It’s the 21st century. Sure, fire was an awesome discovery for mankind, but now we have electricity and natural gas, central heating and air, convection ranges. As a species, we’ve moved on to bigger and better technological advances. Or have we? Fire, that thing that our ancestors needed to survive, has come full circle. Now it is a luxury to have in and around our homes. Think of all the real-estate listings which tout fireplaces. Many people think that a deck or a yard isn’t complete without a fire pit. Heck, we are even installing wood-fired pizza ovens. Fire isn’t going anywhere.
But folks with these fireplaces, fire pits, BBQs, and ovens will remind us that fires aren’t something you just turn on and off. And when you’re done with one, it leaves ashes (and a potentially big mess) to clean up. People who have these cool wood-burning fixtures in their homes often state that maintenance and clean-up are the top reasons why they end up not using them.
Well, the same species that discovered fire also invented vacuum cleaners. Yes, you can use vacuum cleaners to suck up all those ashes, making clean-up relatively pain-free. But there’s a catch. Even when left for days after the fire is out, ashes can often still contain embers and other hot spots just waiting for oxygen to re-ignite. When this happens inside a normal vacuum cleaner, it’s pretty spectacular and very dangerous. We typically store our vacuums in closets or garages, out of sight, and possibly near other flammable materials. So, a fire in your vacuum cleaner can often go unnoticed until it is too late. The good news is there are specific types of vacuum cleaners that can handle ash safely and effectively.
What Is an Ash Vacuum?
Basically, ash vacuums are designed to safely handle potentially flammable materials. While your average household vacuum cleaner has a plastic or paper dust container, ash vacuums have ones made of metal.
At first, you might think this is just one more gadget I’ve got to find a place to store and never actually use. But if you have a fireplace, fire pit, or BBQ, this type of vacuum can save you so much time and hassle that you will want to use your wood-burning additions more often. This way, you end up getting more enjoyment and use out of what are often pretty pricey investments.
Not all vacuums are designed to handle ash. Before you go out and get one, take a look at some of the characteristics important in an ash vacuum.
We’ve reviewed what we think are the best ash vacuum options and have laid out their pros and cons for you below.
Even if you’re 100% sure that the ash you want to vacuum up is cold, you still need an ash vacuum to suck it up. Most normal vacuum filters don’t stop ash from entering the vacuum motor, which eventually will wear out the motor and ruin your vacuum.
Why Should You Buy an Ash Vacuum?
Let’s face it, the big question is, do you want to invest in a machine that only does one thing, clean up ash? We already know a normal vacuum can’t do that. If you want to fully enjoy your fire pits, grills, fireplaces, and other non-gas fire installations, then an ash vacuum may be just what you need.
An ash vacuum helps eliminate the possibility of accidents. Not only by preventing flare-ups once ashes are removed but by also enabling you to do a more thorough cleaning after a fire. The more ashes you can dispose of, the less chance they have of spreading to other areas of your yard or home. Ash can spread easily in the slightest breeze, and if it is still warm and settles on the ‘right’ spot, it can cause a fire.
If you start a fire, you will need to clean up the ashes eventually. Since you can’t use a normal vacuum, you will have to do this by hand, usually with a shovel. If you’ve done this before, you know this gets very messy very quickly. Ash gets everywhere no matter how careful you are.
Vacuums designed for ashes will function the same way standard vacuums do. They suck up all the waste without letting it escape. This cuts down your cleaning effort.
Value for Money
Ash vacuums cost about the same as traditional vacuums. Most models are fairly compact so moving them around grills, stoves, fireplaces, etc., is pretty easy. They generally can hold a higher volume of waste than the average vacuum cleaner.
Many models come with convenient add-ons such as HEPA filters, which remove tiny particles. Some also have indicators letting you know when the canister needs to be changed.
How to Choose the Best Ash Vacuum
Here are some characteristics to consider when researching an ash vacuum.
Type of Ash
Every ash vacuum will have a metal canister, but to be sure it can handle warm ash, check the manufacturer’s specifications. No matter what kind of vacuum you use, you don’t want to suck up hot coals or glowing embers. They won’t damage the metal canister, but they can melt through any rubber or plastic. Some ash vacuums can also suck up wet ashes. It usually takes a more powerful (and more expensive) model, but that might be a feature you are interested in.
No matter the type of vacuum, it’s still recommended that you let ash cool down before vacuuming. Ash can take almost three days to completely cool. You can use water to speed up the cooling, but then you have a messy sludge.
Ease of Use
Some are easier to use than others, so check for long power cords and long hoses. Also, look for units with wheels and accessories, like metal crevice wands. Some models have canister-level indicators, reusable filters, and adjustable wands.
An ash vacuum will have a metal canister to resist heat. If a vacuum does not have a metal canister, it is not an ash vacuum. Do not use any plastic components to clean up ashes; a good ash vacuum will have metal attachments.
Consider the Capacity
Just like your house vacuum, you will eventually need to empty the ashes out of your ash vacuum. You need to balance how often you want to do this vs how heavy your ash vacuum becomes when full. If you can’t lift heavy objects, a smaller capacity model is probably better for you. Also, keep in mind the areas you will be cleaning; a grill will have less ash than a pellet stove or fireplace.
The Best Ash Vacuum Reviews of 2021
Ash vacuums aren’t something people shop for every day, so we have done the research for you by looking at model specifications and customer satisfaction.
PowerSmith PAVC101 3-In-1 Ash Vacuum
As the name implies, the PowerSmith PAVC101 3-In-1 Ash Vacuum will do three jobs for you. It’s a utility vacuum capable of sucking up some pretty heavy messes. It also has a blower function that lets you move dirt out of the way, and, of course, it can handle ashes. This versatility makes it great for a studio or workshop.
PowerSmith can handle ash up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The hose, wand attachments, and canister are all metal. The filter is both reusable and heat resistant as well.
You can roll the PowerSmith around on its caster wheels or use the carry handle.
Why We Love It:
The 3-in-1 versatility of this vacuum really makes it stand out. It can handle normal vacuum functions, ashes, and has a blower setting which makes it useful for moving dirt out of the way. It is comparatively affordable and lets you consolidate three machines into one.
Since ash vacuums tend to be very basic, a model with this many functions is a good option. On top of this, it comes with a useful range of accessories and tools, including two extender wands, brush and turbo nozzles, and a heat-resistant filter.
Warm Ash Capacity
The PowerSmith PAVC101 can handle hot ash up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep In Mind:
The PowerSmith brand is relatively new to the scene, so it hasn’t had time to establish a long-term reputation on durability and quality. Even so, customer feedback so far has been very positive.
One issue which customers have is that the hose is rather short. The vacuum has a 16-foot power cord and a four-foot hose, which might make it hard to reach around corners of stoves and fireplaces.
Craftsman CMXEVBE17585 Ash Vacuum
The Craftsman CMXEVBE17585 Ash Vacuum is a good choice if you only need an ash vacuum for home use instead of industrial or commercial projects. This model is great for stove, fireplace, or grill cleaning. It’s able to hold 5 gallons of ash/dust which is plenty for household use.
This model also comes with cool extra features like an LED light on the hose. With it, you can see exactly what you are cleaning, an awesome capability when you are cleaning pitch-black fireplaces and grills. Also included are a HEPA filter, three-foot hose, wand extender, and a metal crevice attachment.
Why We Love It:
Ash is often made up of extremely small particles that can aggravate allergies and other breathing problems. The HEPA filter can remove these particles so you can breathe easier.
Nifty Special Feature
The LED light built in the hose is fantastic for cleaning the dark corners of fire pits, fireplaces, and ovens.
For an in-home ash vacuum, this model has a great capacity. Five gallons allows you to wait a while between emptying the canister.
Even though this model has high capacity, it is pretty lightweight. Customers describe it as easy to lift and move while cleaning.
Keep In Mind:
Cold Ash Only
Unfortunately, this product is only rated for cold, dry ash. But since it is made of aluminum, if any stray embers do get sucked up, you will be safe and probably won’t damage the unit.
It’s Not Maneuverable
Even though it is lightweight with a good carry handle, owners have mentioned that it would be nice if it included wheels. This is especially true if you have five gallons worth of dirt/ash.
Other owners have noted that the hose is pretty short, which makes maneuvering a challenge sometimes.
Vacmaster VQ607SFD Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum
Under certain conditions, this wet/dry vacuum can clean ash. It’s a shop-vac designed for industrial/commercial work, so it can tackle cold ash, but its plastic hose means you shouldn’t use it on warm ash. It has wet/dry capability, so wet ash isn’t a problem.
The six-gallon canister is metal with a stainless steel frame. Accessories include the usual shop-vac tools, along with a multi-floor nozzle. It also has a blower function.
Why We Love It:
Since it is not a dedicated ash vacuum, you can use it around the house like a normal vacuum. It is a wet/dry model capable of handling spills. It also has a blower function.
The price is right if you are looking for an affordable ash vacuum. If you want a more versatile model at an affordable price, the Vacmaster VQ607SFD is a good choice.
Coming in at 14 pounds, this model is pretty lightweight. It also has convenient onboard accessory storage.
Keep In Mind:
Make sure you only clean cold ash with this vacuum. Any heat can damage the plastic hose.
We must emphasize that this is not a true ash vacuum, so don’t use it as one.
No Fine Dust Filter
While customers state that this vacuum can handle cold, dry ash, we recommend installing a fine dust filter. It will cost a little more money, but it will protect your vacuum motor and help keep your air clean.
Shop-Vac 4041300 Corded Ash Vacuum Cleaner
This Shop-Vac model sports a 5-gallon vacuum built with stainless steel. Though technically only rated for cold, dry ash, its motor has built-in thermal protection. The built-in HEPA filter is great for helping protect you from allergy and asthma triggers. It has a dedicated pellet stove cleaning kit, as well as metal intake and crevice nozzles.
Why We Love It:
The inclusion of a HEPA filter means that even the smallest ash particles will be captured while cleaning.
Bonus Cleaning Kit
This model comes with a dedicated pellet stove cleaning kit, as well as six different tools for various cleaning challenges.
People can take the hose attachment for granted until it comes off in the middle of cleaning, especially if you’ve got a big pile of dust. When a hose comes loose, it can spray dust all over the area, undoing your work and making an even bigger mess. This unit comes with a locking mechanism that secures the hose to the machine, eliminating the possibility of cleaning disasters.
Keep In Mind:
Some customers indicate that this model’s canister can fill quickly and that clogging occurs frequently. However, other buyers say that if you use this vacuum for easy-duty jobs and regularly empty the canister, clogging isn’t a problem.
While this is an excellent vacuum, it does come with a higher price tag than many others in its class. But when you factor in all the attachments and extras, this price difference does not seem as big.
Snow Joe ASHJ202E Ash Vacuum
The Snow Joe ASHJ202E utilizes dual filtration, tackling both larger and finer ash particles. It also has a unique feature that stops the unit if one of the two filters is removed or fails.
It comes with a 4.8-gallon capacity and a four-foot-long hose, making this model ideal for basic, light work.
Why We Love It:
If you are worried about letting any ash particles back into your house, this model is for you. The dual filtration system is excellent at removing even the smallest particles.
This vacuum is easy to carry, weighing only 8.8 pounds.
Its built-in sensors will shut down if the filters stop working or if they are removed. This helps protect the vacuum’s motor from damage and protects you from blowing ash all over your house.
Keep In Mind:
Some customers have noted that changing or cleaning the filters can be tricky.
Even though this machine is light, it is still a large model, which can make it awkward to move.
If you have upgrades like fireplaces, grills, firepits, or pellet stoves, an ash vacuum can make your clean-ups easier and your fire activities more enjoyable. If you do decide to buy an ash vacuum, don’t go cheap. Safety is important, so be sure to purchase a quality unit.
We value your opinion. If you have any experience with the models reviewed above, or if you have any safety tips you’d like to share about stoves, grills, or fireplaces, please leave us a comment!