As you use your bee smoker, soot and tar build up within the smoker body and spout. Also, with regular use, the bellows may crack or break, contributing to leaks that affect overall smoker performance. The good news is that keeping your smoker in top shape will save a lot of frustration out in the bee yard. Learn how to care for yours following these easy smoker cleaning and maintenance tips.
The smoker itself needs attention to prevent sticky sooty build-up. Regularly scrape off the meeting surfaces of the lid and body while the smoker is warm to keep them from getting gummed up with creosote, and perform a deeper clean when needed.
Remove the grate from the bottom of the smoker and clean out the holes — a screwdriver or the edge of your hive tool may do the trick — and clean any debris from beneath the grate by scraping it away. The grate, which may eventually get burned up, can be replaced when necessary.
Remove the bellows and ensure the tube and airflow hole are clean. If they’re plugged, clean away any debris to improve smoker operation. While cleaning the bellows tube, also check the bellows for leaks that may need to be repaired. If your smoker bellows become stiff or break, they can often be replaced.
If your smoker is properly lit, but only giving off a little smoke, it may be time for a thorough clean. Regardless, you should clean your bee smoker annually to ensure it is performing its best. Smoker maintenance is a fine pre-season chore that can make your old smoker feel brand new. If cleaning and replacing smoker parts doesn’t quite cut it, it may be time to replace your bee smoker — but, most of the time a full clean does the trick.
Over time, depending on the smoker fuel you use, you may get a big build-up of gunk inside the smoker and the lid. When that happens you can easily clean it up, even if it’s hard as a rock.
There are two well-known methods to do that, and we gathered Betterbee staff members’ personal smokers and put the cleaning options to the test out in our parking lot. See which two methods came out on top.
The first method, which worked best on smokers with a moderate amount of burnt-on gunk, was to fill the body and lid cavity with crumpled newspaper (image 1) and then set the newspaper on fire with a butane barbeque lighter. This produced a lot of smoke, but when things had died down, the remaining residue was light, flakey, and very easy to scrape out (image 2).
The second method, using a propane torch (image 3), was the best way to clean smokers that had a deep layer of hardened creosote. In our tests, there was such a thick layer in some of the smokers that their spouts were nearly closed up.
Heavy gloves are needed to do this safely. With the torch lit, apply it to the inside of the smoker and lid, keeping it moving around as you see the creosote puff out and catch fire. It’s important to have a light touch as you don’t want to heat the smoker up enough to compromise the welds. Stop now and then to scrape out the melted black stuff while it is still warm (image 4).
For a deeper clean, you may find that you need to soak and scrub your smoker. To do this, remove the bellows and submerge your smoker in a white vinegar and water solution. Allow it to soak for a few hours — or overnight if you wish. Use a cotton rag to wipe away the grime, rinse your smoker thoroughly, then allow it to dry completely before reassembling.
Bee smoker cleaning should be part of your annual maintenance plan. It keeps the smoker performing better, helping you stay safe while working with your bees. For more beekeeping equipment tips, explore our Beekeeper’s Guide.