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Tips for Cleaner Wood Stove Burning

General guidance

Properly installed, correctly used wood-burning appliances should be smoke free. If you see or smell smoke, you may have a problem. Build small, hot fires instead of large, smoldering ones. Follow manufacturer guidelines and keep your stove clean and well-maintained. Replace catalytic stove filters every 1-4 years and have your chimney checked and cleaned at least once a year. 

Replace your wood stove and save money

If you own an old, inefficient stove, replacing it with a newer, cleaner heating system will pay for itself through fuel savings. Alternative stoves include natural gas stoves and furnaces, pellet stoves, and EPA certified wood stoves. 

See EPA's Burnwise website for choosing wood burning appliances


Use seasoned wood

The best fuel for wood stoves is dry, "seasoned" wood. Seasoned wood has a moisture content of about 20% or less. It tends to be dark in color, cracked on the ends, light in weight and has bark that is easily broken or peeled. Here are some tips for preparing seasoned wood: 

  • Split the wood to help it dry. Wood will dry out more quickly and burn best if the wood is cut to about 3 1/2 inches to 6 inches in diameter.
  • Cover the split firewood to protect it from the weather and stack it loosely in alternating layers, at least 6 inches off the ground.
  • Time must be given to allow the wood to reach 20% or less moisture required for seasoned wood. This process takes approximately 6-12 months. Think ahead and buy next winter's wood well in advance.  

Guidelines for Preparing Seasoned Wood

SpeciesMinimum Outdoor
Drying Time
Heating Value
Million Btu per Air-Dried Cord
Ease of SplittingSparks
AlderLonger than 6 months18-21 mediumeasymoderate
Cedar6 months14-20 medium-loweasymany
Douglas Fir6 months19-21 mediumeasymoderate
Madrone6 months30 highdifficultvery few
Maple6 months19-21 high-mediummoderatefew
Oak6 months29-31 highmoderatefew
Pine6 months17 medium-loweasymoderate
White Fir6 months17 medium-loweasymoderate

What not to burn

It is illegal to burn trash including things such as cardboard, colored ink on magazines, treated wood such as particle board, and plastic products inside a home. These materials can release toxic chemicals when burned and may damage your wood burning device.  

How to operate your wood stove more efficiently

Burning more efficiently can help minimize smoke, increase the heat from your wood, reduce fuel usage, save money and limit the impact on neighbors.   

See EPA's Burn Wise program for best burn practices


Maintenance tips

Each year there are numerous Oregon home and chimney fires caused by wood burning. Periodic inspection of your stove or fireplace is essential to its continued safe and clean-burning operation. Conducting an annual chimney cleaning will remove creosote build-up and identify potential problems.