How to Clean Wood Stove Glass

Feb 3rd 2024

How to Clean Wood Stove Glass

Quick summary of the top effective methods to clean wood stove glass

Method Tools Required Process Description
Ash, Newspaper and Paper Towel Wet paper towel, ash, dry paper towel Dip wet paper towel in ash, scrub, then wipe with dry towel.
Commercial Glass Cleaner Commercial cleaner, soft cloth Apply cleaner as directed, wipe with cloth.
Razor Blade Razor blade, scraper holder Gently scrape glass with a new razor blade.
Baking soda, Vinegar and Ash Paste Vinegar, ash, paper towels Mix vinegar with ash into a paste, apply and wipe off.

Ash, and Newspaper/Towel Method

This tried and tested method is surprisingly effective, relying on items you already have if you burn wood in your stove.

Here's how to do it: 

  1. Gather some fine ash from the wood burning stove
  2. Wet a piece of towel or crumpled newspaper 
  3. Dip the wet towel/newspaper in the ash to create a natural abrasive.
  4. Gently scrub the stove glass in a circular motion with the towel. 
  5. Wipe the glass clean with another damp cloth to remove any leftover residue.

Why It Works: The lye which is formed when ash mixes with water acts as an effective carbon based alkali for scrubbing.

NB: DO NOT USE THIS METHOD IF YOU BURN COAL. Coal dust will scrape your stove glass. 

Tip: Use a newspaper if you do not want to worry about washing the towel after cleaning.

Bicarbonate of Soda & Vinegar Method

Vinegar and baking soda, two readily available agents in most pantries, can be used to clean your stove glass.

How to clean with it: 

  1. Make a paste with baking soda, water, and vinegar. 
  2. Apply the paste to the glass, letting it sit for a few minutes. 
  3. Wipe with a damp cloth or sponge.

Bonus: Baking soda also deodorizes, leaving no chemical smells behind.

Commercial Glass Cleaners

Specially formulated fireplace glass cleaners like  Rutland Fireplace & Wood Stove Glass Cleaner are available and can be an efficient solution.

How to use it: 

  1. Spray or apply the cleaner directly onto the glass. 
  2. Allow it to sit for the recommended time to dissolve the soot but do not let it dry./li> 
  3. Wipe clean with a soft, non-abrasive cloth. 
  4. For stubborn spots, respray and wipe again.

Controversial Razor Blade Method

Sometimes, you'll encounter caked-on grime that is impossible to remove. Using a razor blade to carefully scrape the grime off the glass can be extremely efficient and effective. This method is controversial due to the risk of scratching the glass leaving behind permanent imperfections. 

Tools Needed:

  • Razor blade scraper 
  • Towel 
  • Easy off oven cleaner 

How to scrape the soot: 

  1. Remove the wood stove's glass door and place it flat on a table 
  2. Spray the Easy off oven cleaner and let it sit for a couple of minutes 
  3. Hold the scraper with the blade at a 45-degree angle to the glass. 
  4. Gently scrape the stubborn spots, being extra careful not to scratch the glass. 
  5. Finish by cleaning the glass with a damp towel or any of the methods highlighted above for less stubborn spots.

Tips and Tricks when cleaning with a razor blade: 

This method requires patience, but it's incredibly effective for tough spots. 

  • Use caution, especially if the glass has any coatings or designs that can be damaged. 
  • Use a brand-new razor blade for each cleaning session. 
  • If you find yourself applying too much force to scrape, stop and readjust the blade as you are scrapping at the wrong angle.  

Causes of Grime on Wood Stove Glass and Tips to Avoid Creosote Buildup 

Incomplete Combustion

The process of burning wood for heat (combustion) is never 100% complete. Incomplete combustion leads to the formation of creosote, a smelly, dark, tar-like substance that clings to the glass. 

This buildup is prevalent when the burning temperature in the wood stove is low. Temperatures below 250F cause the creosote to become thick and sticky like tar. The composition of creosote, mainly methanol (Wood Alcohol) and acetic acid mixed with carbon from the smoke, is deposited as a hard caked-up layer on the glass. 

This buildup affects the appearance and efficiency of the stove but also poses a safety hazard. It obstructs the view of the fire, making it impossible to monitor and manage the burning process. 

This issue is more common in wood stoves than in open fireplaces, due to the cooler exhaust gases. The amount of creosote deposited onto the glass is affected by factors such as the density of the smoke, the temperature of the glass at the time the creosote condenses, and the type and moisture content of the wood being burnt.

Fun fact - Creosote is primarily responsible for the stability, aroma, and flavor of smoked meat.

Burning Wet Wood

Burning wet wood with over 20% moisture is not just inefficient, but a total waste of money. This results in excess smoke and creosote buildup in the stove. 

When burning wet wood, the energy that should be heating your home is instead used in evaporating the moisture in the wet wood. This high moisture level leads to increased water vapor and a large amount of unburned particles in your stove, leaving a sooty residue on the surfaces of your stove. 

Dry wood in contrast burns hotter, consumes less fuel, and produces minimal smoke, leading to a reduction in creosote buildup. Make it a habit to place a rack on your wood stove to store the wood you plan on burning for the next day. The residual heat from the stove will remove any excess moisture ensuring the wood is dry and ready for burning.

For a cleaner, efficient burn, it is paramount to use well-seasoned wood throughout the year. Our research at Altcomforts.com shows that complaints from customers about excessive creosote buildup in their wood-burning stoves are due to customers burning wood that hasn't been properly seasoned.

Remember, wood with moisture content above 20% is more likely to cause an increased deposit of creosote on your glass.

Burning Low-Quality Wood

Using low-quality or contaminated wood, like painted or treated lumber from your shed, leads to the creation of harmful by-products during the combustion process. 

These substances increase the production of creosote and emit toxic fumes, which can pose significant health hazards to your family. 

Stick to burning properly seasoned wood to reduce creosote buildup.

Incorrect Damper Settings

The damper is the airflow controller for your firebox. Incorrectly setting the damper can lead to significant performance issues. 

A damper set too tightly restricts airflow, reducing the amount of oxygen available for the burning process, and causing inefficient combustion. 

Inefficient combustion as discussed above leads to the excessive production of smoke and other particles which are deposited on the surfaces of your stove as creosote when it condenses. 

Conversely, a damper that’s too open can be problematic. It’s similar to leaving your front door wide open during a hurricane. A wide-open damper results in excessive airflow into your firebox. This allows more oxygen into the chamber which causes the fire to burn too quickly, raising the risk of overheating and safety.

Airflow Blockages from Dirty Wood Stoves

It is important to regularly clean your wood stove, as neglecting it leads to the gradual accumulation of creosote. As we discussed above, this highly flammable, tar-like substance easily sticks to surfaces and air passageways in your stove when it condenses. 

When regular stove maintenance is neglected, the buildup of creosote occurs progressively, setting off a very dangerous slippery slope. The longer the interval between cleanings, the more significant the accumulation of creosote becomes. 

This not only obstructs the air passages, essential for efficient stove operation but also significantly increases the risk of a chimney fire due to the accelerated buildup of the highly flammable creosote.

Conclusion

Keeping your wood stove glass clean is crucial for safety and efficiency. I've shared various methods and tips, from using the right cleaners and cloths to DIY solutions like vinegar and wood ashes.

Remember, on-time maintenance of your fireplace, using the right fuel, and keeping a hot fire is key to preventing creosote buildup and ensuring your wood stove operates at its best.