By Holly Crossley published
Learning how to clean a fire pit properly is key for keeping these stylish features looking their best. Luckily, it's not too tricky to do once you know how.
Fire pits are a gorgeous addition to the garden. They offer a statement focal point that will keep everyone feeling cozy, whatever time of year. And if you've already perused our fire pit ideas, you will know that there are all kinds of styles to choose from – from statement stone designs to metal bowls and intricate spheres.
But to maintain their impressive impact, you'll need to give them a good clean now and again. Clearing out old ash and debris and scrubbing away grime will not only make your fire pit look better, but it will help it last longer, too. And if you use your fire pit for cooking over, it will make the experience much more enjoyable and hygienic. After all, no one wants to bite into a bit of chipped-away rust or dirt.
Not sure where to start? We're here to help. You'll soon see how easy it is with our guide.
Step-by-step tips on how to clean a fire pit
We've put together all the tips and tricks on how to clean a fire pit below, plus extra advice on how to make your design last longer.
How do you clean a metal fire pit made from copper or steel?
Some of the very best fire pits are made of copper or steel. These designs are durable and can look super smart in a yard. Copper also benefits from being rust-resistant (although it can develop a beautiful greenish patina over time).
Cleaning them is a breeze and doesn't require anything fancy. Emma Ross, founder of leading makers of British high-quality fire pits FirepitsUK, shares her tips on how to do it:
- 'Wait for your fire pit to be completely cold,' says Emma. Remember that hot ashes are dangerous.
- Once you are sure that they are no longer warm, collect up the ashes with a small shovel (a children's beach spade is ideal). Move them into a metal bucket with lid and leave outdoors. You can then use the wood ash on your flowerbeds or pop them on your compost heap – it's a natural source of potassium and has liming effects, so is good for remedying overly acidic soils.
- Put on some protective gloves and 'wipe down the bowl of the fire pit with warm soapy water,' says Emma. A soft cloth and normal dish soap should do the job just fine.
- 'Rinse well with clean water.' Our buying guide to the best garden hose will come in handy if you need an update.
- 'Dry really thoroughly.' This is crucial – leaving a steel fire pit damp can cause it to rust.
- For steel fire pits, rub over a layer of oil (any type) to keep the moisture off, before putting it away, advises Emma.
- 'Ideally invest in a lid for your fire pit so that it will keep the inside dry for whenever you want to light it,' she adds. 'If you don't have a lid and are leaving it outside, make sure you keep the drain in the bowl clear of ash so that any rainwater will drain away.' It's also a good idea to dry your fire pit with a cloth after it rains.
How do you clean a cast iron fire pit?
Cast iron is another durable material for fire pits and heats up quickly. It also tends to be slightly cheaper than steel designs. However, according to The Home Depot, it requires a bit more effort to clean.
- Carefully empty the fire pit as per instructions above.
- Grab a piece of steel wool and a bucket of warm water and scrub down the surface of your cast iron fire pit, wearing protective gloves.
- Rinse well and dry immediately with a soft cloth – an old towel is perfect.
- Avoid leaving cast iron fire pits out in the rain as they will rust easily. A patio cover can be useful to provide temporary shelter.
How do you clean a stone fire pit?
Stone fire pits are often installed as a more permanent heating option. Designs made from bricks are easy to make, too. Looking for more DIY fire pit ideas? You'll find lots of great projects in our guide.
Keeping this type of fire pit clean just takes a few steps:
- Carefully empty your fire pit of ash as above.
- Wearing protective gloves, scrub the inside of your stone fire pit with a stiff brush to remove any dry, caked-on debris.
- Mix together 1-part muriatic acid to 9-parts water and then use this to scrub the interior. Keep your gloves on, pop on some safety goggles and make sure you're wearing protective clothing for this as muriatic acid is incredibly caustic. You should also carry out the job in a well-ventilated area due to the fumes. Alternatively, use a few drops of dish soap mixed with warm water.
- Rinse the fire pit thoroughly and dry well. If you've used muriatic acid, avoid rinsing it onto your plants or lawn.
- Consider applying a stone sealant to prevent soot from sticking – this will make cleaning easier next time.
How do you clean a gas fire pit?
Of course, not all fire pits are wood-fuelled. Plenty of outdoor heating ideas run off gas. They require less maintenance but will still benefit from a spruce now and again, although you'll need to take a slightly different approach:
- Make sure your fire pit is switched off, with the propane tank disconnected or the gas line shut off.
- Carefully remove any leaves, stones, and other debris which may have fallen into the fire pit.
- Do not hose down your gas-powered fire pit. Instead, use a soft, damp cloth to wipe down surfaces, ensuring you don't loosen any cables in the process.
- Follow up with a dry cloth to remove any moisture.
- It's also a good idea to regularly check your gas lines for cracks or leaks.
How do you remove ash from a fire pit?
It's good practice to remove leftover ash from your fire pit regularly. This is because it can absorb moisture, which can cause rust right in the center of your fire pit.
Wood ash can be a dangerous thing as it often retains heat for many hours and can contain hidden hot embers. Carelessness can cause accidents such as burns, or a new fire to unexpectedly start.
Always wait for it to cool down completely before going to remove it from your fire pit. Avoid touching it with bare hands, and using a shovel or scoop, transfer over to an empty metal bucket with lid before doing anything else with it. Pouring a small amount of cold water over the ashes once they're in the bucket will reduce risk of fire further.
- Want to avoid clearing up ash? Our buying guide to the best patio heaters has lots of low-maintenance picks.
How do you clean a rusty fire pit?
If your fire pit is covered in rust, you may need to take a more aggressive approach to get it back to its former glory. There are plenty of commercial products available to try – just be sure to follow the instructions on the label.
If you'd prefer to use a more natural method, Emma Ross, founder of FirepitsUK suggests to tackle the rust by scrubbing it with wire wool and white vinegar. Remember to rinse and dry it off afterwards.
You can also try making a thick paste with baking soda and water. Apply it to the rusted areas and leave for a few hours. Then, scrub it off using steel wool or a brush. Another option is to use lemon juice. Sprinkle coarse salt on the rust first, add the juice, wipe, then rinse and dry. Avoid leaving lemon juice on your fire pit's surface for long as it can cause damage to the structure itself.
There are more tips on how to remove rust from grills and barbecues in our guide.
More tips for maintaining a fire pit
There are a few other things you can do to keep your fire pit in good condition.
- Use dry wood for your fire pit rather than moist. This ensures a cleaner burn which produces less build-up of soot.
- Avoid throwing plastic into the fire pit. Not only will it release toxic fumes as it burns but it can also melt onto the surface of your fire pit which is difficult to clean off.
- Deep clean your fire pit every six months or so, depending on how often you use it.
- If you don't plan to use your fire pit over winter, move it into storage somewhere dry, such as a garden shed or garage. There are plenty of shed ideas in our dedicated feature.
- Avoid pouring water over your fire pit to put it out – the sudden change in temperature can cause the structure to crack. Instead, allow it to burn out and cool down naturally.
The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion. But, she loves all things digital too. She joined the team at Gardeningetc after working as a freelance content creator for a web agency, whilst studying for her M.Sc. in Marketing. Now she feels lucky enough to combine both digital and botanical worlds, every day!
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