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Wood Stove Smells When Not in Use? Top 5 Causes (+ Fixes)

Wood stoves provide excellent heat, but nobody wants to deal with the smell that potentially comes afterward. Burning wood emits all sorts of odors, so it’s important to keep your wood stove clean and tidy. These smells are pungent and can spread into carpet, furniture, and paint on the walls.

A wood stove smells when it’s not in use because of these explanations:

  • Soot buildup
  • Non-wood fuel sources
  • Mold and mildew
  • Chemical-packed wood
  • Lack of proper airflow

Throughout this article, we’ll show you the five reasons your wood stove smells bad when you’re not using it. We’ll also dive into the details about how you can prevent it from happening and a few tips to get rid of the odors.

Too Much Soot

According to Hunker, excess soot buildup is a leading cause of questionable smells in wood stoves. Soot is a byproduct of burning wood, but there are many ways to prevent it from building up. This ashy, black substance feels like chalk and can permeate through air fresheners, candles, wax melters, and other pleasant scents.

The easiest way to know if soot is the source of the bad odors is to look inside the wood-burning stove. Is there a black chalky texture? Do you see a lot of charcoal under the wood? These two observations are strong indicators of soot. Removing the soot can have immediate effects, but it’s best to tackle the problem before it’s too late.

How to Fix

The easiest way to get rid of soot in a wood-burning stove is to use the Pine Mountain Creosote Buster Log. All you have to do is toss the log into the stove and burn it for three or more hours. The soot falls off of the interior walls and glass, letting you scoop it out with ease. Wipe down the glass with vinegar and water.

Burning Non-Wood Fuel

Wood-burning stoves should only be used with wood. Steer clear of lighter fluid, table scraps, garbage, and other debris when using the stove. Unlike outdoor firepits and bonfires, wood-burning stoves don’t have the ability to get rid of the debris as quickly. It’ll leave all sorts of odors on the surrounding furniture, not to mention the soot buildup.

Burning some substances in a wood-burning stove can be toxic. For example, many plastics and styrofoams release dangerous chemicals. These harsh contaminants leave strong odors behind, making your stove smell gross for a long time after they’re done burning.

How to Fix

Never burn non-wood fuel in a wood stove. If you did, follow this process:

  1. Let the wood stove cool down and remove all of the debris, including the wood.
  2. Sweep the soot and leftover charcoal from the stove.
  3. Place the previously mentioned anti-creosote log into the stove and burn it until it’s gone.
  4. Use regular, non-treated wood in the stove from now on.

Mold and Mildew Around the Stove

A wood stove is a perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. If you don’t use your stove often enough or you burn wet wood, mold can grow in the grout, wood, and other surfaces. Every time you use the stove, you’ll burn some of the mold. Not only does this process release dangerous mold spores, but it also produces gross smells.

Failure to clean your wood stove will almost always result in mold growth. The ambient humidity is typically enough to promote mildew and mold. Combine them with a dark, porous place in the wood stove, and it doesn’t get much more ideal. Fortunately, you can prevent mold, mildew, and bacteria with our suggestions below.

How to Fix

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Mix one cup of white vinegar with one cup of water.
  2. Spray the solution inside of the stove, including on the glass.
  3. Let the mixture soak into the porous surfaces for five minutes, then apply it again.
  4. Scrub the inside of the stove with a stiff bristle brush or an abrasive sponge.
  5. Wipe the glass with the white vinegar and water solution until it’s clean.

Chemical-Coated Wood

Burning wood infused with firestarters and other chemicals is a bad idea for wood stoves. It’s bad for the environment (especially if the stove is inside), and it can cause unpleasant odors. Fireplace Town explains many people use chemical-treated wood without realizing how strong the off-gassing can be.

So, why does chemical-treated wood cause the stove to smell?

  • Different chemicals leave different scents, all of which can be unpleasant.
  • Chemically-treated wood is often a lower quality because the company relies on the chemicals rather than wood.

How to Fix

To fix this common problem, simply don’t use anything that’s been treated. Cured with is all you need for a wood-burning stove. It’ll keep it in good condition for many years to come rather than releasing unwanted chemicals and odors.

If you used a chemically-treated log, remove it and sweep out the soot. Replace the log with a traditional firelog, and you’ll be good to go.

Not Enough Ventilation

If there’s not enough air movement in the wood stove, you’ll have to deal with these three issues:

  • Soot
  • Mold
  • Stale air

Ventilation is crucial for wood-burning stoves because it lets the fumes escape. It also prevents the debris from getting stuck, causing long-term fire hazards.

How to Fix

Follow these recommendations to improve your wood stove’s ventilation:

  • SFGate suggests removing the soot regularly to prevent it from clogging the airways.
  • Open the air vents on your stove (if it has any).
  • Clean the debris out of the stove and toss old firelogs to keep them from limiting the airflow.
  • Prop open the stove’s door every so often to let it aerate and remove built-up odors.
  • Don’t use more logs than the manufacturer recommends since they can clog the stove.

These tips will help with unwelcome smells while promoting better oxygen flow, thus improving the fire’s quality. You’ll have warmer, longer-lasting fires without the gross soot scents and unhealthy air quality.


  • Steve Rajeckas

    Steve Rajeckas is an HVAC hobbyist with an avid interest in learning innovative ways to keep rooms, buildings, and everything else at the optimal temperature. When he's not working on new posts for Temperature Master, he can be found reading books or exploring the outdoors.

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