The design of an ash vacuum incorporates a heat-resistant hose and a metal nozzle as a precaution in case ashes have clinkers or are still slightly warm, plus it has a metal vacuum housing - a must for ashes.
Using an ash vacuum is the safest way to clean wood ashes or coal brickette (barbecue) residue. It's not unusual to find ashes that are still warm or hot underneath several layers of cooled ashes within the fire chamber.
For safety sake, you should always proceed with cleaning assuming that some ashes could still be warm or clinkers might be present several hours or even days, since the last fire in your wood-burning stove.
A most necessary design element and accessory for an ash vacuum includes a specially designed air filter and enhanced sealed construction that keeps the ash dust from the motor and from returning to the room during the vacuuming process. This is especially important because ash dust is extremely fine and that can terminate a household vacuum in short order, as well as be an irritant or allergen to those who might be sensitive to such fine particles.
That and the fact that a regular vacuum is not designed for picking up anything that could possibly be warm, are some of the reasons why you should never use your household vacuum for cleaning ash. Read my Why NOT to Use a Regular Vacuum to Clean Ash for more detail. The same holds true for a shop-style vacuum, since most are not designed with heat-resistant parts.
Understand that even though some parts of an ash vacuum are heat resistant by design - and ratings differ by model, under no circumstances should you attempt to vacuum hot or known-to-be warm ashes. That could create a serious hazard. You should wait till ashes have cooled down at least twelve to fourteen hours before cleaning with the assumption that they are cool.
Best features of an ash vacuum also includes a compact overall size for storing and wheels to more easily maneuver around a wood heat stove or fireplace. Accessories such as a plastic wand and hard surface floor tool also helps with cleaning ash residue and wood chips from around the fireplace or woodstove floor area.
Besides cleaning the fire chamber of the stove with the ash vacuum, you should also use it for cleaning ash from the walls of the ash pan area below the fire box, as part of your woodstove cleaning process. Always refer to your vacuum's product manual for ash cleaning tips and safeguards.
You can also use an ash vacuum as a dry-only unit for cleaning a shop or garage, but the size is usually around the 5 gallon mark, which may be too small to be of practical use there. And the nozzle and hose are also usually smaller than that of a shop-style vacuum.
If you own any type of wood-burning appliance including a fireplace, wood heat stove, wood pellet stove or wood cookstove, an ash vacuum is an essential accessory for safe removal of ash. With a good ash vacuum, it's usually a cleaner process, with less or nil ash dust in the air. These vacuums are quite affordable and there are a few models on the market. Compare prices
Note that once the ash is in the vacuum, it (vacuum) should be transferred to a safe area and ashes should be disposed of as soon as possible. Check with your landfill regarding ash disposal. Though it can be messy, ashes are also often used in flower beds or vegetable gardens to enhance the soil.
The ash vacuum featured is the PowerSmith Ash Vacuum - read review
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Read More About Vacuums & Wood Heating:
Before You Buy a Wood Heat Stove - What You Need to Know
Vacuums 101 - From Buying to Care
How NOT to Care for Your Vacuum
What NOT to Burn in Your Wood Heat Stove or Fireplace
What to Clean With a Household Vacuum
Tips to Keep your Family Fire Safe
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