How to Clean a Camping Stove at the End of the Season

relaxing man

A hot meal is exactly what you need when you’re camping in the backcountry, especially after a long day of hiking and exploring. Since a camp stove is such an important piece of gear, you need to learn how to clean a camping stove, so you can store it properly and ensure it’s ready to go when the season begins. The best camping stove, a model that you can easily fire up and prepare your favorite meals, is essential to keeping you and your fellow campers happy and well-fed. However, if you don’t stay on top of upkeep, you’ll find that your stove isn’t able to cook your food as efficiently as it once did. Proper stove care and maintenance is essential and the best way you can ensure your stove is able to fire up right away, using its full power. This maintenance guide for camping stoves will walk you through the process and includes some helpful tips and tricks that will help your stove prepare your food faster, and more efficiently.

Getting Started

The right way to clean and maintain your stove can vary depending on the type of cooking you do, the type of fuel the stove uses, and the type of stove itself.  However, whether you have a single burner unit, or a multi-burner stove designed for glamping, many of the same cleaning techniques can be used.

Draining the Fuel

All stoves need to be drained of fuel to lengthen the life of a stove and to allow you to clean it safely. Before you start cleaning, make sure you’ve shut the stove off and drained the liquid, propane, or gas from the line. For this task, you’ll switch off the tank to stop the gas flow. Next, you’ll turn the stove on and light a burner to burn off any of the remaining fuel that’s left in the line.

Another option is to allow the liquid fuel to drip out or allow the gas to escape. If you’re using a propane stove, then you’ll hear the gas escaping for ten to fifteen seconds. Once the fuel is gone, you can safely start the cleaning process.

Cleaning Stainless Steel

Cleaning stainless steel can be tricky, but if done right, it’s a surface that will last the longest. Sparkling clean stainless steel will also instantly beautify your stove.

  • Begin cleaning the stainless steel by wiping it down with vinegar, using a microfiber cloth.
  • Be sure to rub or wipe down the surface in the direction of the grain to minimize spots and streaks. Vinegar is the most environmentally friendly cleaning agent; however, you can also use a stainless steel cleaner or rubbing alcohol.
  • For stubborn spots, try sprinkling some baking soda over the surface, then scrub it down with vinegar and the microfiber cloth. The chemical reaction that occurs between these substances can help to break up gunk and cooked on grease.
  • If you want to keep the stainless steel shining and make it easier to clean in the future, then grab some olive oil. Begin by dabbing a little of the oil on a cloth, then wipe the steel in the same direction as the grain. The layer of oil will provide a thin shield of protection against water and smudges, without making the surface feel greasy.

Painted Metal or Plastic Surfaces

woman cooking while camping

Cleaning painted plastic or metal surfaces is pretty simple. These surfaces are often treated with a type of heat resistant paint, so you’ll want to avoid using any type of abrasive chemical since this can cause the paint to peel.

Painted metal and plastic surfaces tend to respond well to dish soap and hot water. You’ll need a good scrubbing pad; however, you’ll want to avoid using steel wool since it’s too abrasive and can scratch the paint.

Storing Your Stove

When you break your stove out of storage during the camping season, cleaning it up should be a fast and simple process, unless you’ve neglected to clean it properly before you stored it for the off-season.

Before storing your stove, give it a good cleaning and store it in the same package it came with. This will protect it from dirt, dust, scratches, and more.

If you’ve tossed the box, then you can also store it in some two-gallon Ziploc bags. If the stove is very large, store it inside a trash bag and tie it well. This will keep mice and insects away.

Burner Cleanup

The burners are the heart and soul of a camping stove. The burners consist of several small holes where the fuel comes out. It’s important to keep these holes free from grease, dirt and grime, otherwise your stove may have a hard time lighting.

To clean the burners, follow the steps below:

  • Use a screwdriver to unscrew the burners from their base
  • Use hot water and dish soap to scrub the burner holes.
  • You can take a safety pin or a paper clip and use it to poke out any residue that’s clogging the holes.
  • Rinse the burners well in hot water
  • Allow the burners to air dry for six to eight hours
  • The burners must be fully dry before you attempt to relight them, otherwise, they may not light due to moisture trapped inside them. If the burners fail to light, you’ll be releasing flammable gas into the air.

Cleaning the Knobs

The trickiest part of the stove to keep clean is the knobs. But if you stay on top of wiping them off whenever you cook, upkeep will be a cinch. If the knobs need a deep clean, then pop them off the stove. Next, you’ll use an old toothbrush to clean the knobs inside and out. Knobs that are clean will make it easy to control the flame’s setting and the stove’s heat output.

Dealing with Baked-On Grease

If the stove has a grill on it, then you may need to give the grill a good scrubbing. For tough baked-on spots, scrubbing down the grill will be the best option. You can also soak it beforehand to help loosen up any baked-on oil or grime.

Drying Out Your Stove

The best method to dry out your camp stove is to allow it to air dry for several hours. However, you will also need to remove several pieces from the stove to ensure that it’s able to dry as thoroughly as possible. This can involve unscrewing the burners, removing the knobs, and disconnecting the hose.

The more airflow the stove has, the faster and more efficiently it will dry. Make sure you turn everything upside down to allow the water to easily flow out.

Treating Rust

Rust is just like a parasite. It spreads quickly, destroying everything in its path. If you notice any rust on the burners or on the surface of the stove, make sure you address it right away. You can use steel wool or a grill stone to remove the rust, or you can use dry or wet sandpaper to scrub it by hand. The warmer the rust is, the easier it is to remove. Because of this, it’s a good idea to tackle any rust once you’ve finished cooking and the stove’s elements are nice and hot.

Once you’ve gotten rid of the rust, make sure you apply a protective coat of oil to keep water off the stove’s surface.

Handling Boil Overs

couple cooking while camping

Boiling over a pot of rice, noodles, or soup is one of the leading causes of rust. To prevent rust, you’ll need to dry your stove out thoroughly, once you’re done cooking for the day.

To do, you’ll unscrew the burners and use a towel to soak up any liquid. If possible, flip the stove upside down to dry.

Steam Cleaning

If your home oven has a steam cleaning option, it usually involves placing a cup of water in the bottom of the oven, then pushing the self-clean button. The stove will heat up and steam everything inside, which loosens up grime, grease, and dirt. If you have a camping stove that’s absolutely filthy and covered in caked-on food and grease and made out of all metal, place it in your oven during a self-clean and it will also give your camping stove a great steam clean. You cannot use this trick if your camping stove has any rubber tubing or plastic pieces, since they will melt or warp.

Ammonia to the Rescue

If your burners or stove still look terrible after trying several of these cleaning tricks, then it’s time to use some ammonia. This strong-smelling harsh chemical should only be used as a last resort.

To use, take a quarter cup of ammonia and pour it into a plastic bag with greasy stove components inside. Shake the bake to ensure everything is well-coated. Allow the components to soak in the bag overnight, placing the bag in the sink. In the morning, you can carefully pour out the ammonia and run the parts of the stove under the faucet to remove any trace of the harsh chemical and any remaining grime.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to clean a camping stove is an important part of gear maintenance. Staying on top of your stove’s cleaning needs is essential, since this will help to cut down on the amount of cleaning you’ll need to do at the end and the beginning of each camping season. It will also ensure that your stove works perfectly. Wipe your stove down after each use and check for rust, caked on grime, and grease. Doing so will help to prolong the life of your stove. At the end of each season, you’ll need to give your stove a deep clean and dry it and store it properly, so it’s ready to go once the weather turns warmer.