Updated January 24th, 2024
If you’ve ever tried to have a cozy fire in your backyard fire pit only to be met with a billowing cloud of smoke, you know the frustration. No one wants to sit around a smoky fire, especially when it’s so close to home. The good news is that there are a few easy ways to reduce the amount of smoke your fire pit produces. With a little bit of effort, you can enjoy all the benefits of a backyard fire without the hassle of smoke.
10 ways to reduce fire pit smoke
Let’s discuss some ways can have a more smoke free fire pit.
1 – Use dry/well seasoned fire wood.
The easiest way to reduce smoke from your fire pit is to use dry, well-seasoned firewood. Wet wood or green wood will produce more smoke than dry wood because it contains more water. When that water evaporates, it turns into steam and escapes as smoke. Seasoned wood, on the other hand, has had time to dry out and contains much less water. As a result, it will produce far less smoke when burned.
Green wood takes time to dry out after chopping. Freshly chopped wood will still be wet inside. To prepare firewood, chop it and then store it in a dry location until it has time to completely dry out. It can take 6 to 12 months for hardwood to completely dry out.
For the driest firewood possible consider purchasing kiln dried wood. This wood is dried out at elevated temperature to remove as much moisture as possible. Kiln dried hardwood will produce less smoke than any other type of firewood.
2 – Use manufactured logs for firewood
Manufactured logs such as Duraflame logs are also very clean burning and produce very little smoke. They can burn up to 80% cleaner than real logs. They are dry and ready to burn when you get them. They burn hot so you only need to burn one at time to generate heat for cooking. One log can burn for several hours so you don’t need to feed the fire as often.
3 – Clean your fire pit
A clean fire pit will also produce less smoke than a dirty one. Over time, soot and ash can build up on the sides of the firepit, which can cause the wood to smolder and produce more smoke. Give your firepit a good cleaning before each use to prevent this from happening.
Clean your fire pit by first removing the ashes and coals. You can use a shovel or hand broom. The cleaning method varies for firepits made of different materials.
- Steel or copper – Use soapy water and a cloth
- Cast iron – Use hot water and steel wool
- Stone or Brick – Use a muriatic acid solution and heavy duty brush.
See this article from Home Depot for more fire pit cleaning methods and tips.
4 – Stack firewood for good air flow
Stacking your firewood in the right way can also help reduce smoke production. Fire needs oxygen to burn, so if the wood is stacked too tightly, it will smolder and produce more smoke. You need to arrange the firewood so that air can flow into and out of the fire. Popular ways to stack wood are teepee or log cabin arrangements. The key is that air can flow into the bottom of the fire and flow out the top after it has heated and gone through combustion. You don’t want to stack a bunch of logs tightly together. Stack with some space between them.
5 – Use woods that naturally burn with less smoke
Hardwoods produce less smoke than others when burned. They are higher density and burn with more heat. That produces more complete combustion so less smoke. Good hardwoods include hickory, white oak, ash, beech, or hard maple. These woods are all known for producing less smoke.
Some softwoods also burn with less smoke. These are good if you want a lower temperature fire that will burn out faster. Good softwoods include Douglas, white spruce, cedar, and yellow pine.
Woods that are known to naturally produce a lot of smoke are Willow, Aspen, and Basswood trees along with almost all Coniferous trees such as pine trees and fir trees. Hemlock trees also produce poor firewood. They are very knotty and difficult to chop. They produce a lot of smoke and sparks when burning.
6 – Don’t use wood with high sap content
Woods with high sap content such as coniferous trees (trees that reproduce with cones such as pine trees) and firs should be avoided. They tend to produce more sap. Burning sap will produce a lot of smoke. It can also make lots of sparks.
7 – Don’t burn treated or painted wood
It’s never a good idea to burn treated wood or painted wood. Treated wood is treated with chemicals to make it resistant to rotting and decay. These chemicals can be harmful to your health if you are exposed to them in smoke. They won’t cut treated wood indoors at a Home Depot because of the fumes it gives off. That should give you a good hint that you shouldn’t burn it in your fire pit either.
Painted wood contains paint fumes that can be toxic if inhaled. The chemicals in paint and the fumes released can be very flammable and create sudden large flames and sparks.
8 – Don’t burn household debris such as newspaper, cardboard, and plastic.
Burning household debris such as newspaper or cardboard can also contribute to smokey fires. I will be the first to admit I’ve used newspaper to help get a fire going. Once it is lit, don’t put any more in. Household materials often contain chemicals that can be released into the air as toxins when burned making the smoke toxic for people sitting around it. It’s best to stick with woods that produce clean burning flames.
9 – Don’t burn forest debris or lawn debris such as pine cones, leaves, and grass clippings.
Burning forest debris such as pine cones and leaves can also contribute to increased smoke production because these materials often contain moisture and sap. This will create steam and soot which leads to more smoke. Ideally, you want everything that goes into your fire pit to be thoroughly dried out first. Harder woods will burn with less smoke than soft woods or small sticks and twigs.
It’s okay to use sticks, twigs, and pine cones as a fire starter, tinder, and kindling to get a fire going. Once you have your fuel lit, you don’t need to add any more to the fire.
10 – Use a Smokeless Fire Pit
If you want almost guaranteed smoke reduction, try using a smokeless fire pit. These pits are designed specifically for reduced smoke output and can be used with any type of fuel including charcoal, briquettes, pellets, or even standard firewood. Smokeless firepits have special air vent holes that increase air circulation in the fire and improve the secondary combustion of wood gases. This leads to more complete combustion and less smoke than a traditional fire pit. While they may cost slightly more upfront, they’re definitely worth it if you’re looking for an enjoyable smoke-free fire pit experience.
Smokeless fire pits will produce less smoke. They can’t make up for poor firewood choice. If you fill it full of wet softwoods and tons of newspaper it is still going to produce a ton of smoke.
A few good smokeless fire pits are the BioLite Firepit+ and Solo Bonefire 2.0 and Solo Stove Yukon.
See this review of the BioLite Firepit+ to learn more.
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About the author
My name is Doug Ryan. I am a homeowner and love having get togethers and finding the best things to make spending time at home easier and more fun. We spend a lot of time at home so why shouldn’t we have a great time there? I decided to start Budget Home Insider as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for all things home living with everyone.