How To Maintain a Fire pit

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Is there anything cozier than gathering around a fire pit in the backyard when the temperature drops? Late summer and fall evenings are a perfect time to enjoy a fire.  Making memories around the fire is a great way to connect with family and friends.  Enjoy outdoor cooking around the fire pit and add s’mores for a fun end to the evening.

To safely enjoy a fire in the backyard, you fire pit should be cleaned and maintained a couple times year.

Fire pits can use gas or wood to burn a fire and each have their pros and cons.  Fire pits can also be made from a variety of materials, which require different maintenance.  Follow these tips for taking care of your fire pit and ensuring you enjoy it safely for years to come.

Safety First

  • Always check with your local municipality on any fire bans or restrictions that might be in place before burning a fire
  • Ensure your fire is built away from windy conditions and any flammable items like houses, fences, garden sheds or trees
  • 15 feet is a good rule of thumb for distance
  • If you have a wood-burning fire pit, use clean and dry wood free of chemicals like paint or stain
  • Never leave a fire unattended – even in a few moments, a gust of wind can wreak havoc
  • Keep water or fire extinguisher nearby for emergencies
  • Always burn your fire out completely at the end of the night – avoid dousing it with fire until it’s nearly burned out to protect your fire pit from extreme temperatures.  Ensure your fire is cold before going to bed.
  • If you are using a gas fire pit, remember to turn off the switch and turn off the gas line before retiring for the evening


Ensure your fire pit is in good working condition by giving it a cleaning about every six months.  Depending on what it’s made of and whether you use wood or gas to fuel it, will factor into the maintenance routine.

Covering your fire pit with a fire pit cover will help keep out debris such as leaves, twigs and rainwater from accumulating.

Read these tips for each type of fire pit maintenance.   Protective gloves and eyewear is recommended when using cleaning materials.

A close-up of the round frying surface with burning wood inside.

Wood burning

Wood-burning fire pits should be cleaned after every use by removing the ashes as they can damage the fire pit if left too long.  Always make sure the embers are completely cooled before removing them.  Remove cold ashes with a shovel or trowel using a metal can for disposal.

When the fire pit is in need of cleaning more thoroughly, use warm soapy water and a soft cloth to clean the inside of the fire pit.  Make sure to dry it thoroughly with a dry clean cloth – water left in a fire pit can damage the material which is usually metal.

Outdoor zone for relax with burning fire pit


Gas fire pits don’t collect ashes so cleaning them tends to be easier and less messy. But you still need to make sure there is no debris (rocks, leaves, twigs) in the fire pit.  Using a cover for your gas fire pit is recommended to keep debris and water out of the pit.  While gas fire pits can tolerate some rain, you don’t want to leave water standing in the pit for too long as it can damage material.

Before cleaning, close the gas valve or shut off the gas line completely.  If you use a propane tank, detach it form the fire pit and store away from house in a ventilated area.

Check that the drains and vents are free of debris and clogs.  You can remove the fire glass to clean dirt or debris from your fire.pit but it’s not always necessary to do so.

Wipe down the outside of the fire pit with warm soapy water, do not use a hose as you don’t want water in the interior.  A soft cloth and soapy water on the interior and exterior is the best method. Dry both the interior and exterior with a dry clean cloth after cleaning.

Invest in a fire pit cover – they can range in budget and materials from canvas, cloth, vinyl, metal or stainless steel.  A good investment to protect your fire pit and make it easier to clean and maintain.

Steel or Metal

Many fire pits are constructed from steel or metal.  They can be cleaned with warm soapy water and a soft cloth for both the interior and exterior of the fire pit.  Make sure you rinse thoroughly with clean water and dry with a clean cloth.  Water sitting on metal can cause rust so don’t leave water sitting after cleaning.

Cast Iron

If your fire pit is made from cast iron, it’s a durable and tough material and can withstand the elements but it also requires a little extra effort to clean.  Cast iron is best cleaned with hot water and steel wool to scrub down the surface.  Protective gloves are recommended for the job.  Since cast iron can easily rust, use a dry clean cloth to thoroughly dry the surface after cleaning.  You’ll also want to avoid water building up in a cast iron pit.

There are also products specifically formulated for cleaning cast iron if you want to give it some extra TLC.


If your fire pit is made of brick or other stone material, you can clean the brick with a grease-fighting dish liquid and warm water.  If you have stubborn dirt, a natural solution is including  about 1/2 cup of baking soda with 3 tablespoons of dish soap to make a thin paste.  Spread paste on brick and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.  Then scrub off with a brush and rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Another cleaner that is effective for cleaning brick is vinegar (mix equal parts vinegar and water and use a spray bottle).

If you use a toxic cleaning solution for brick, make sure you wear protective clothing including gloves and eyewear.


If your fire pit has accumulated some rust on it, there are ways to spruce it up and get it looking good as new.

Some non-toxic cleaners for rust include the following:

White vinegar – scrub rust with steel wool and vinegar, make sure you thoroughly rinse and dry it off when done.

Baking soda – mix baking soda with water to form a thick past and leave on rusted areas for a few hours.  Scrub with steel wool or a stiff brush.  Rinse and dry when done

Lemon Juice and Salt – use salt on the rust and add lemon juice. Then wipe it clean and rinse and dry it thoroughly.  Lemon juice can damage the fire pit surface if left on too long.

You can also find many products specializing in rust removal if you have some stubborn items to clean.
A seating area around a fire pit overlooking a private dock on Smith Mountain Lake.
Image Credit: via Creative Commons

Enjoy a Safe Fire

With a little effort, you can clean and maintain your gas or wood burning fire pit to ensure you can enjoy it for many years to come.   Whether your fire pit is wood burning or gas, it’s a great place to gather around and make memories.