Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Product Review: An Ash Vacuum

I used some of my Christmas money this year to buy an ash vacuum from Tractor Supply Company.  Anyone who has a woodburning stove knows that ashes have a habit of landing in places that you don't want them, and a vacuum is the easiest, quickest, and most thorough method of cleaning them up.  

We've got quite a history with vacuums used for ash removal in this house.  When we first moved in when I was six years old, we exchanged houses with my grandparents who lived next door here on the farm.  My grandmother left her Hoover 2201 here, and we used it to vacuum up ashes around the Washington Stoveworks parlor stove that was in the enclosed south porch.  

A Hoover 2201 identical to the one Granny
left here in 1981.  Photo courtesy of Pinterest.

We used this vacuum for perhaps two or three years until I accidentally sucked up a live ember.  The air rushing through the vacuum cleaner's system quickly fanned the ember into flames, and the machine was ruined. 

After that, we brought up the Airway Sanitizer Vacuum that had been our basement vacuum cleaner even when we lived in the little house.  I think this one belonged to my great-grandparents on my dad's side.  It was just like the one in the picture below, only we still had the original cloth hose.

An old Airway Sanitizer Vacuum like 
the one we had.  Photo from Pinterest.

I'm not sure what happened to end this vacuum cleaner's career.  I suspicion that in the days before the almighty internet, we were no longer able to find bags for it.  I cannot say for sure, though.  At any rate, it served as the vacuum for the heating stove in the south porch for at least a decade, which coincided with the time that we had an Englander heating stove.

The next vacuum that was used regularly was my Kirby Generation 3.  Around the time that Nancy and I started dating, however, I vacuumed up a wood chip that ruined the fan.  Thus, on one of Nancy's and my earliest dates, we had to deliver my vacuum cleaner to the Kirby repairman in Council Bluffs.

We hadn't been married long when we went to an auction in rural Shelby County, Iowa.  At that auction, Nancy was excited to find a Eureka Mighty Mite just like the one her mother has.  We purchased it for a whopping $7.00 and have considered it a blessing ever since.  Its arrival occurred near the time we replaced the Englander with a Jøtul.

The Mighty Mite was doing a fantastic job of ash removal for us, but its bags are quite small, and with some recent store closures in our area, we are only able to purchase the bags online.  Cleaning up ashes seems to fill vacuum bags more quickly than plain dirt removal.  Further, the memory of what happened to the Hoover 2201 is still strong in my mind, and I don't want a repeat performance!  Thus, I've been looking at ash vacuums half-heartedly for a while and finally decided to take the plunge and buy one.

Our local Tractor Supply store carries a brand called REDºStone, which is priced at less than $50.  Designed to be similar to a shop vac, it has no bag.  Instead, whatever is vacuumed up travels through a flexible aluminum hose to a metal base.  The motor and filter assembly clamp to the top of the metal base.  While the instructions caution the operator not to vacuum up live coals, with both a metal hose and metal dust bin if a burning ember does inadvertently make it into the machine, the risk of fire is greatly reduced.

The Margin Gem is equipped with small shelves to catch ashes when you open the front firebox door and the ash removal door.  They do their job very well until they are full, and then the ashes fall on the floor.  

The ash vacuum is the perfect tool to clean up all of this.

The suction that this machine has is really quite impressive--much stronger than what I think is usual for a regular household vacuum cleaner.

The feature of this vacuum that most surprised and pleased me has to do with the air filter.  First, when I unboxed it, I found that each vacuum is shipped with an extra air filter.  Secondly, the air filters are washable!  I consider this a fantastic feature.  In the picture below, I'm flushing the air filter clean under running water according to the directions provided.

You can see in the picture below that it cleaned up very well.  Twenty-four hours later, it had dried completely.  A quick turn of a wing-nut reattached it to the motor housing, and the vacuum was working as good as new.

Overall, I'm very pleased with this ash vacuum, and I would recommend the purchase of one to any serious woodburner.  

And now, just for record keeping purposes, I want to attach pictures of our outdoor thermometers this morning.  As you can see, it was a bit nippy in southwestern Iowa!

Through a frost, dirty porch window,
you can see that this thermometer read

Our digital thermometer, whose outdoor sensor is
on the north side of the summer kitchen, always 
registers slightly warmer than the other.  Either
way, it was COLD here this morning.

So very glad to have a woodburning cookstove on mornings like this!


  1. We have an airway that my mom's grandma had. We can still get bags for it. Something happened with the motor and it was rebuilt and is now very loud when running/powering down. It does work well. Unfortunately part of the foot pedal broke off.

  2. Also, my neighbor's Home Comfort has a similar little "shelf" under the ash drawer to catch ashes when pulling the drawer out.

    1. Good to hear from you, Tim! Yes, the Airways did a good job for a vacuum that age, and I've seen the Home Comfort shelves you spoke of. I would think those shelves would also have been sort of a safety measure since a lot of the old cookstoves sat directly on the floor rather than on a protective floor pad.

  3. Need a vac, have a shop vac..tempted to use it, but also use it in the house and too much ash gets through the filter and back into house.
    Where does the air moving through that one come out, just back into the room
    I was very impressed with the filter after you cleaned it...might be on my 'to get list' now.
    Our wood stove is home made and has a chamber above the firebox the keeps more of the heat in the stove for more heat in the room , but it needs a thorough cleaning.
    Our wood cook stove sits directly on our concrete floor with floor tiles on it.

    1. Hi, Gemma's person! Welcome to my blog and thank you for your comments!

      The air re-enters the room through the circular vent on the lid which is at about 11:30 on the picture above which shows the lid of the vacuum in front of the stove. It is nice that it exits there because you don't have to worry about it blowing un-vacuumed ashes around the room like we did with the Mighty Mite, which exhausted out the back.