Proper Removal, Disposal, and Use of Ashes

Hazardous Waste

Depending on your appliance you may have an ash box beneath your fire box. Some of these actually pull out, allowing you to easily dump it. Others have a door beneath the firebox for ash removal, and some furnaces keep the ash in the firebox itself. No matter the type of appliance you use, however, the ash can build up quickly and become a hazard.

Ashes can be dangerous because even when they look cold, and seem cold, they can actually be very hot. These ashes, when allowed to fill the firebox, can fall out onto carpet, or nearby combustibles in your home and catch fire. They can also be dangerous if handled incorrectly.

Recommended Tools

Ash Bucket
You can pick up an ash bucket at a local hardware store or get a recommendations from one of our Billy Sweet Chimney Sweeps.
Ash Shovel
Many fireplace tool sets will come with a shovel, a broom, and a poker. You may find that you need a longer shovel to keep your hands or face away from the fire or hot coals.
Though not required, you may find that gloves add extra protection to your skin while removing hot coals and ashes.


Proper Ash Removal Boston MA Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep

When to Remove Ashes

Although it seems a good idea to remove ashes often, some even removing them daily, it isn’t recommended. Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends leaving at least an inch of ash in the fire box at all times. This ash insulates the coals to keep them hot longer, while also keeping the bottom of the firebox cool, protecting your furnace and your flooring from excess heat.

However, it is a good idea to remove ashes when they begin to cover the coals following a regular burn cycle.

Removing the Ash

When you’re ready to remove the ash you should have the ash bucket on hand. Shovel the ashes into the bucket, taking care to not stir the ash more than needed. Shovel the ashes from the back of the firebox where there may be buildup, and remove it from the front where it may cover a vent. Once you have shoveled all you want into the bucket, set it aside to cool. It can cool outside or inside, but should be kept away from combustibles.

Disposing of Ash

In some areas and cities you may be able to bag cooled ashes, and simply place them with your regular trash pick-up. If this isn’t a possibility for you, you may want to utilize those ashes in creative ways. Some ways people use ashes include:

  1. In the garden. You can mix ashes with soil to change the acidity or sprinkle ashes directly onto plants to repel bugs.
  2. In the kitchen. You can mix ashes with water to shine silver, and clean glass and stainless steel. Save on oven cleaner by keeping this mixture on hand.
  3. On the driveway. Spread ash onto the driveway, porch, or sidewalk to add traction and to melt ice during winter weather.
  4. On your pet. To neutralize odors on household pets, rub a small amount of ash into the fur. You can also use ashes beneath cat litter to neutralize odors in the litter box.

However you use your ashes, it’s important to take safety precautions to prevent fire, burns, and injury.

Use Local Firewood to Protect the Environment

Wood-burning fireplaces serve several functions in the home – from practical to aesthetic. Sometimes the fireplace is used to heat the home, while in other cases it acts as a beautiful, focal point on special occasions. Either way, owners of wood-burning fireplaces generally love everything their fireplaces have to offer. Aside from the regular chimney maintenance, most home owners don’t put much extra thought into the specifics of their fireplace, including purchasing the wood for fuel. The goal is usually to find the cheapest wood that burns the longest, but more care should go into choosing the right firewood – especially where it comes from.


Always investigate the source of your firewood before you purchase to ensure it has come from a local source. The Don’t Move Firewood campaign says “local” means within a county or two of where you plan to transport, store and burn the firewood. If the firewood came from any further than a few counties away, find a more local source. At the same time, if you plan to travel more than a few counties away with your firewood, choose to purchase wood more local to your destination instead. Importing wood from a different area can have devastating environmental effects.

Firewood is a good representation of the ecosystem that it originated from. It often contains native species, such as insects, fungi and bacteria. Sometimes these species can be seen on the firewood, but more often than not, they’re invisible to the human eye. For the trees and other plant life in the ecosystem the firewood came from, these organisms generally do not cause serious ill effects. For thousands and even millions of years, the trees, insects, fungi and bacteria have lived and evolved together and have achieved a natural balance. By moving firewood out of its original area though, you introduce these organisms to an ecosystem unaccustomed to them, which can have serious consequences.

An insect, fungus or bacteria introduced to an environment it has never inhabited before is called a nonnative or invasive species. These organisms have no natural enemies in the new system, and before the environment has an opportunity to adjust to the invasion, the intruding species has had the opportunity to grow rapidly and further infiltrate the area.

One consequence of this fast overpopulation is that similar, native species are outcompeted by the invasive species for shared resources, resulting in a decrease in the native species’ population. Another consequence is the introduction of disease. For example, the Emerald Ash Borer – a beetle originally from Asia – was found in Michigan in 2002 after it was accidentally introduced there. The beetles do little damage to the Ash trees they inhabit, but the larvae inside the trees disrupt the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients. Now, nearly every state in the eastern half of the United States has been affected and tens of millions of Ash trees have died. These beetles would not have traveled far on their own, but with the movement of firewood, logs and nursery trees, the damage has devastated the Ash tree population.

Countless other examples of this have occurred throughout the country and continue to occur as long as people refuse to keep firewood local. Trees and plant life are vital to the health of the environment for generations to come, so do your part to maintain the ecosystems around you by purchasing and burning firewood locally.

Pick the Right Wood

Choosing the Right Firewood for Your Fireplace

Are you aware that, just like love that’s right for you, there’s the perfect wood for your fireplace too? Yes, your fireplace also requires attention and care. One way to do so is to burn certain types of wood that suits it and you. By carefully selecting the best wood, it can provide the most efficient fire to warm your cold days as well as ensure the safety of your home. You just have to find out what they are.

You should avoid wood that is wet or too green. Typically, wood needs to be seasoned for at least six months.

You should avoid wood that is wet or too green. Typically, wood needs to be seasoned for at least six months.

Points to Remember

It’s important to know that too much moisture in wood reduces its burning efficiency. The smoke that it produces cannot compensate the heat needed in the home and can cause the build-up of creosote in your chimney since it directly goes there. The harmful chemicals it contains can put your lives in danger too.

We all want the best type of wood especially during the holidays. There are those who prefer more heat and there are those who would rather want lower heat intensity. The wood plays a hand in the intensity of the flame. Another important note to remember, regardless of the type of wood and the characteristics it bestows, is that the wood should be seasoned. The drying process usually takes six to twelve months. Also keep in mind that in order to maintain the natural capability of the wood to produce fire, it has to be properly stored.

Types of Firewood

Trees are either hardwood or softwood. They both produce a limited amount of heat. Both can help you enjoy the rest of the holiday season with the exact warmth you desire. Depending on the kind of fire and the amount of heat you want, you can pick from among these well-seasoned wood.

Softwood can produce a crackling effect on your fire. The pop and crackle sound is something to look out for when the wood starts to burn. It has this vibrant aroma that is just right for the cold winter nights. Pine has all the characteristics a crackling fire needs. Just make sure there are protective screen doors so that no one is harmed when it starts to pop. Softwood can burn quickly, cleanly and more efficiently thus creating a quick burning fire. On the downside, it does not provide too much heat compared to that of hardwood. But there are some who prefer their wood that way. This type of wood can be ignited right away. Cedar and White Spruce are examples of wood used for this kind of fire.

Hardwood, on the other hand, gives off more heat because of its thickness. They have the highest British Thermal Unit content which doubles the output of heat compared to that of softwood. They burn more slowly thus bringing heat to the highest level possible. There is also minimal smoke produced with this type of wood. The only disadvantage of this type of wood is that it takes more time to ignite a fire with it. Some examples are Maple and Oak.

Regardless of the type of wood you prefer, it’s always best to make sure that your fireplace and chimney are intact and safe from any debris or damage. Annual chimney inspection and sweeping is highly recommended. If you are already looking for one, the certified experts of Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep is willing and ready to take care of your fireplace and chimney for you.

Summer Maintenance for a Wood Stove

There is nothing like waiting until the last minute to get your wood-burning stove ready for winter. The scrambling around to find the card of last guy that came out and inspected and swept it; trying to remember if that was a year ago or two years ago?

Don't stress, plan - Boston MA - Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep

Don’t stress, plan – Boston MA – Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep

Seeing if the wood left over from last year is still okay to burn and discovering it has gotten wet and mildewed — so it has to be sorted and gone through and then re-stacked. When you’re done and get a good look at the usable wood you realize you need to purchase some additional stock to get you through the winter. You call “your guy” only to find out that he only has green wood left but he will sell it to you for a good price. You tell him thanks but no thanks and call your family and friends for wood references.

After a weekend trying to find good seasoned wood for your stove you settle for the green stuff your guys has left over. Every chimney guy is booked out two to three weeks in advance and the family is wondering why the stove is not burning, but you really don’t want to start a fire yet because you just remembered you were have some kind of problem last year and probably need an inspection.

A month later, you are just now able to get a certified sweep to your house and you have had to spend money and time — neither of which you have — just to get the heat going. At this point you ask yourself; what could I have done differently? The answer is to get your wood stove ready for winter in the summer and here’s why;

  • Chimney companies are traditionally slow in the summer and you will have cart blanch service.
  • If your unit needs repairs, this is the time you are not counting on it for heat so it’s the best time for an inspection and needed maintenance and repairs.
  • Check on your left over firewood and make sure it is stacked off the ground in a covered area or with a tarp covering the top, but not the sides.
  • Purchase your firewood in the early summer so you have plenty of time to season for at least six months.

Summer REALLY IS the perfect time to be thinking about maintaining your wood stove.