How To Clean Your Wood Stove Glass: Remove & Prevent Soot

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Over time, there will inevitably be a build-up of soot and hazy white deposits on your wood stove glass door. This occurs with regular use, and while it doesn’t harm the stove, it does take a toll on its appearance and how you see the fire behind it. So, how do you clean wood stove glass?

To clean your wood stove glass, start by burning a high-temperature fire to remove excess crud. Let the stove cool down. Clean the glass with wood ashes and wet newspaper. Wipe off the lighter haze with a wet cloth, then give the glass a polishing finish with vinegar solution.

With proper technique, you should be able to keep your wood stove glass in great shape. Let’s take a closer look at why the stove turns black in the first place, how to clean it, and how to keep it clean in the long run.

Why Does the Glass on Your Wood Burning Stove Go Black?

A young woman is crouching in front of a wood stove

Here’s a breakdown of the main reasons why the glass on your wood burning stove tends to turn black:

Burning House Coal

Burning house coal quickly leads to your wood stove glass blackening. Remember, burning house coal in a closed appliance means the tar and smoke particles will gradually get deposited on the stove glass. Most stove manufacturers recommend you use smokeless fuels.

Burning Unseasoned Wood

Burning unseasoned wood means more energy gets consumed in evaporation rather than burning, and the incomplete combustion produces more smoke. With time, by-products like tar, soot, and creosote will settle on the glass.

Most manufacturers recommend only burning wood with a moisture content of 20% or thereabouts, like Homefire Ready or kiln-dried firewood. This way, you’re sure the wood will have low smoke emissions and better heating performance.

Having a Faulty Air Wash or Using It Incorrectly

Modern wood stoves have an air wash system to prevent soot from accumulating on the glass. An air wash system typically has a vent at the top of the stove to channel a thin layer of air across the glass. This washes the glass surface to keep soot, dirt, and grime from building up on it.

But if your stove doesn’t burn at a high enough temperature, the air wash won’t function properly. This quickly leads to the blackening of the glass. Be sure to keep the air wash vent open when using the stove to prevent soot buildup.

Overfilling the Stove

If you load your stove with excess wood fuel such that it touches the glass, there could be blackening on certain parts of the glass.

How Do You Clean Burnt Glass on a Wood Stove?

Cleaning burnt glass on your wood stove is simple if you follow the right steps. Here’s how to do it safely:

Step 1: Burn a High-Temperature Fire to Reduce Soot

The crud on your wood stove glass usually comprises materials like ash, creosote, and soot. Cleaning the glass will be much easier if you burn enough seasoned, non-resinous woods to create a high-temperature fire. You can’t go wrong with the Smoak USDA-certified kiln-dried red oak (on Amazon).

Step 2: Let the Wood Stove Cool Down

While some people think slightly warm glass is easy to clean, you should still let it cool enough to avoid cracking.

Next, scoop a reasonable amount of wood ashes from the bottom of the stove into a bowl for later use. Also, remove loose debris from the glass door and surrounding area using a soft brush.

Step 3: Clean the Glass With Wood Ash and Newspapers

You’ll need the leftover wood ashes you preserved from Step 2 and some old newspapers. A bowl of warm, soapy water will also come in handy.

Keep in mind that this method may require more effort and care with coal ashes, as hard particles left in the mixture can damage the glass.

  1. To clean the glass, simply crunch the old newspapers into a sizable ball and dip it into the bowl of soapy water.
  2. Dip the wet newspaper ball into the bowl of wood ash.
  3. Gently scrub the glass with the newspaper ball in circular motions to remove tough stains.

You could also make a paste using baking soda if you don’t have enough wood ash.

Step 4: Use a Wet Cloth to Wipe Off the Lighter Haze

Wet a clean piece of cloth with soapy water and use it to wipe off the lighter haze on the glass. For best results, wet the cloth with specialized stove glass cleaning spray like the Weiman Glass Cook Top Cleaner and Polish (on Amazon).

Be sure to read the label to confirm the right amount to use. Moreover, be careful not to get the chemicals or water on cast iron parts or they’ll get damaged.

Step 5: Finish Off With Vinegar Solution

Once you’ve ensured the inside of your wood stove glass is clean, you can give it a nice polishing finish.

Make a solution with equal parts water and distilled vinegar, then apply it to the inside of the glass with some paper towels. This is a good way to shine up the glass without leaving chemical residue on it.

For the outside of the glass, simply use a light squirt of regular window cleaner like the Windex Original Glass Cleaner (on Amazon). Buff up the glass with a soft, dry cloth for a nice and clean look. For best results, use an ultra-absorbent cleaning rag like the MagicFiber Microfiber Cleaning Cloth (on Amazon).

Again, be careful to avoid damaging the log burner’s body with chemicals.

How to Make and Use Homemade Wood Stove Glass Cleaner

The DIY wood stove glass cleaner is a proven method for cleaning the appliance. Making your homemade wood stove glass cleaner is pretty easy, and here’s how to do it:

  1. Put on heavy-duty rubber gloves for safety.
  2. Cover the floor around the working area with old newspapers, as this will be a messy job.
  3. Pour 1 cup of distilled white vinegar into a bucket.
  4. Add baking soda in small amounts while stirring gently until it forms an appreciable paste.
  5. Crumple some newspaper and dip it into the mixture, then use it to clean the cruddy glass surface.
  6. Use fresh vinegar and more newspaper to remove the pasty mixture from the glass.
  7. Keep replacing the newspaper until the glass is clean enough.

Tips and Tricks for Cleaning

Before you proceed to clean your stove with the methods described above, review these tips and tricks that’ll help you do the best possible job:

  • Never use abrasive material on the glass that could make it deteriorate gradually. Remember, the glass can scratch, so using razor blades, steel wool, or sandpaper is completely out of the question. While these methods can scrape off the soot immediately, they leave scratches that make the glass accumulate soot more rapidly next time.
  • If you find any noticeable damage to the rope seal around the door or cracks in the glass, repair them immediately.
  • Clean the wood stove glass regularly to avoid accumulating excess soot, which can really take some elbow grease to remove.
  • Let’s face it — your flue (chimney) will be just as dirty as your wood stove glass is. So always clean the chimney regularly to avoid chimney fires. 
  • Only clean the glass once it has cooled down enough to avoid personal injury and shattering the glass.
  • At no point should you spray hot water on the glass to remove tough stains. Remember, this will lead to thermal shock, which could lead to cracks or worse, the whole glass may shatter, and you’ll be forced to replace it.

How Do You Keep Wood Stove Glass From Sooting?

Wood burning fireplace with glass door

Now that you know how to clean your stove glass, it’s time to think about how to keep it clean moving forward.

Here are a couple of easy tips to keep your wood stove glass from sooting:

  • Always burn well-seasoned wood to improve the quality of your fire and prevent soot from building up on the glass.
  • If you have a modern wood stove with an air vent system, ensure the chimney is clean and well positioned for air to vent into the stove.
  • If you’ve noticed you’re burning a smaller fire, add more wood to raise the temperature in the chamber. Remember, a small fire won’t produce enough heat to burn the soot off the glass, so it just stays there.
  • If your wood stove has a heat setting, tweak the controls up a bit to keep the fire hotter.
  • Place your fuel closer to the front glass, so the heat stays closer to the glass and burns off the soot.

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