Ash can hold on to heat for a very long time, up to a week or longer. Never dispose of ash into a flammable container! If in doubt, contact a professional.
With use, your patio fire pit is going to build up waste ashes that need to be removed. When possible the fire pit should be cleaned after each use, as leaving the ashes can hasten the deterioration of the metal bottom a of stand-alone fire pit. Cleaning out the pit presents some eco-friendly ideas for disposing of the ashes and debris.
Fire Pits with Ash Trays
Many stand-alone fire pits have a tray or drawer that slides out, making the removal of ashes and debris relatively effortless. Other types may have a small door that opens, and the debris can be removed using a small shovel or scoop. Use a brush with a horizontal handle to reach inside the opening and sweep out any remaining ashes.
Remove the Spark Screen
Remove the cover and spark screen from the patio fire pit. In most cases, these will either be racks that set into place, or are held on with simple finger-switches. Clean them with a stiff whisk brush and warm soapy water. For extreme build-up, a wire brush may be required. If you wait to clean these pieces, you can use a cleaning solution made from the ashes contained in the pit. Hardwood ash is especially effective as a cleanser.
Remove Major Debris
Look inside the brick fire pit and remove any large pieces of wood that have not burned up. These pieces can be reused later to avoid waste, so set them aside. Once the fire pit has been cleaned out, this material can be put back inside to await the next lighting. Scoop out the major portion of the ashes, and place them in a bucket or bag.
Sweep to Center and Remove
An outside fire pit is pretty simple to clean out. Sweep the ashes to the center of the pit, and then scoop out the resulting pile. Many fire pits have a deeper recessed area in the very bottom for ash collection for easy removal of the material. Inspect any drain or ventilation openings, and make sure that they have not become clogged.
Replace Spark Screen and Cover
Once the pit has been cleaned out, place the reusable wood pieces in the pit. Put the spark screen in place and attach the fire pit cover to protect it from animals and poor weather conditions.
Don't Dispose - Reuse
Instead of putting the ashes and small bits of wood debris in the trash, put it to good use instead. During winter months, wood ash can be used as an environmentally safe way to de-ice walkways. In the spring, it makes an excellent addition to plant and potting soil, adding vital minerals into the soil. A paste made from sifted ashes can be applied to linen and other fabrics to help lift out stubborn stains. If nothing else, use it as a bio-degradable cleanser for use on lawn furniture or wood and vinyl fencing. Always treat wood ash the same as you would a household poison such as lye, ammonia, or bleach.
The following article is from http://www.doityourself.com/stry/how-to-clean-a-patio-fire-pit
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