How to Clean a Stovepipe for a Wood Stove

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It's a dirty job, but unless someone cleans and inspects a wood-burning stovepipe, a dangerous fire could result. Opinions on how best to keep stovepipes clean and safe vary from commercially available "creosote burning" logs to professionally certified pipe and chimney inspection and cleaning. In between the extremes is a possible middle course of simple knowledge, tools and elbow grease that avoids the high cost of professional cleaning and still ensures safety.

Things You'll Need

  • Wire brush stovepipe cleaning kit
  • Flashlight

Assemble Tools and Start Cleaning

  • Measure the stovepipe diameter and purchase the proper-size wire brush stovepipe cleaning kit from a local hardware or wood stove supply store. The cost should be well below any single professional inspection and cleaning and may last the life of the wood stove.

  • Bring the interior pipe outside where it can be inspected in daylight or use a high-intensity flashlight or mechanic's drop light for interior pipe inspection.

  • Draw the wire brush through all the stovepipe using the poles in the pipe-cleaning kit until the interior of the pipe has no more than a light film or coating of material residue. This may include several difficult passes to complete if the pipe has been neglected.

  • Replace and reassemble the pipe connecting the stove and chimney pipe after it has been cleaned outside.

  • Ask the local fire department, whether volunteer or paid, to inspect the pipe. It should be done at no cost as part of fire prevention, although you can offer a donation if you wish.

Tips & Warnings

  • Commercial "pipe cleaning" logs contain salts which help tarry creosote turn into drier ash flakes. This can help in the cleaning process, as can a few tablespoons of rock salt thrown on a hot fire, but it should not be a substitute for wire brush cleaning.
  • To keep the resulting clean pipe in good shape, burn only well-seasoned, dry wood and light with small amounts of kindling and paper as suggested by the National Fire Protection Association.
  • When inspecting and cleaning the stovepipe, wear eye protection, old clothes and a hat, and place old sheets or towels around the stove and interior pipe areas.
  • "Controlled burns" and substances such as aluminum cans thrown on a hot fire to cause a chemical reaction and breakdown of creosote to dry flakes may be suggested, but you should be skeptical of such practices, according to both the Chimney Safety Institute of America and the National Fire Protection Association.
  • Experts warn against, burning paper or plastics and starting fires with kerosene or other liquid accelerants.

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References

  • Photo Credit Photo by Richard Nilsen
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