplace. However, we can't control how much ash a wood log produces. So, every time you start and finish a fire, there will be more and more ash left behind. When should you start to worry?

The consensus among experts is to leave a one- or two-inch layer of ash in your fireplace. As mentioned, many recommend you do this to encourage the next load of firewood to burn. Once it starts exceeding this limit, it's time to think about removing some of it. 

Should you forget to remove it and the ash continues to pile up, it can cause damage and even inhibit the ability to start a fire! Once there's too much buildup, it will cover the grates that hold the logs. Then, as some warn, it can damage them to the point where your grates will melt. 

Regarding starting fires, too much ash can potentially smother it. Thus, it's always better to limit the depth of the ash pile to two inches. If you don't feel comfortable leaving that much, you can also lean towards less ash.

Of course, once the burning season is over, you should remove all the ash from the fireplace. The reason is that you won't need to restart a fire since temperatures will be less cold. 

How To Remove Ash From The Fireplace

When you have an idea of what role ash plays in a fireplace, you're embarking on the first steps to know how to maintain it. If you've decided it's time to remove the ash, there are some details to consider. 

The first thing you should remember is how ash comes to be. It's the product of burning wood. So, throwing it out won't be as simple as scooping it up into a trash bag. Doing it this way could put you and others in danger. 

Some suggest that ash can easily flare up again if you're not careful enough. So, it begs the question, what are some ways to deal with ash safely? 

Let It Cool Down

Ash collected in a bucket

The first thing you want to do is let the ash cool down completely. However, it's not a good idea to let it cool in a fireplace. After all, you're most likely going to need to use it again. 

A workaround for this situation would be to get an ash bucket. With an ash bucket at hand, you will also need a pair of gloves to protect you from the hot embers in a fireplace. Then, you can take an ash shovel to scoop up the excess into the bucket.

Finish the deal by pouring water into the ashes to help it cool down. 

For some visual guidance on how to do this, here's a YouTube video to help you out: 

Of course, your job is not over as soon as you scoop the ashes. You'll need to wait at least 72 hours after your last fire to let it cool completely. Since you have to wait this long, you'll need a non-combustible container with a sealable lid.

Make sure you keep the container away from combustible items too! While you're waiting for the ash to cool down, you can place it somewhere that's a safe distance away from your home. It's a good idea to set the container on a metal or concrete surface, but any non-combustible surface will do.

What To Do With The Ash

Unfortunately, the job is still not over. What can you do with the excess ash once it has cooled down? As some suggest, it is safe to assume the ash isn't a fire hazard after letting it sit for four days. 

So, you can resume your cleaning duties. If you want to dispose of it, put it in a trash bag and throw it away with your regular garbage. However, there are some instances where you might not want to do that. 

Do you have a garden? You can add the ashes to your compost to add more nutrients. Ash is also great if you need to keep away pests like slugs and snails. When you need a mildly abrasive cleaner, mixing ash with water can create a cleaning paste

You can use this paste to clean glass and metal. Of course, you'll want to test it out in a small area first. Then, do as you please with the ash cleaning paste. 

Can You Vacuum Ash From a Fireplace?

Vacuuming ash might sound like a good idea because it's quick and easy. However, whether or not this is a good idea depends on the type of vacuum you're using. Standard home vacuums are not meant to be used to clean up ash. 

So, in the chance that you do vacuum the ash with a regular vacuum, there's a risk of starting a fire in the vacuum's collection area. Additionally, ash particles are smaller than household dust. In this case, it means the ash can potentially slip through the vacuum filter. 

If you do want to vacuum the ash, you'll need one that's specifically designed to do so. 

Click here to see this ash vacuum on Amazon.

How Often Should You Clean the Ash Out of Your Fireplace?

How often you clean the ash out of your fireplace depends on several factors. As mentioned, some types of wood will produce more ash. So, if the wood you burn leaves more ash, you'll need to clean it out more frequently.

However, the general rule is to clean the ash out of your fireplace every week or so. When you do, make sure to leave a one- to two-inch layer behind for future fires. And that brings up another consideration. 

When you don't want to keep track of weekly cleanings, keep an eye on the ash layer. Once it goes above an inch or two, consider cleaning it out to maintain that guideline. 

How Long Do Fireplace Ashes Stay Hot?

Fire in a fireplace

Fireplace ashes can stay hot for a long while. Some warn that it can remain hot for days—sometimes even weeks! One user even had a learning moment when they left the ashes outside in a metal bowl while snowing. 

As they found out, the ashes made a hole through the trash bag because it was still hot, and that's with exposure to snow! For this reason, you should treat ash as if there was a hidden hot coal inside. Let it cool for several days in a metal container with a sealable lid. Then, you can think about disposing of it. 

Is Wood Ash Bad To Breathe?

Breathing ash is not a good idea. Though, some say that you shouldn't worry if you've inhaled some of it. It only becomes a real problem if you have a respiratory disease or inhale it too frequently. Regardless, symptoms like an irritated nose, throat, and lungs are associated with ash inhalation.

Final Takeaway

Fireplaces are a great way to keep warm during cold days. However, all good things come with responsibilities. If you want to keep a healthy fireplace, you need to remove ash. This way, you can prevent it from building up!

We hope you found the information above helpful! Before you go, do you have other fireplace concerns? Need help telling when you should add more wood? To learn more, check out this post: 

How Often Should You Add Wood To A Fire In A Fireplace?

Is it possible to add too much wood to a fireplace? If you'd like to learn more, check out this post:

Can You Put Too Much Wood In A Fireplace?

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Scott Hill

    Thanks for this amazing info. Can we use anthracite coal as well for a fireplace?

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