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Can You Vacuum Fireplace Ashes (Which Vacuum Do You Need)?

If you own a fireplace, cleaning out the built-up ashes regularly is a requirement for efficiency and safety reasons. Cleaning the ashes out of a fireplace can be a messy and difficult task, though. One of the most common questions from fireplace owners is whether or not fireplace ashes can be cleaned with a vacuum.

Vacuums such as shop vacs can be used with fireplace ash. However, regular household vacuums should not be used as their filters become blocked from fine ash particles which easily damage the vacuum. Ideally, allow the coals to cool for at least 24 hours, sweep them into a metal bucket, and then vacuum the fireplace.

It’s important to invest in a good vacuum cleaner or shop vacuum so that you do not end up with more of a mess or cause damage to the vacuum cleaner. Read on to learn more about the benefits of using an ash vacuum cleaner for your fireplace and the many ways those fireplace ashes can be used outside your home.

To see which vacuums I recommend for your fireplace, check out these vacuums.

Can You Vacuum Ashes out of the Fireplace?

a regular vacuum vs a shop vacuum

Cleaning fireplace ashes with a broom and scoop can be a messy task, but regular vacuums won’t work either. Vacuum cleaners made for cleaning ashes (such as shop vacs) help make the process easier, quicker, and safer.

The only time a vacuum should be used to clean fireplace ashes is if it is specifically designed for that purpose. Shop vacuums are made differently than regular vacuums, allowing them to withstand higher temperatures and filter and contain the fine particles and dust in wood ash.

Attempting to use your everyday household vacuum to remove fireplace ashes will likely:

  • Reduce overall performance and lifespan of the vacuum significantly
  • Increase the chance of a fire starting inside the vacuum cleaner
  • Cause ash particles to pass through the filter, accumulate on the motor, and damage vital working parts
  • Cause ash particles to escape into the air

Safety Concerns

Keep in mind some basic guidelines when it comes to vacuuming fireplace ashes include:

  • Wait at least 24-72 hours after the last fire has gone out before removing ashes to ensure that they are no longer hot
  • Check the ash pile thoroughly for hot or burning embers before removing the ashes
  • Wear a dust mask to prevent breathing in ash
  • Use an ash vacuum or a heavy-duty vehicle/shop vacuum that’s capable of containing fine ash particles

Do You Have To Wait For The Ashes To Cool?

fireplace ash in a metal bucket
If you need to sweep the ashes out before they properly cool, use a safe container such as a metal bucket.

It’s always recommended to wait until the ashes are cold before clearing out the fireplace. Otherwise, you run the risk of a fire. It’s even recommended to wait until the ashes are cold before dumping them to prevent hot ash from escaping and burning your skin or clothing or igniting a fire.

As a general rule, wait 24-72 hours for fireplace ash to cool.

Getting rid of hot ash can cause fires and can be a safety issue. If you have to make room in the fireplace, sweep the extra ash to the back of the fireplace or a metal bucket and wait until the ashes are cold before vacuuming them up.

Which Vacuums Can Be Used On Fireplace Ashes?

a shop vacuum for ash and other debris

Several different vacuum cleaners can be used to clean up fireplace ashes, including certain shop vacuums, car vacuums, and ash vacuums. Some wet/dry vacuums and heavy-duty vacuums are suitable for vacuuming fireplace ash, too. It primarily depends on the filter – to contain ash, a vacuum must have a multi-layer filter.

Shop, car, ash, and heavy-duty vacuums range in price, though the less expensive models tend not to perform as well or last as long. Some good vacuums that can be used for fireplace ash include:

Key factors to consider when buying an ash vacuum or determining whether or not a vacuum can be used safely for cleaning ash are:

  • Multi-layer filtration system – for fireplace ashes, a double filter system is the minimum requirement, though triple or even four-layer filter systems will do a better job of keeping ash and allergens from escaping into the air
  • Heat resistance – metal-lined vacuums should be used for fireplace ashes to reduce fire risk
  • Hose and cord length – a vacuum with a longer hose will make it easier to reach corners, gaps, and other small areas. A longer cord length allows for better mobility
  • Power – a good ash vacuum should have a powerful motor to provide adequate suction for a thorough clean
  • Capacity – vacuums with a larger dirt canister do not need to be emptied as often
  • Portability – ash can get heavy when it accumulates, so for better portability, look for a lightweight vacuum (preferably with wheels)

How Often Should Fireplace Ashes Be Removed?

It is not necessary to remove ashes from a fireplace after each use – clearing excess ash about once a week is usually sufficient. During the heating season, it’s recommended that you leave about an inch of ash on the floor of your fireplace to help reignite embers, better maintain fires, and protect the bottom of the firebox.

It is important not to let too much ash build up in your fireplace, though. Accumulating too much ash buildup in a fireplace can cause:

  • Embers taking longer to cool off
  • Reduced air-flow, making it difficult to start or maintain a fire
  • Wear and burnout of the fireplace grate
  • Reduced amount of space for firewood
  • Unpleasant odors
  • Increased risk of exposure to allergens and particles from the ashes

It is recommended at the end of the heating season to thoroughly clean the inside of your fireplace of all ash, vacuum it, wash the glass door, and wipe down the outside of the fireplace to remove all debris.  This will keep your fireplace in good shape and prevent leftover ash from attracting moisture that can damage your fireplace.

What’s the Best Way to Clean Ashes from a Fireplace without Making a Mess?

Cleaning out your fireplace can be messy and is not practical to hire someone to do it for you. Sometimes, it’s worthwhile to clean the ashes out of the fireplace yourself, especially if you plan on reusing the ashes for other things.

The task is significantly easier when you make sure you have everything you need beforehand. Have all of the following items handy before you get started:

  • Trash can or bag
  • Paper towels
  • Broom and shovel
  • Ash vacuum

Put wet paper towels down in front of the fireplace to trap any debris or ash dust before you start cleaning out the fireplace. If there are large piles of ash in your fireplace, you can shovel those out into a trash can or metal bucket.

The remaining ashes can be vacuumed. You can sweep any ash that might have fallen outside the fireplace.

How to Dispose of Fireplace Ashes

There are so many ways to use the ashes from the fireplace if you do not want to just throw them out. If you are looking to be eco-friendly and use something that is environmentally safe, reuse the ash in these creative ways.

Ash is a natural ice reducer and melter, so go ahead and use it on your driveway in the wintertime. This is an easy way to deice your driveway while saving money.

These are just some suggestions that can help you become environmentally friendly. Of course, you always want to use gloves and old clothes when handling ash so that you do not get ash stains all over yourself. You will also want to wear a mask to prevent breathing it into your lungs. 

Here are just some of the ways you can reuse fireplace ash:

  • Sprinkle ash outside to keep insects and wildlife away
  • Add ash to your compost pile to provide potassium and nutrients for plants
  • Use as an ice melt on driveways, steps, and walkways
  • Amend acidic soil with ash to raise the pH level
  • Put a small amount of ash in a bowl to absorb unpleasant odors in a room or fridge
  • For oil stains on driveways, sprinkle ash on the area and let it sit for several hours – the ash will soak up the oil and allow you to sweep the mess away easily
  • Use ash mixed with boiling water and a form of fat to make handmade soap
  • Mix ash with a small amount of water to polish metals
  • Sprinkle ash in a pond to control algae growth
  • Use a small bowl or tray of ash in a room to reduce high humidity

Final Thoughts

Using a good and reliable vacuum cleaner is a good way to clean out the ash that accumulates in your fireplace. There are several different types available, so look for a vacuum that is made for fireplace ashes.

These vacuums include shop vacuums and car vacuums and will make it much easier to clean up fireplace ashes.

Also, there are benefits to reusing the ash, instead of just dumping it outside. For one, ash is beneficial to the environment.

Consider cleaning out the ashes and using them around your house and yard. Not only will you save money, but you’ll benefit from its other uses as well.

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