With so many inventions under his belt, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Benjamin Franklin also developed a line of cast-iron stoves in 1744. Unlike so many inventions since that time, these stoves have remained remarkably similar in design, featuring an internal chamber for wood, and sometimes a separate chamber for food, a flat surface for heating and cooking, and a long ventilating pipe.
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Wood stoves can help heat a home as well as provide a cooking source, which is why they remain particularly popular among people who live in remote areas. Cleaning a cast iron wood stove has remained fairly consistent over the years, too.
Wood Stove Cleaning Safety
Cleaning your cast iron wood stove isn't difficult, but it can be dangerous if you're not careful. Let your cast iron wood stove cool down before cleaning it to prevent burns. In fact, it should be stone cold.
If you use any harsh cleaners or paints, wear protective gear. Keep the space ventilated well. Covering the floor underneath the stove protects it from dirt and grime.
Clean the Top
Clean drips and spills from the stovetop with a sponge and a 50-50 solution of vinegar and water. For tougher stains or to remove food buildup, mix 1/2 cup baking soda with 2 tablespoons of mild dish soap in a small bowl. Add white vinegar to the mixture until it becomes creamy.
Apply this mixture to the stains, then scour with a soft brush. Use a stiff brush for tougher, caked-on stains. Wipe the stovetop with a wet rag or paper towels. Follow with a dry rag or paper towels.
Remove Old Ashes
Lay an old towel around the wood stove before you remove ash from the interior. Protect your eyes and mouth with a face mask. Open the chamber, known since Mr. Franklin's day as the "fire box."
Scoop up the ashes with an ash shovel and small broom. Work very slowly since the ash is very light and fine and will diffuse quickly. Load the ashes in an ash can with a metal top. Let the ashes sit in the can for at least two days before disposing of them to ensure they are completely cooled off. Vacuum the chamber of remaining ash residue to get it extra clean.
Address Rusty Areas
Even though cast iron is a durable material, it can rust. Clean rust inside the wood stove and on the exterior with a little elbow grease. A stiff wire bristle brush or medium-grade steel wool works to remove the rusty areas.
Wear protective gloves while you work. Scrub at the rusty spots with your brush or steel wool until the rust is gone. Use a handheld brush to sweep away the debris.
You can make the stove look newer after cleaning away the rust with cast iron polish, wood stove paint or cast iron blackening paste. Choose products designed to withstand the high temperatures of a wood-burning stove. Apply the paste, paint or polish according to package instructions.
Clean the Glass
Clean any glass on the stove door as well as the exterior of the stove with the white vinegar and water solution. Gentle but effective, the solution also removes any soot from the door. Spray the solution on the stove, then buff it dry to prevent streaking.
Cleaning Cast Iron Wood Stove Flue
Keeping the flue clean is necessary to safely operate your wood stove. Hire a chimney professional to inspect and clean the flue on your cast iron stove once a year. The pro also can inspect for cracks, warping, leaks or other damage that could interfere with the smooth operation of your stove.