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Hive smokers should serve for many years before needing replacement. Regular maintenance will extend the tool’s life and ensure that the flow of smoke isn’t blocked.
Keep reading if you want to learn how to clean a bee smoker. This guide walks you through several ways to remove soot, gunk, and creosote so that it looks like new.
How do I clean a bee smoker?
To keep a bee smoker clean, it is best to regularly scrape soot and residue from the tool while it is still hot. The occasional deep clean using creosote cleaner, extreme heat, or a bath of vinegar and water are all good options.
1. Creosote remover (easy option)
Rutland Creosote Remover is a non-toxic, environmentally safe powder that does a great job of cleaning hive smokers. If you don’t like the idea of exposing the colony to chemicals, torch inside the smoker once it’s clean. This hack will remove any leftover cleaning product.
Use a commercial cleaner outside with ventilation, or place the smoker in your woodstove if you have one.
- Start by adding a big layer of pine shavings (or similar fuel) and two handfuls of coals to the smoker.
- Use a fire igniter to get a fire roaring inside, then close it and allow the chamber to heat up. The internal temperature needs to reach 265°F (129°C) before the cleaner activates.
- Open the smoker and scatter one-third of a scoop of Rutland Creosote Remover into the chamber. Close the lid and allow the fire to burn its course.
The unwanted black sooty substance should now break off easily.
2. Newspaper burn (moderate residue)
Fire boxes with a moderate buildup of soot and tar can use the newspaper method. This solution is a simple approach to cleaning which is highly effective.
- Stuff crushed-up balls of newspaper into the smoker until it’s full.
- Light the paper, wait for it to burn out, then scrape off the flakey leftovers. It should come off easily; otherwise, consider using a propane torch.
3. Propane torch (heavy residue)
The propane torch gets the best results for smokers with deep layers of hardened creosote. It is a no-nonsense approach that blasts off any unwanted buildup.
Before lighting the torch, apply heavy gloves and other safety gear to stop you from getting burnt.
Apply the flame to the sooty gunk, ensuring it is constantly moving over the surface. The black substance should expand and catch alight briefly. This is an opportune time to scrape the hot melted goop while soft.
4. Soaking (natural approach)
To deep clean a hive smoker without using flame or commercial chemicals, a good solution is soaking the tool instead.
- Start by scraping the layer of soot from the chamber’s inside walls with a screwdriver or hive tool. Most of it should come off in chunks or flakes. Be sure to also remove the perforated base plate and clean underneath.
- Fill a bucket with hot water and a cup of white vinegar or baking soda.
- Cover the air tube to the bellows with tape or plug it with a cork. Then tie the smoker up with twine so it is suspended in a bucket with the bellows out of the water. Toss the fire base plate into the liquid if the tool has one.
- Allow the tool to soak for 5-10 hours, then remove it and use a hive tool and rag to scrape and wipe it clean.
While the device may still have some stains, it should now be in much better condition.
Related reading: What is the history of bee smokers?
What parts of the hive smoker do I clean?
Most of the sooty buildup collects on the upper section of the canister. However, it’s worth giving the whole device a thorough wash once a year:
- Remove the bellows and check that the airflow hole and tube are clean and debris-free. If the bellows are stiff or have leaks, replace them.
- Pull out the base grate if your smoking device has one, and remove any buildup. A hive tool or screwdriver works well.
3 reasons to clean a beehive smoker
- The resin at the top of the firebox can catch alight if there’s too much. This fire creates hot smoke that agitates bees.
- Too much buildup of tar and debris will cause the smoker to malfunction or give off less smoke.
- Regular cleaning of hive tools and equipment helps combat the spread of disease to different hives and locations.
Commonly asked questions
How often should I clean a bee smoker?
Beekeepers should give their bee smokers a deep clean once a year. This will help stay on top of creosote buildup and identify damaged or worn components. If it’s in a state of disrepair, check out our favorite bee smokers, available online.
What should I avoid when cleaning a hive smoker?
Most abrasive cleaners contain toxic materials or chemicals that can harm bees, so avoid these products. If you use any cleaning product, be sure to torch the smoker afterward to burn off any residual chemicals.
How long does it take to clean a bee smoker?
The time it takes to clean a bee smoker will vary depending on the method. If you burn and scrape off any gunk, it can be cleaned within 15 minutes. Soaking the smoker in vinegar and water will require roughly 10 hours of soaking before the residue can be removed.
Cleaning a bee smoker ensures it functions correctly, produces sufficient smoke, and doesn’t cause any harm to the bees. The four ways to clean a smoker discussed in this guide are using a commercial cleaner, heating with fire or a butane torch, and soaking. They’ll help keep your tool in top shape.
Depending on the severity of the buildup, beekeepers can choose a method that works best for them. It is crucial to avoid abrasive cleaners containing toxic materials harmful to the bees.
With regular cleaning, beekeepers can maintain a smoker’s effectiveness and longevity. A cared-for smoker will keep you safe when aggressive bees come knocking at your door.