How to clean a woodburning stove

It’s important to give your woodburning or solid fuel stove a maintenance check every year to clean it, repair any rust spots, touch up the paintwork and order new parts. Helaine Clare shows the essential things to fix in her eight-step project

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Stoves are a sought-after addition to any home: not only are they energy-efficient and practical, but they also add a luxury atmosphere to any room.

Restore your woodburning stove

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Over time, woodburning stoves and solid fuel stoves get grimy and can suffer from patches of rust, while the black painted surface can fade. Inside, the ashes build up, the glass can become sooty and the stove seal may distort.

This project explains how to give stoves a good clean, fix some common issues, and restore them to their former glory. Carry out this routine periodically to keep your woodburning or solid fuel stove in optimum condition.

You will need:

 1. Remove soot and tar on the plaster

Only start work on stoves that are are cold. If soot and tar deposits have migrated through the plaster from the brick chimney breast, brush away dirt and apply a coat of stain block. If necessary, apply a second coat two hours after the first one has dried. Once dry the surface can be overpainted with any type of paint.

 2. Repair rust patches on the stove

Boiling kettles can leave rust on the woodburning stove top. To remove, cut a pad of medium grade steel wool to rub away the rust and, wearing protective gloves, gently work away at it until it vanishes. With a brush and dustpan sweep up the mess, and use a stove brush or clean shoe brush to clear dirt off the surface ready for painting. 

 3. Re-spray the repaired stove top

First mask the glass doors and metal handles with newspaper and tape. Protect the walls and hearth, too, if you are painting the whole appliance. Before applying the paint, open doors and windows to ensure good ventilation. Hold the can about 25-30cm away from the surface and spray the damaged top of the stove.

 4. Clean up the window

If stoves have sooty windows, it can indicate that they are not burning efficiently. To clean, wipe the window with stove glass cleaner, leave for five minutes, then remove with a damp rag. Clean a sooty window on a wood-burning stove with wood ash applied on a damp cloth. Rub away the soot and then wipe with a clean cloth. 

 5. Check the rope seal

Over time the rope seal around the door will flatten and lose its shape, affecting the appliance’s efficiency and allowing fumes to leak out. Set a small fire and close the doors and air intakes. Move a lit candle around the door – if the flame is drawn towards it a poor seal is indicated and the rope needs replacing.

6. Give the stove a health check

Clean out the firebox and empty the ash pan. Shine a torch inside to check that the firebricks are not broken. Order any replacement parts now so that the stove is ready for the autumn. Leave the air inlets open and the door ajar to allow a flow of air through the chimney to keep it dry. Arrange to have the chimney swept. 

 7. Clean the hearth ready for sealing

Seal a slate hearth to enhance the colour and make it easier to clean. First sweep up loose dirt and ash, then with heavy-duty floor cleaner and hot water scrub the hearth, mopping up the water as you work. Wipe over with clean water and dry with an old towel. Leave for at least four days before applying sealer.

 8. Apply slate oil to the hearth

Some stone care products mustn’t be used where the temperature is likely to exceed 25ºC so always read the guidance on the product. Slate oil will repel dirt and ash while still allowing the slate to breathe. Before you start protect rugs or carpet from splashes. Apply evenly with a brush or sponge and allow to dry for two hours. 

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