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The Basics of Ash Removal

Being careless and unmindful of the little things can lead to unwanted problems. Make sure you know how to properly dispose of your ashes.

Being careless and unmindful of the little things can lead to unwanted problems. Make sure you know how to properly dispose of your ashes.

Whenever you burn a solid fuel (wood, coal or pellets) in your stove, fireplace or insert, you will be left with ashes that need to be removed. These ashes must be removed periodically, as they can affect the performance and durability of your unit. The frequency of the ash removal will depend on the product itself and the type of fuel being burned.

A Brief Historical Perspective

Ancient man transported fire from one location to another by wrapping hot coals insulated by ashes in animal skins. Once he arrived at the new home site, rekindling the fire was easy. He removed the coal—which was still hot—and placed it on a small pile of leaves and twigs. He then blew on the hot ember and restarted the fire. It’s important to point out that fires are still started this way today, and often, it’s an accidental fire.

The Dangers of Improper Ash Removal

Improper ash removal from fireplaces and wood burning stoves causes thousands of fires in the U.S. every year. According to the NFPA, almost 10,000 fires are caused yearly due to improperly removing and discarding ashes. Hot coals, hidden in a pile of ashes and thus well insulated, can stay hot for up to four days because the ash acts as an insulator that keeps the coals from burning out. All these coals need to flare up again is more oxygen. It’s for this reason that fire departments often return to a scene to spray more water on smoldering timbers and newly flared coals.

Ash Container Basics

Never empty ashes into a paper or plastic bag, cardboard box, or other similar container. The only suitable means for ash storage is a metal container with a tight-fitting lid, as this helps keep air from blowing through and disturbing the ashes, which can leave hot coals exposed and easily reignited. For optimum safety, wet the wood ashes prior to attaching the metal lid to the pail. As a safety precaution, never store your metal ash container on your deck, in your garage, or in any location that may allow heat to transfer from those hot coals to nearby flammable items. Innumerable wooden decks catch fire every year because of this simple oversight. Instead, place the container on a non-combustible surface such as stone, concrete, brick, or slate.

Wood ash, once completely cooled, can safely be disposed of in your garden because natural firewood ash makes a great soil additive that your plants will enjoy because they are high in potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and phosphorous. Just make sure you have removed any mulching materials such as dried leaves and other dried plants first, so there’s nothing to catch fire in your garden. Spray the dispersed ashes with water as an added safety precaution. For additional information on this and many other topics, contact Bulldog Chimney Sweeps today. We’ve proudly been serving west Colorado for 20 years and look forward to continuing our work for many years to come.