An Ash Vacuum Cleaner Buyers Guide

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Ash Vacuum Cleaner

During the winter months, it’s hard to resist the flickering light, crackling sounds and distinctive smell of a warm hearth. There’s nothing more relaxing, soothing and soul-lifting than sitting by a warm, roaring fire.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the morning after, when you’re faced with the unenviable task of cleaning out the ash residue from your fireplace or heat-stove fire chamber.

It’s a dirty and messy job that can lead to stress and frustration. Raking the embers creates a cloud of ash that can engulf a room, landing on your furniture, over time causing discolouration to fabrics and making upholstery appear tired and worn.

An ash vacuum is a solution to the problem. These specialist vacuums enable you to empty your fire or log-burner with minimal mess, and allow you to transport the embers outside without the risk of leaving trails of ash throughout your home.

Regularly clearing out the ash residue in fires and stoves is paramount in maintaining a good level of ash intake, resulting in not only a good burn, but also reducing the allergens and odours associated with smoke and burnt wood-fibres.

Only got 5 minutes

When cleaning out ash from your fire, stove or hearth, you may be tempted to just reach for your household vacuum, but that is likely to prove a costly mistake.

An ash vacuum is the only type of vacuum that should be used to clean up ash residue.

Finding the best ash vacuum can be a daunting task. A good ash vacuum should:

  • Be powerful
  • Have a large-enough capacity
  • Be easy to use and maintain
  • Have attachments – to clean those hard to reach places

Points to consider

Ash types

Be clear on the fuel you intend on burning as some vacuums will only be designed to be used with certain ash types.

Filtration system

The filters in your ash vacuum must be effective and ideally, easy to clean.

The best ash vacuums have a 3-stage filtration system. Whereas not all ash vacuums have this, it is advisable to invest in one that at least has a HEPA filter.

Size, weight & capacity

When deciding on an ash vacuum, you need to be clear on the size of the area you intend on clearing and the storage space you have.

Unless you have a particularly big fireplace or heat-stove, then most standard sizes of ash vacuum will be fine – these tend to range from 15-25L.

Making sure a model is user-friendly

Power Cord

Check the length of the power cord and relate this to where your fire or stove is located and where the nearest power source is.

Hose

The hose itself must be long enough to reach all the ash in the target area; otherwise the task becomes more laborious than it should be and can affect the performance of the vacuum.

Full capacity indicator

An LED indicator light that lets you know when it’s time to empty the vacuum, eliminating the hassle of having to keep checking whether or not the ash canister is full.

Ready to buy?

Ash vacuums range from around £25-£50.

A powerful motor; decent warranty; and those that come with a range of accessories are obviously at the top end of the price range.

Ash vacuum V household vacuum

You may well be thinking an ash vacuum is a luxury, and one which you can do without; tempted instead to just reach for your household vacuum, but that is likely to prove a costly mistake.

An ash vacuum is the only type of vacuum that should be used to clean embers and ash residue, with safety being the foremost reason for this.

It isn’t safe to use a standard vacuum cleaner with a paper bag or waste compartment when cleaning out hot or even warm ash due to the risk of fire.

Even if the ashes have cooled, and so the risk of fire extinguished, they will soon fill any vacuum cleaner bag/compartment and clog the machine with potentially harmful particles. So, unless you fancy using a dustpan and brush, the only viable option is to use a specialist ash vacuum cleaner.

These vacuums will ensure that cleaning your fireplace or stove is a quick, safe, stress-free, and mess-free process.

What to consider when shopping for an ash vacuum

Ash types

Depending on the fuel you use in your fireplace, stove, fire-pit, or BBQ, the type of ash produced will be different.

You may have pellet ash, wood ash, or charcoal ash. Ashes may be hot, warm or cold and, if the fire is extinguished using water, the ash residue will obviously be wet.

When shopping for an ash vacuum, keep in mind the kind of ash you expect to deal with as some vacuums will only be designed to be used with certain ash types.

Filtration system

The filters in your ash vacuum must be effective and ideally, easy to clean.

The best ash vacuums have a 3-stage filtration system:

  • In the first stage, a metallic mesh filter captures hot ash and large particles.
  • The second filter is made of cloth and seals the top of the canister.
  • Lastly, there is a HEPA-standard cartridge that traps the tiniest particles in the canister. This way, no ash particles or allergens such as dust or pollen are allowed back into the air, crucial for anyone dealing with allergies and asthma.

Whereas not all ash vacuums have the full 3-stage filtration system, it is advisable to invest in one that at least has a HEPA filter.

Size, weight & capacity

When deciding on an ash vacuum, you need to be clear on the size of the area you intend on clearing and the storage space you have available.

At the same time, you need to know how heavy a particular model is – you don’t want to buy a vacuum that is difficult to move around, making a task which should be quick and easy more strenuous than it needs to be.

If you decide on an ash vacuum which is particularly heavy, ensure it has wheels to avoid the risk of injury when manoeuvring the vacuum around.

You must also check the dirt capacity of the canister. Unless you have a particularly big fireplace or heat-stove fire chamber then most standard sizes of ash vacuum will be fine – this tends to range between 15 and 25 litres, with 15 litres being sufficient for cleaning most average-sized fires and stoves.

You may be able to get away with less than this for smaller fires and barbecues, however, the vacuum will require emptying more often – sometimes midway through one job.

Convenience

Convenience is an important factor to consider when choosing an ash vacuum model – the vacuum needs to be easy to use to enable you to clean out your fire quickly and without hassle.

Power Cord

Check the length of the power cord and relate this to where your fire or stove is located, and where the nearest power source is.

A short power cord may mean you end up having to buy an extension lead, which means more expense and more hassle when it comes to using the vacuum.

It’s also worthwhile checking that the power cord is retractable. Added features such as a retractable cord make using the vacuum hassle-free and save you time.

Hose

Fireplaces and stoves aren’t the easiest places to clean so the hose itself must be long enough to reach all the ash in the target area.

Having to strain the hose means the task becomes more laborious than it should be, and it also can affect the performance of the vacuum, as well as causing damage to the hose and seals.

Attachments

To make the cleaning process even easier, most models will come with at least some accessories to help reach ash which has found its way into tight spots.

These attachments can include extension wands, crevice tools, and an upholstery nozzle for any unexpected accidents.

Suction power

Just as you’d expect from a household vacuum, an ash vacuum should be able to pick up ash residue effectively.

The higher the motor rating, the more powerful the suction should be.

Low-power models tend to be around 800W, ranging up to 1200W for the more-powerful motors.

Full capacity indicator

Some ash vacuums have an LED indicator light that lets you know when it’s time to empty the ash canister. However, basic models without this indicator will require manual checking.

Manual checking is frustrating. Until you have worked out the average period of time between needing to empty the canister, you may find yourself playing a guessing game as to whether or not it is actually full. 

An LED indicator eliminates the hassle of having to even think about whether or not the ash vacuum is nearing full capacity as, once it is, that little red light will make it very clear.

Other features worth thinking about

  • Inspection window blockage indicator
  • Carry handle/wheels for easy transportation
  • Accessory carry-bag
  • Warm air blower function for easy and effective vacuuming
  • Removable mesh nozzle filter for preventing large debris intake that could block the system
  • 2-in-1 multifunction with both suction and blowing functions

Ensuring you get value for money

The average price you pay for an ash vacuum intended for home-use ranges from around £25-£50.

Models with powerful motors; longer, inclusive warranties; and those that come with a range of accessories, are obviously at the top end of the price range.

As well as making sure the model you choose is fit for purpose in terms of power and additional features, it is important to look into the warranty and customer support offered at the time of purchase.

Most models come with a 2-year limited warranty, some with an option to extend at the end of the term, whilst some of the more expensive models come with a warranty lasting anywhere up to 10-years.

It is worth taking the time to look into how long the manufacturer’s warranty period is for; what is covered (i.e.parts, labour etc.); how the claims process works; and any conditions which apply relating to maintenance or wear and tear.

This will give you peace of mind when you outlay for a vacuum should you encounter any problems with it further down the line.

Safety

The distinguishing factor of an ash vacuum is its ability to resist heat.

Normal vacuums are usually made of plastic parts. If you attempt to suck in ash using these, you can cause major damage.

A good ash vacuum should be made of heat-resistant materials but it’s important to be clear that there are vacuums that can handle hot ashes and those that cannot – most ash vacuums are intended to be used on cold and warm ash – cleaning up hot ash is not recommended with these models.

Why?

As well as the fire risk, hot ash can also damage the mechanics of the vacuum, which are not designed to withstand the high temperatures of burning ash embers.

Precautions are taken by manufacturers in case of hot ash accidentally entering the canister – any decent model will have filters which are flame-resistant, and any plastic components should be made to withstand the heat of a higher-than-normal temperature for plastic.

Ideally, the hose should be made of metal although, if it is a heat resistant hose, it should be well-insulated to avoid the casing feeling hot on contact.

The canister and all components such as nozzles and crevice tools should be made of metal, usually aluminium.

Should extreme temperatures be reached, albeit unintentionally, most motors will be equipped with an overheating prevention mechanism, which will shut off the vacuum motor in the case of overheating.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where else can I use an ash vacuum?

The clue’s in the name – an ash vacuum can be used pretty much anywhere that ashes are! This includes BBQs, fire pits, coal fires, wood-burning stoves and even chimney hearths.

Can all ash vacuums suck in warm or hot ash?

No. Most ash vacuums are meant for cold ash. Be careful to check whether the manufacturer indicates that the vacuum is capable of handling warm or hot ash.

How do I deal with wet ash?

If you deal with wet ash regularly, you need to buy a wet/dry vac. Even the best ash vac can get clogged if used with wet ash.

About Mike Jones 128 Articles
I started doing DIY around the house and it soon developed into a hobby. I look for tools and products that are genuinely useful and get the job done. I enjoy writing product reviews, researching my buyers guides and putting tools through their paces. In my downtime, I like to run and I am a bit of a Netflix documentary geek.

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