How to Clean and Maintain A Fire Pit

Kenneth Wilson

Owning a fire pit comes with a lot of perks. It allows you to dine outdoors and keeps you warm during cool evenings. Besides being a cozy area to hang out with your family and friends, it is also a wonderful aesthetic addition to your backyard.

Fire pits come in different styles and sizes, and whether it is custom-built or made from a kit, all types should be properly maintained so that it can be used for a long time. It also should be regularly cleaned so that it would function safely and won’t look worn down from all the cooking, grilling, ashes, and fire. Your guests might not notice the grime or rust during evenings, but when morning comes, you don’t want your focal piece to have black soot or debris.

While there are similar cleaning methods for all kinds of fire pits, there are also some specific things you need to do depending on the fuel source or the material a fire pit is crafted from. It may sound complicated, but it becomes easier once you get the hang of it. This will also ensure that you get ideal results when grilling or cooking.

Continue reading to find out how to take care of a fire pit so that you can keep dining outdoors and having fun parties in your backyard for many seasons to come.

Using proper tools and accessories

One way to take care of your fire pit is by using the right tools and accessories. Here are some fire pit tools you may need when using your fire pit and for cleaning it.

Poker stick

When you have a fire pit or fireplace, one of the most important tools you’ll need is a poker stick, especially for wood-burning ones. This tool is used to reposition firewood or move other items to keep them away from the flame. Aside from these functions, poker sticks will also make sure that you or anyone handling the fire pit will be able to safely stoke the fire.


It’s common to have leftover ash, so to properly clean it up, you will need a fire pit shovel. This is a small shovel that will help you scoop ashes and other leftover debris. If you get one with a long handle, you can also use it to reposition things even when there’s an ongoing fire. 

Ash Bucket

After scooping the ashes and debris with the shovel, you will need a container to put them in. This is why you will need an ash bucket. It’s going to make it easier to clean your fire pit since you don’t have to keep going back and forth the trash bin and the fire pit. If ever it’s windy in your area, you can get an ash bucket with a lid to keep the ashes from spreading all over the place. Even if it’s not that windy, having a lid will be better just in case someone accidentally topples the bucket over.

Log claw grabber or tongs

You will also need a log claw grabber or tongs to safely place or move firewood in your fire pit. Unlike the poker stick, you will be able to grab firewood and other items, instead of just pushing them around. It is important to be able to move logs from time to time to keep the fire going.    



Another accessory you may want to get is a fire pit spark guard or screen. This is used to keep the embers and sparks from spreading around the fire pit as well as keeping everyone safe from it. If you think there won’t be enough space for the fire and logs, you can get a high-domed screen.


Even when your fire pit is not in use, keep it safe with a cover. Since you probably won’t be using it every day for the whole year, it’s best to cover a fire pit during downtimes. This will keep it in good condition and prevent getting leaves, dead bugs, and other debris in it. You will also need to protect it from outside elements and extreme weather conditions. When you need to get your fire pit going, there will also be minimal work to get it ready.

General Maintenance

Here are some tips you need to remember when cleaning all types of fire pit:

Letting the fire cool down

Before you clean a fire pit, you need to make sure that it has cooled. Let it cool down before removing the fire pit spark guard or screen, disconnecting gas lines, or taking out leftover debris and wood. Don’t try to quicken the process by pouring water on it since the sudden change of temperature may damage the interior or cause any metal surface to deteriorate.

Cleaning the grill grates

Like barbecue grills, fire pits may also have grilling grates for cooking. After long periods of exposure to fire, these grates can eventually become rusty. Not only does the rust look unappealing, but it can also affect the taste of the food cooked on it and be harmful to our health when ingested. The key to keeping it clean is to remove rust as soon as possible. Here’s how you can clean a steel grate and a cast iron grill grate.

To clean a steel grate, you will need a mixture of two gallons of hot water and ¼ cup of mild washing soap. Scrub the grill with the sponge and this mixture. Rinse it with hot water and let it air dry for 60 minutes or more. After, brush it using an old toothbrush with a mixture of one cup of water and ½ tablespoon of baking soda. Since baking soda is non-abrasive, it can remove the rust without damaging the steel. Lastly, wipe down the grates with distilled white vinegar to make it shiny.

To clean a cast iron grate, you can either use salt paste, baking soda paste, or vinegar. With salt paste, you first need to mix water and kosher salt until it turns into a paste. Apply it on the rusty areas then rub it with a steel brush or wool.

With baking soda paste, you will do something similar to the kosher salt paste. But this time, you need to wait and let it settle before you start scrubbing.

With vinegar, it is recommended to use plain white vinegar since it has 6% acetic acid. Apply it on the rusty areas and wait for a few minutes. Then use a steel or wire brush to scrub the rust away.

Note: For both grill grates, make sure to wipe off water from them before storing as well as consider minimizing the use of sauce to lessen the chances of rust forming on the grates.

Cleaning Methods for Different Types of Fire Pit

There are specific things you need to do when cleaning a fire pit depending on what type it is. Find out how to take care of a wood-burning, gas, and copper fire pit.


Wood-burning fire pit

Some people prefer owning wood-burning fire pits because it resembles a campfire the most as well as provide a nice smokey taste to the grilled food. While it may have some advantages, one of its drawbacks is that it is high maintenance. With this type of fire pit, there will be leftover ashes, debris, and other waste that will build up after every use. That’s why it’s important to clean it since the leftover grime can quicken the deterioration process of the fire pit’s foundation. Here’s what you need to do to keep your wood-burning fire pit clean and functioning properly:

Cleaning out the larger debris

Before working on the ashes, you first need to get rid of the major pieces of debris. These are usually large pieces of wood that didn’t burn. If you find them, don’t throw them out as you can use them again for the next time you need to fire up the fire pit. You also don’t need to store these wood; after cleaning the entire fire pit, place them back so that you have to prepare less when you need to light the fire pit again.

There may also be larger chunks of ashes, so clear these out and place them in the ash bucket. Don’t put them down anywhere or in a flammable container since ashes hold on to heat for a week or longer. Always store them in a non-flammable bucket to prevent hazardous fires.

Collecting and removing the ashes

For the smaller or powdery ashes, get a brush that will fit inside and sweep them to the center of the fire pit. After collecting them to one spot, scoop them with a shovel. Similar to the larger chunk of ashes, you need to put them in a non-flammable container. You also need to thoroughly check and clean the ventilation and drain openings to prevent them from clogging.

Don’t forget the ash pan or tray

Some wood-burning fire pits have an ash pan, so you’ll need to clean this as well. This tray or drawer is usually located at the bottom part of the fire pit. Slide it out and this will make it easier to remove ashes and debris. There are also some fire pits that have a door so you can easily collect debris or ash at the bottom of the fire pit. Grab your shovel and brush out the leftover debris.


Gas fire pit

Compared to a wood-burning fire pit, it’s easier to take care of a gas fire pit. But you still have to clean it often since they are prone to rust. Since you don’t want it to look worn down after a few months of usage, it’s important to properly maintain it. Here’s how to take care of your gas fire pit so that it can last for a long time:

Turn off the gas line

Before you start cleaning, it’s important to turn off the gas outlet or close the gas valve. Next, remove the tank, if there is one, and place in a well-ventilated area. You can keep it outdoors or maybe an open garage, and just make sure to check with local regulations regarding the propane tank storage.

Note: Before using, check to see if the tank and gas connections are properly attached to prevent leakage.

Cleaning the tabletop

To clean the burner, wipe it with a damp cloth with soap. Do it carefully and make sure that the cloth is not soaking wet to prevent damaging the burner. If your fire pit comes with a table, you can also use soap and water to clean it.

Removing debris and declogging

Although it won’t have ashes or burnt logs, a gas fire pit can still collect debris such as rocks and leaves. To avoid damage, remove these from the burner pan and media. Next, check the vents and drains for bugs or smaller debris. Clean it as well to avoid getting them clogged up. For the fire glass, you can remove it as well to look for residue and other debris. Don’t worry, it’s not required to clean the fire glass.


Copper fire pit

With copper fire pits, the biggest problems are the stains and blue or green patina. Here’s how to properly take care of a copper fire pit:

Cleaning out debris and wiping the interior

Remove the charcoal and any loose debris before cleaning the interior. Next, wipe with a dry cloth or paper towel inside the fire pit to remove grime and soot.

Removing stains

For lacquered copper, you can easily remove stains with soap and water. Make sure not to polish or scrub this type with steel wool or harsh scrubs since it can damage the lacquer.

For untreated copper, you can use a cleaning solution such as a copper cleaner. If you can’t get one, you can use acidic food such as vinegar, tomato paste, or lemon juice. Get a paper towel or soft cloth and then rub the cleansing solution in small circular motions. For lemons, you can cut it in half, put some salt on the inside, and rub it directly on the copper. After, thoroughly rinse the surface with water. Dry it with a clean cloth and make sure that it is completely dry to prevent moisture buildup, which usually causes blue patina.

Kenneth Wilson
March 30, 2020
Yard & Garden

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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