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How to clean your smokeless fire pit

Smokeless fire pits from Breeo and Solo Stove have to be clean in order to burn wood well.

How to clean your fire pit
Smokeless fire pits need regular cleaning to burn fuel properly.
Brian Bennett/CNET

Backyard fire pits are an excellent way to kick back and relax no matter what season it is. That said, making sure yours is always at the ready requires a little upkeep. For starters, there's the buildup of ash and unburnt wood bits that can stifle air flow. Uncovered pits can collect rainwater, too, leading to corrosion of metal parts over time. 

However, with the right tools and some common household items, it's easy to keep your portable pit in great shape. This guide lays out the basics you need to know about fire pit maintenance.

Does the inside of your smokeless fire pit look like this? Then it's due for a cleaning.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Clear ash and debris

Lots of ash at the bottom of your fire pit is the most obvious sign it needs a good cleaning. Soot and bits of unburnt debris doesn't just look bad. This buildup will impede the flow of air, especially in sophisticated smokeless fire pits. That's because they rely on air intakes and ventilation holes to supply their fires with plenty of oxygen. Without good airflow and secondary combustion, your smokeless fire pit won't operate at all.

One smokeless fire pit-maker Breeo sells a special tool designed specifically for ash removal. While I admit it looks nice, there are more generic options out there. For instance, the Pleasant Hearth Steel Fireplace Shovel costs much less and works equally well for indoor wood-burning fireplaces. You'll also need an ash bucket to collect what you remove. Pleasant Hearth makes one as well.

clean your fire pit shovel

When the ashes have cooled, use a special shovel to scoop them out.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Before you begin cleaning make sure the ashes in your pit are cool. It takes at least 12 hours after the fire has died out for this to happen. Whichever shovel you choose, start scooping ash and debris out of your pit. Dump everything into your ash can as you go. You may find that some of the soot in your pit has become compacted. I suggest you use a garden trowel to loosen things up. 

Shop vacs like this one can come in handy.

Brian Bennett/CNET

A shop vac is your friend

To really remove dirt in a hurry, grab a shop vac. It can suck up small chunks of wood, ash and dust equally well. You can also use one to nab any ash you might have missed with the shovel.

Use a shop vac to remove ash and debris fast.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Clean the outside too

Steel fire pits like the Breeo X Series 24 and Solo Stove Yukon have relatively low-maintenance exteriors. In fact, parts of some X Series models are made from COR-TEN steel. This material, the same used in bridges and freeway overpasses, develops a durable orange patina over time.

As a result, Breeo says you don't need to polish COR-TEN steel sections of its pits. You may want to clean stainless steel areas though, especially their steel sear plates. 

Scrub the outside of stainless steel fire pits with mild dish soap.

Brian Bennett/CNET

To do that, just use a mild detergent such as liquid dish soap paired with a nonabrasive scrubber. However, be sure to scrub in the same direction as the metal grain. Look for small parallel lines embedded in the steel's surface.

The stainless steel exteriors of Solo Stove fire pits are also forgiving. Solo Stove says that the golden and blue patina its products acquire is natural. You can buff these pits with specialty polishes such as Bar Keepers Friend if you'd like.

Ready for action

Now that you've spiffed up your pit you'll be ready to fire it up at a moment's notice. So when surprise company swings by, no problem. Or if the mood for a fire suddenly strikes, you're all set. And to keep it looking great longer, you can always invest in a rain cover somewhere down the road.