Cleaning Wood Stove Glass: How and Why

By , February 9, 2010

Our woodstove is the center of our home. Like the fire pit of our forefathers, it creates a focal point for most of our activities. We take good care of it to receive maximum benefit. This includes the light and viewing pleasure provided by its glass front, which means keeping that glass clean!

Wood stoves are designed to keep glass inserts clear by shaping the flow of heated air across the pane. The glass might never need cleaning if one burned only thoroughly dry hardwoods. If it does, one can remove smudges by burning a stove a bit hotter than usual. The creosote will literally burn off the glass.

Most of our available firewood is soft, which often creates glass-smudging creosote as it burns. If not cleaned, creosote will eventually shut out the firelight completely.

We’ve found that cleaning our wood stove window is simple, cheap, and, if done often, easy to do:

Start when the stove is cold. Cleaning a hot or warm stove risks burns and could crack the glass pane. Lay out newspaper around the work area. We wear rubber gloves to keep our hands clean.

Wet a balled-up newspaper, dip it in the finest ashes inside the wood stove, then scrub the inside of the glass with it. This will rub the smudges off. Clean the whole glass, not just the smudges.

Once you’ve loosened the creosote, flip the newspaper over to the clean side and wipe the glass well. Then take a clean, dry ball of newspaper and wipe again, sponging up as much moisture as possible. Polish the glass with dry paper until it’s clean.

We’ve discovered that if the creosote doesn’t come right off, it’s actually better to scrub more gently, rather than harder! I don’t know why this is true, but it works. Even the most baked-on smudges come off with a lighter touch when hard scrubbing has failed.

If the creosote is really nasty, we add a little white vinegar to the wet newspaper, or use an orange-based cleaner, with or without scrubbing agents. This seems a bit riskier, as scrubbers might scratch the glass. We rub less vigorously when we use scrubbers, so they work on the creosote, not the glass.

Once we’ve dislodged the creosote, we wipe off the cleaner with a damp newspaper, and continue with dry newspaper as above.

The difference this makes is amazing! We inevitably miss spots. Once we’ve started the fire, it’s too late to go back—we get them the next time, when the stove is cold again.

The benefits of this chore far outweigh the effort and drudgery. We perform it faithfully each day, and enjoy an unrestricted view of every fire.

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