Keeping your fireplace free of ash and debris is something you need to worry about with winter just around the corner. Ash isn’t like dust; it’s a finer particle that gets absolutely everywhere with the slightest nudge. In this guide, we’ll show you our picks of the best fireplace ash vacuums you can get your hands on.
Fireplace Ash Vacuum Buying Guide
If you’re looking for something different, or if you plan on shopping on your own, we’ve got the perfect fireplace ash vacuum guide for you. Take a look at the following guide to see how you can find the perfect fit for your home before winter begins.
Why You Need a Fireplace Vacuum
Even though your household vacuum may come with a super-fine filter, you should by no means attempt to stick its nozzle up your fireplace.
Ash and dust are completely different in terms of what they’re made of and their size. Ash is the solid remnants of burned wood or coal, whereas ash is a combination of all sorts of debris, including dead skin flakes and upholstery fibers.
Ash is a much finer particle that can get past many filter types easily. This can end up clogging the motor and exhaust port and quite possibly ruin a standard vacuum cleaner.
Fireplace vacuums are equipped specifically to handle the ultra-fine consistency of ashes as well as microscopic dirt particles. Always use the right gear for the job.
Additionally, you should be fully aware that creosote—the solid buildup of soot and other materials that lines the interior of fireplaces—is toxic. If you don’t remove the stuff before tossing a stack of “fresh” logs into your fireplace, heated creosote can release noxious fumes into your home that, among other things, can wreak havoc on your lungs.
PRO TIP. When cleaning your fireplace from thick layers of ash, always make sure to wear the proper breathing PPE. A surgical mask will do just fine, provided it fits the contours of the bridge of your nose and cheeks without leaving much air to get in. Ideally, you’ll want to wear an N95 respirator as it prevents super-fine particles like ash and many viruses from leaking getting into your nose.
What Else Can I Use a Fireplace Vacuum?
Although the tool is called a fireplace vacuum, you can use it in other parts of your home. For instance, the kitchen. Even if you don’t have a wood stove, the ashes that collect behind and beneath your stove require special equipment to remove.
Another place where fireplace vacuums are commonly used is a BBQ pit. The ashes and soot found at the bottom are nearly impossible to remove without tipping the whole pit over. Instead of making a mess all over your patio or backyard, use a fireplace vacuum to pick up the remains.
How to Choose the Best Fireplace Vacuum
While shopping for a fireplace vacuum cleaner, you’ll want to you keep your lids peeled for the following specifications and features.
Suction Power Rating
Without a doubt, you’ll want as powerful a vacuum as you can get your hands on. The effectiveness of the tool relies heavily on how beefy its motor is. A good place to start is by looking at 5A fireplace vacuums, though you should continue your search for higher amp ratings, just to be safe.
FYI: Suction power can also be measured in Pa, or Pascal units. This is a more accurate way to determine how well it sucks. This rating may not be readily available in many fireplace vacuum models, so you might need to do a bit of digging.
Storage Capacity and Size
The size of the storage container will give you a clear idea of how many times you can vacuum your fireplace before needing to dump out the ashy contents. A larger storage container means the vacuum will be bulkier and heavier, which isn’t that bad of a thing since you’re using it in one spot and one spot alone.
However, bigger isn’t always better. You may not need a super-bulky vacuum cleaner for a compact fireplace. If possible, try and measure how much volume the ashes take by collecting them in a bucket with liter or gallon marks. That will help you determine the ideal size to get.
Cable and Hose Lengths
The biggest frustration any shopper has experienced is receiving a tool only to find out that the cable doesn’t offer a long-enough reach. A simple solution is to use an extension cord, so make sure you pick one up or have one available at home.
As for the length of the hose, there’s not much you can do to overcome its shortness except rely on extension cords. It’s possible to find a longer hose that’s compatible with your tool, but just know that the longer the suction hose, the less suction power it can deliver.
Finally, take a good, hard look at the vacuum’s filter. If it isn’t a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, then it’s no good for your fireplace. HEPA filters are designed to trap particles as small as 0.3 microns in size up to 99.97% of the time. You’ll find HEPA filters in all sorts of places, both in industrial and residential settings.
HEPA-esque or HEPA-type filters are not true HEPAs and should be scratched off of your list.
Did You Know: Ash from burned logs is an excellent source of potassium, and it contains trace amounts of other elements that plants need to grow. After collecting ash from your fire place, don’t toss it into the garbage for the racoons; instead, sprinkle the ash gently over a garden. The organic matter helps enrich the soil.
The most common cleaning accessories that come with a fireplace vacuum are a crevice tool and brushes. Extension wands might be helpful in reaching high into your fireplace if you don’t mind getting your shoulders and face dirty with ashes.
Some of the neater models we’ve seen come with bright LEDs that illuminate the dark abyss within the fireplace. These lights are definitely not a deal-maker or -breaker, so only consider them if you don’t have a cordless torch or other source of light on hand.
PRO TIP. Prior to vacuuming your fireplace, lay a large sheet of plastic around the entrance of the fireplace to capture soot and ash the become dislodged during the vacuuming process. The last thing you need is for soot to get trapped in between tiles, floorboards, or remain hidden until the end of time in your carpet.
Fireplace Maintenances: Dos and Don’ts!
At first, it might seem like cleaning a fireplace is as straightforward as can be, but we’d like to inform our readers of three dos and don’ts of fireplace maintenance.
1. DON’T let wood ash accumulate into a thick layer. DO sweep the hearth and vacuum the grate regularly.
2. DON’T vacuum when the embers have just died down. DO wait a couple of hours before attempting to vacuum the ash.
CAUTION: Obviously, you shouldn’t risk vacuuming your fireplace immediately after the embers have burned out. However, there are a couple of fireplace vacuum models that can pick up warm ashes, though the majority is designed for cool-to-the-touch ashes. We don’t recommend sticking your hand in the fireplace the gauge the ashes’ temperature; just let the embers die and wait a couple of hours before vacuuming.
3. DON’T use harsh or inflammable chemicals to clean your fireplace (self-explanatory). DO vacuum and sweep your fireplace with the appropriate equipment and supplies.
1. How often should I vacuum my fireplace?
As frequently as you use it. Wait 12 to 24 hours after the embers have fully died down before vacuuming your fireplace. Do not attempt to light new logs on top of the ashes and soot of the previous batch of kindling since you risk igniting creosote when doing so.
2. What are signs to look for from a dirty fireplace?
One of the clearest signs that your fireplace needs to be vacuumed is a foul odor emanating from the area, especially when the odor is present during the fireplace’s off-season. Also, when burning logs, if there’s an abundance of smoke in the air, your fireplace needs to be cleaned. Finally, when you toss a fresh log into your fireplace before igniting it, if ashes go airborne, then your fireplace is in dire need of vacuuming.
3. Can I use a standard vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter?
Technically, you can, but you shouldn’t risk it. Even though a HEPA filter is a must-have for vacuuming your fireplace, the delicate internal components of a handheld, upright, or stick vacuum, when exposed to ultra-fine ash particles, may become clogged and break down. Also, don’t even THINK about allowing your robotic vacuum cleaner into your fireplace (for obvious reasons).
4. Do I need to vacuum a gas fireplace?
No, you do not. Gas fireplaces use… well, gas… as a source of fuel to create a warm, toasty environment in your home during the chilly wintry months. Gas fireplaces have an entirely different set of cleaning and ventilating procedures you need to worry about, but vacuuming is not one of them. Except, of course, to remove household dirt and debris that gets trapped in or around the fireplace.