How do I keep my wood heater glass clean?
August 7, 2012 4:28 PM   Subscribe

I have moved into a house with an inbuilt wood heater. Its not necessary for heat, but I am enjoying having a fire in there every other night. But the glass on the front blackens within a couple of burns. I am cleaning it weekly with oven cleaner. I have tried keeping the fire at the back. Is there anything I can do to keep the black off?
posted by jjderooy to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
Try keeping the fire at the front (or better, filling the whole combustion area) and burning it hotter if it offers that kind of controls. Do you know the make and model of it? Is it a sealed fireplace insert? how many levers does it have?
posted by duckstab at 4:34 PM on August 7, 2012

Does it have an outside air intake or some other vent that allows you to regulate the rate of burn? If you get things hot enough, the ash will burn off the glass. Basically, what duckstab said.
posted by Specklet at 4:36 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seasoned wood could make the difference, unless the problem is chimney soot/chemicals.

Clean the glass with non chemical cleaner (IE white vinegar) to avoid any residual chemicals adding to it.

But primarily the wood, seasoned for 6 months in a dry climate, will provide a big difference. Hopefully it's available to you and/or you can start chopping your own ahead of time to let it sit.
posted by MansRiot at 4:41 PM on August 7, 2012

All of these things mentioned above will help, but it WILL blacken to some degree. Something like these will help clean it.
posted by HuronBob at 5:12 PM on August 7, 2012

Yes, as MansRiot says, use a little vinegar and some crumpled up newspaper to clean the glass. Use a single-edge razor blade to scrape off the stubborn bits. Oven cleaner is way overkill.

Whether you'll be successful in keeping the black at bay probably depends mostly on the age of your stove. Newer stoves are better engineered; they burn more cleanly in general and in particular they are often designed to blast hot air over the glass to keep it clean.
posted by bricoleur at 5:41 PM on August 7, 2012

Seconding the seasoned wood comments - But six months won't do it. You should get and cut/split/stack your wood in the spring, and use it the second winter after that. So 18+ months.

To prevent that buildup, creosote goes away when you get the fire nice and hot. Get a woodstove thermometer and keep the burn around 500-600F (check the manual, though, some types like it hotter or cooler). And don't try to keep the fire away from the glass, you want the glass to get nice and hot (think of the build-up as a type of condensation - It comes from the hot places and coats the coolest things around it).

Finally, to clean up what you already have (and you can't completely avoid it, but keep in mind that you don't need to clean it every time, the next burn should take care of it for you if not too bad), skip all the expensive cleaners and nasty solvents and such - Take a damp dish-rag, dip it in the ashes (just need a thin paste, not a giant glob), and wipe down the glass with that.
posted by pla at 6:35 PM on August 7, 2012

We used to coat the outside of our campfire cooking pots with liquid dish soap before cooking. The soot just slides off after. Not a real solution to your problem but at least it would be easier to clean.
posted by raccoon409 at 6:40 PM on August 7, 2012

What kind of stove? If you can find the manual, it may give tips on avoiding this. If you can find the model, post your question at; they're quite helpful, and helped me find the manual for my woodstove. Hot fires are way more likely to leave the glass clean, as well as the chimney/stovepipe. My stove has a flap that's supposed to create an airwash, but it's a pain, so I took it out, and make sure I run the stove hot at least every few days in heating season.
posted by theora55 at 7:55 PM on August 7, 2012

We clean the glass in our woodstove with fine steel wool after the stove's heated up some.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:16 PM on August 7, 2012

Possibly the position of the chimney (vent?) isn't great; ideally I think you want the outside opening to be amenable to the Venturi effect to suck most of the particulate matter out so less of it is deposited on the glass.

Also, cured (very very well dried) wood has lower moisture and other volatiles, the latter which form most of the (harder to clean) sticky residue.

I've had luck crumbling up a few sheets of newspaper to use to scrub cooled sooted glass.
posted by porpoise at 8:18 PM on August 7, 2012

Burn hardwoods like oak, cherry, walnut and avoid sappy softwoods like pine that will create more smoke (which is what turns into the deposits). Oak is usually more expensive. Here's some other tips which make for more efficient fires.
posted by pynchonesque at 8:22 PM on August 7, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!
posted by jjderooy at 9:35 PM on August 7, 2012

I get that more it seems when I've shut the upper damper too much too quickly and I'm recirculating smoke. I haven't been able to get rid of it completely, though.

Cleaning tip: dip a damp rag in a bit of the ashes to use as scouring powder. Gets it right off.
posted by ctmf at 9:55 PM on August 7, 2012

Wood must be well seasoned - this makes the most difference. I also let a lot of air in by keeping the door open a little for the first 10 minutes, as sometimes the smoke accumulates in the burning chamber and the glass gets tarry condensation on it. I've not noticed much difference between having the fire at the back or front of the burning chamber. Make sure you don't restrict the fire's air supply too much once you've closed the door as this keeps more smoke in the burning chamber and leaves the residue again. When I go to bed, I open up the air supply to full, so as the fire dies down, it is still able to produce enough heat to push the smoke up the chimney, otherwise it suffocates itself and the smoke gets really thick in the burning chamber and leaves you with charcoal and dirty glass. Just a thought, do you have vents above the glass? These suck in the clean air in down the front of the glass, which helps keep the glass cleaner. It works, but only really in a small "V" pattern below the vents Many people will suggest "firing-up" (letting it burn really hot), which will cause the black build-up to flake off the glass. On mine, it works "OK-ish" but it never looks as clean as when you use a proper fireplace glass cleaner. For me, it's worth buying a dedicated product and some kitchen roll to wipe it off - I prefer the vaporiser liquid sprays to the foamy-oven-cleaner-type ones, as they are less messy.

Friends with newer burners have a less of a problem than I do.
posted by guy72277 at 1:39 AM on August 8, 2012

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