How to Clean Ashes Out of a Fireplace Properly

As wood burns in your fireplace, it turns into a pile of gray ash. Contrary to popular belief, this ash is still incredibly useful for many things around the house. However, it’s messy and should be cleaned out of your fireplace. 

If you leave ash in your fireplace indefinitely, it can damage the hearth and make it difficult to build a new fire. Breathing ash can also be dangerous, making it even more important to keep the ash in your fireplace to a minimum. Learn how to clean ashes out of your fireplace.

Remove Ashes Safely From the Fireplace

Before moving any ashes, it’s important to wear a mask that protects you from ash particles in the air. These tiny particles can be carcinogenic or trigger an asthma attack if breathed in large quantities. An N95 mask is a great option for protecting your lungs while moving ash. 

To reduce the amount of dust in the air, you can mist the ash lightly with water before moving it. However, if you get it too wet, it can turn into lye — an alkaline product commonly used to make soap — and become caustic. Mixing water with ash also makes it much heavier and harder to move, so be careful not to add too much.

Special Ash Vacuums

Before the invention of the vacuum cleaner, people moved ashes with metal buckets and shovels. Many people still use ash buckets to take the bulk of their fireplace ashes outside. Once you remove most of your ashes, it can be tempting to vacuum out your fireplace.

However, you should never vacuum out your fireplace unless you have a special ash vacuum. There are several problems with using household vacuums to remove ashes:

  • Live embers can create a fire hazard in your vacuum.
  • Ash dust can damage the vacuum’s motor.
  • Ash particles can escape into the air.

Instead of using your everyday vacuum, consider investing in an ash vacuum cleaner. These appliances can safely vacuum ash without risk of fire or internal damage. Their safety features include ash filters, heat-resistant hoses and metal canisters.

When to Remove Ash

Leaving a layer of ash underneath your fire actually helps build heat. That way, you can enjoy a blazing fireplace faster and maintain the flames longer. It’s a good idea to leave about an inch of ash in your fireplace throughout the winter season.

However, leaving ash in your fireplace long-term isn’t a good idea. The material is acidic and can damage your hearth. While your fireplace is in use, you can remove small amounts of ash to keep the total down. At the end of the season, it’s best practice to clean out your fireplace completely.


5 Steps to Remove Ashes From Your Fireplace

Cleaning ashes out of your fireplace is a multistep process that takes time. You can clean your fireplace safely and efficiently by following these five steps:

1. Let the Embers Cool

Let the fireplace cool down completely before moving any of the ash. This waiting period can take several hours to half a day, depending on how long ago you used the fireplace. Moving embers around can create a fire risk, making this a critical step.

2. Scoop the Ashes Out

Once the ash in your fireplace is cool, you can scoop the majority into an ash bucket. Remember to wear a protective mask before moving ashes. While you scoop, look for live embers to ensure the fire is completely out. Work slowly to avoid sending ash dust into the air.

3. Dispose of the Ashes

You can do a few things with fireplace ashes. Because of their chemical composition, they’re great for fertilizer, composting and soil supplementation. If you’d rather throw them away, you can put them in your household trash once they’re completely cool and ember-free.

4. Vacuum Out the Ashes

Once the bulk of your fireplace ashes are gone, you can use a special ash vacuum to clean out the rest of the fireplace. Though the vacuum should be fire-resistant, avoid vacuuming until the ash is completely cool. For a more cost-effective option, you can also use a brush and dustpan — just be aware that sweeping sends lots of dust into the air. 

5. Scrub the Fireplace

After all the ash is gone, scrub your fireplace with a brush and warm, soapy water. This step helps remove any remaining ash residue and keeps your fireplace in good condition until you’re ready to use it again. 

Once the fireplace ashes are cool, you should be able to clean out your fireplace within 30 minutes or less. This prep work can preserve your fireplace and keep your home’s air healthier. 

Using Ash Inside the House

While throwing the ashes away is one option, you can use them around your home in many ways. Here are a few ideas to repurpose your fireplace ash:

  • Glass cleaner: Put white ash on a damp paper towel or newspaper and use it to clean glass. Water and ash make a fantastic natural glass cleaner. 
  • Cat litter: Ash neutralizes odors, making it perfect for your cat’s litter box. You can also sprinkle it over commercial litter to reduce the smell. 
  • Moisture reducer: If your home is humid, you can use small bags of ash to suck moisture out of the air.
  • Insect repellent: Ants don’t like ash and won’t crawl over it. You can sprinkle ash outside your home to prevent these insects from entering your space. 
  • Soap: Adding water to ash creates lye. To make soap, you can combine lye with oil and additives like scent and dye. 

Remember — always wear a protective mask when working with dry ash. Once the ash is wet, you don’t need to worry about inhaling dust particles. However, wet ash is caustic and should be handled carefully. Try not to breathe the fumes while cooking lye, and never touch it with bare skin.

Choose Atlanta Chimney Doctor for Fireplace Care

For over 30 years, Atlanta Chimney Doctor has served homeowners in and around Atlanta, Georgia. Our experts offer everything from chimney cleaning to inspections and repair services. You can also request specific chimney and fireplace products through our company. 

Our goal is to keep you and your family safe and help you enjoy a working chimney and fireplace. When you work with us, you can rest assured we’ll be transparent about your needs and options. We aim to build a relationship you can rely on for years to come.

Contact Atlanta Chimney Doctor today to request a specific service!