How to Clean a Pellet Stove: Two Easy Methods

Christine Herrington

Christine is our Chief Editor and a contributing writer to the site.

Last Updated on June 9, 2021

When you invest in a high-quality pellet stove, you’re buying a cost-effective, energy-efficient, and easy-to-use appliance. However, if you don’t clean it regularly, the stove will become less effective at heating your living space. Its integrated auger motor system becomes clogged with a buildup of debris, while various carbon deposits block off the heat exhaustion pipes.

While it’s important to clean your pellet stove regularly, you should also make sure you’re using wood pellets that are dry. Wet wood chips or biomass pellets may cause the auger to malfunction, and they can stick to the sides of the rotor, causing a buildup of moist sawdust.

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Table of Contents

What is a Pellet Stove, and Why Should You Purchase One?

Before looking at how to clean a pellet stove, it’s useful to know what it does and how it works. A pellet stove is a cost-effective heating unit that burns condensed, compressed wood or biofuel pellets to warm your living room or office space. You pour a bag of wood or biomass chips into the hopper on the top side of the pellet stove, and an integrated auger motor feeds these bullets into a burn pot or tray.

Most pellet stoves have a ventilation system in the rear of the unit. This feature allows air to circulate through the stove and keeps the fire burning at a steady rate.

There are several excellent reasons why you should think about purchasing a pellet stove for your living or workspace.

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1. Easy to use and monitor

The motor-driven auger system that’s built into every pellet stove makes life particularly easy for you and your family. All you have to do is pour the biomass or wood chip bullets down the easily accessible hopper, then modify the unit’s thermostat to dictate the speed at which the auger feeds fuel into the burn tray. The pellet stove will do everything else for you.

2. Cost-effective system of heating

A lot of people use pellet stoves as an important source of supplementary heating. You’ll save lots of money on oil and gas by using a pellet stove to keep specific areas of your house warm during the cold winter months. Also, wood pellets tend to be a cheaper fuel choice than many other options on the market.

3. Efficient form of heating

EPA-certified wood pellet stoves have an efficiency of between 70-83%, but the premium-grade pellet stove units only waste around 10% of total energy created. These figures show that wood and biomass-burning pellet stoves are far more energy-efficient than standard wood-fueled fireplaces or an open fire. These heat sources waste up to 60% and 95% of total energy created.

4. Environmentally friendly source

When you compare pellet stoves to their coal and wood-burning counterparts, you’ll find that this type of unit releases far fewer particulates into the atmosphere, making it a more environmentally friendly form of heating than most other options on the market. Also, compressed wood pellets are a carbon-neutral fuel source.

How Do You Clean a Pellet Stove?

When considering how to clean a pellet stove, you should also think about how often you use your stove and how long the cold season is in your location. You should give your pellet stove a basic clean at least once every 2 or 3 days, but if you want to keep the unit running as efficiently and effectively as possible, aim to clean it more thoroughly at least once per fortnight.

Here’s a rundown of different techniques you can adopt when cleaning your pellet stove. The first method is quick and easy, concentrating on the essentials, while the second method is more extensive, but it will leave you with a safer, more functional stove.

  • Quick clean process

When it comes to pellet stoves, the most critical step in the cleaning process is to clear out the ash from the burn pot or tray. The easiest way to remove this ash effectively is to use an ash vacuum. Don’t use a regular vacuum to do this because it’s not designed to withstand the heat from the charcoal and cinders.

You can then use a suitable cleaning tool, such as a putty knife or a wire brush, to scrape the carbon deposits from the burn pot. You can also use the brush to reach the burn tray’s far corners and remove any remaining embers.

Use the handle at the bottom of the unit to remove the ashtray underneath the burn pot: you can then throw away these embers or put them in a non-combustible metal bucket.

You’ll then need to clean the heat exchange tube: some of the heat created by the wood pellets escapes through this tube, and you’ll find that there’s a buildup of carbon deposits inside it. Pull down the lever on the front of your stove to release these deposits. You may need to jiggle it up and down several times to loosen the debris.

At least once a month, you should clean the glass in the pellet stove’s door. Use a solution of equal parts vinegar and water to wipe down the glass and leave your unit looking as good as new. 

  • Deep clean process

When you want to deep clean your pellet stove, start by clearing out the ash from the burn tray and ashtray, removing the carbon deposits from the exchanger tube, and cleaning the glass built into the front of the unit.

After you’ve done this, you’ll need to clean the flue or fly ash out of your stove’s pipe unit. Most pellet stoves use an L-type pipe, but some may require a T-type pipe: in each case, you’ll probably have to remove a bottom cover or open a clean-out door to wipe away the flue ash deposits in the base of the pipe.

Use an ash vacuum to remove any excess cinders and embers from around the combustion motor at the bottom of the unit or the convection fan that’s just underneath the motor-driven auger.

You should also clean the door gaskets every week. Use a soft, fine brush to wipe ash and carbon deposits off these sealing agents. It’s also a great idea to replace your gaskets at least once every 2-3 years to ensure that your wood pellet stove remains airtight and energy-efficient for as long as possible.

Learn How to Clean Your Pellet Stove and Get the Most from Your Heating Source

There are many reasons why you should invest in a pellet stove, from better energy efficiency to more cost-effective heating. However, once you install one of these stoves, you must make sure you’re cleaning it regularly to keep it operating effectively.

When you’re using the stove, try to burn pellets that are dry and top-quality: damp, substandard pellets are more likely to block up the auger motor, and they won’t burn nearly as well as their dry counterparts.

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