How to Properly Clean Your Fireplace

Ray Leonzi

Nothing beats a crackling fire on a cold winter day. Fires provide warmth, comfort and can even be used for cooking. While fires can be wonderful, they do require some additional responsibilities. If you use your fireplace regularly, then it should be thoroughly cleaned periodically. The overall process is relatively simple but listed below is a step by step guide on how to clean your fireplace.


This seems obvious, but never clean a hot fireplace

Wait a minimum of 48 hours after your last fire. If there are still any warm coals, wait to clean out the fireplace as they can be a fire hazard or you could burn yourself.


Cover the carpet and surrounding area

Wood burning creates a tremendous amount of ash and soot. Lay down plastic sheeting or newspaper around the fireplace so you don't stain your carpet. Since fireplace cleaning is a messy task, be sure to use a face mask and wear old clothes.


Clean the damper

Locate the fireplace damper and clean it off using a stiff brush. If you can’t find the damper, ask for help as creosote and soot can build up very quickly.


Clean the ashes from the fireplace hearth

Sweep out the ashes using a dustpan and hand broom and place them in a lined trash can. If there are a large amount of ashes you may need to repeat the process several times.


Remove any remaining particles

A vacuum or shop vac is ideal to remove the rest of the debris.


Scrub your fireplace with a solution

There are fireplace cleaning solutions available, but vinegar and water typically works well. Mix one part vinegar to two parts water and add a teaspoon of baking soda for scouring power. Another alternative solution is one gallon of water and a cup of bleach. Use a stiff brush with the solution and scrub all areas of the hearth.


Clean the fire grate and fire tools

Steel wool and metal polish can be used to restore these fireplace items to their former attractiveness. After they are polished, use the vinegar and water cleaner to remove any polish residue as it may be flammable. Thoroughly dry all of the items before placing them back so rust does not form.


Wipe down the area around the fireplace

If there is ash and soot in the surrounding area, first use a hand broom or vacuum cleaner then wipe it with a clean rag and the vinegar solution.


Pick up the plastic sheeting or newspapers and throw them away

It is recommended to vacuum the entire area to ensure there aren't any remaining ashes or soot on the floor.


Replace the fire grate and fire tools

For a finishing touch, consider adding a log or two in the fireplace and restocking the indoor wood supply. This way your home looks nice and you will be ready to start your next fire.


Cleaning a fireplace isn't difficult. Fireplace cleaning helps the fireplace burn cleaner and keeps your home fresh. When done every few months, fireplace cleaning is easy to do and maintain. Keep your fireplace clean so you can enjoy it on those cold winter nights.

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What Every Hiker Needs in Their Backpack

Ray Leonzi

Whether you’re getting out on a weekend day hike, exploring a scenic view with a waterfall or taking an extending backpacking trip, there are some essentials all hikers should bring with them. Hiking is different than camping where you are typically much more prepared and have all of the necessary gear, tools and clothing you could possibly need. When packing for your hiking trip focus on items that are lightweight and great for emergency preparedness. If you prepare for the worst and take simple precautions, you’ll have a safe and enjoyable outing. Here's a list of top hiking essentials you should never forget:




It goes without saying that you need water on a hike. However, make sure you bring enough for the duration of your trip and that everyone in your party has enough. There’s nothing worse than being thirsty at the end of a two day hike and deciding who gets the last drop. If possible, bring a LifeStraw or similar type water filter as backup just in case.



Food for hikers typically consists of trail mix and energy bars. These snacks keep your body going all day long on the trail. Bring some freeze dried food, which is light and can sustain your group if you get lost or have to wait out bad weather.



Fire is one of our most basic needs. You might think there is no way you’ll need it until you get lost on a hike and the sun goes down. Camping alone on the side of a mountain is less worrisome if you have matches and Coffee Wick Fire Starters to keep you warm.


First Aid Kit

Cuts, scrapes and blisters are the most likely injuries on a hike, but you should be more prepared just in case. A small first aid kit should provide you with the bulk of supplies you may need. Alternatively, you can create your own kit with band aids, aspirin, gauze, moleskin (for blisters), ointments and other medicine.



Definitely a must have for every hiker. Sometimes a hike can take longer than expected and you don’t want to be stuck in the dark before you get back to the trailhead. Headlamps are a nice addition that are easy to use and keep your hands free to read a map or help others in your party.


Map and Compass

Trails aren’t like highways, sometimes it can be difficult to stay on the trail. A topographical map from the USGS is the best, but a trail map or even a local area map will help you find your way back to civilization. In addition, you should always have a compass with you to help find the direction you are going. Try using a map and compass at home, so you know how to use it if necessary.



You should always have a pocket knife or multi-use tool with you when you go into the wilderness. Perhaps the most important hiking item, as there are hundreds of uses for a knife. From getting a splinter out to fashioning an emergency shelter, knives are indispensable tools that can make the difference in an emergency.



The sound of a whistle travels much further than the sound of your voice. Whistles can be used for emergencies, as a signal to other members of a group or to scare off wild animals.


Rain Jacket/Poncho

Particularly at higher elevations, the weather can change in an instant. At the very least you should pack a poncho which can keep you dry and be used as an emergency shelter. You may want to throw in a space blanket to use as a makeshift sleeping bag and keep you toasty warm.


Hand Sanitizer

Keep it clean on the trail with hand sanitizer after eating or going to the bathroom. It’s lightweight and saves your water for drinking.


Make sure to pack these items on your next hiking trip and you can rest assured that you’ll be ready for anything.




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Fun Family Activities To Do While Camping

Ray Leonzi

Camping outdoors with kids is one of the best things to do during the summer. After you set up camp, the next thing you will likely hear from your family is what do we do now? In this day and age, many family members are often too reliant on technology and not used to being in the wilderness. Getting away from civilization and focusing on fun camping activities will ensure a memorable experience.


Camping Storytime

There is something magical about the time-honored tradition of telling stories around the campfire. It is a fun activity where everyone can participate and encourages creativity, bonding and laughter. Getting your fire started is easy using Coffee Wick Fire Starters with some kindling and firewood. After your fire pit is going strong, gather your group together and take turns telling stories. The story can be scary, funny, an actual experience or completely made up. After everyone has told their stories, the group should vote on which one they liked the most. 


Hiking is a great way to explore the outdoors while camping


Usually one of the first camping activities, hiking provides a great way to get some fresh air, see wildlife and experience the peace and tranquility of scenic backdrops. Review park maps to find the right trail so everyone in your family can enjoy the experience.

  Playing cornhole is a great fun family game to play while camping 

Cornhole / Beanbag Toss Game

Bean bag toss is an easy and enjoyable game for the whole family. Players stand next to their opponents target and take turns tossing bags at an elevated platform with a hole in the middle. A bean bag that stays on the board gets one point and a bag in the hole is worth three points. The team or player that reaches twenty-one points first wins the game.

  Going fishing is a must while camping with the family 


Even if you don’t go very often, fishing near your campsite is a fun activity that allows you to unwind and spend time with the kids. If the fishing is slow you can take a nap on shore and when the fish are biting you might even catch your dinner!

  Canoing is a great activity to do with the family on your next camping trip  

Canoeing and Kayaking

The majority of popular campsites are found near rivers or lakes. You can get a kayak or canoe rental to enjoy the gleaming water and get a little exercise.


Searching for wildlife during your next camping trip is a must do activity 

Watching Wildlife and Sight Seeing

You’re already out in nature so why not stop and appreciate the scenery? Take some time during your camping trip to explore and see animals such as birds, deer and elk in their natural environment. Speak with park rangers to find ideal places for sightseeing and keep in mind that the best time to see wildlife is around sunset.


 Playing capture the flag on your next camping trip can be so much fun 

Capture the Flag

A classic game that is always fun while camping. All you need is some land, two groups of people and two flags. The goal is to capture the enemy’s flag and bring it back on your side without being tagged or captured. The first team to safely bring back the other team’s flag wins.


When you’re ready to relax from all of the day’s camping activities and games, grab a beverage and make some s’mores in the campfire. Don’t forget to bring your Coffee Wick Fire Starters to keep the camping fun going!

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10 Things Every Camper Needs To Take On A Camping Trip

Ray Leonzi2 comments

Whether you’re an experienced camper or just starting out, camping is the best way to get outdoors and enjoy nature with friends and family. However, if you’re not prepared, forgetting some necessary camping items can turn a fun time into a disaster. Here are the 10 camping essentials you must bring on your trip to ensure a good time.


It goes without saying that you have to have a tent to go camping. Sure you can be “adventurous” without one, but the rest of the family probably won’t be too excited the next time you want to head up to the mountains. Make sure to purchase a tent large enough for your group and their personal items. To help protect your tent, be sure to use a waterproofing solution on the seams of your tent.

Sleeping Bag

A common mistake for new campers to make is bringing the wrong type of sleeping bag on their trip. Purchase a sleeping bag that is rated above the night time low temperature of your camp location. If you’re camping in the mountains in spring or fall, temperatures can dip below freezing so a mummy bag will keep you nice and toasty.


You may not be aware that most tents are water resistant, but not waterproof. Protect your tent from rain, by securing the tarp above the tent in a slightly sloping manner so the water will flow away from your tent. Bring at least two tarps with you as nothing can ruin your camping trip more than a wet sleeping bag. Tarps can also be used as an impromptu shelter or to cover your outdoor cooking area. 

Fire Starters

There is almost always wood for a fire near your campsite, but how do you start it? Having a reliable firestarter is without a doubt a camping necessity. Coffee Wick Fire Starters are the best way to start your camp fires, fire pits, and charcoal grills. Coffee Wick Fire Starters are a great option and made from recycled coffee grounds and soy wax. Soy wax is all natural, burns cleaner and longer than paraffin and makes starting a fire in your fire pit quick and easy. 


You can’t build a fire without them so be sure to bring strike anywhere matches which are the best. Keep your matches stored in a plastic bag to prevent them from getting wet. If you expect inclement conditions, consider bringing waterproof matches. 

First Aid Kit

There should already be a small first aid kit in your car or truck, but bringing a larger first aid kit is essential for camping. Keep in mind, the further away you are from civilization, the more comprehensive your kit should be. Consider stocking specialty items, such as a rattlesnake kit, if you are camping in unique terrain or conditions. 

Pots, Pans and Cooking Utensils

Cooking outdoors is a great opportunity to create special memories. Don’t forget to bring the pots, pans and cooking utensils or you’ll have a hard time cooking on an open fire. Making flapjacks on a cast iron skillet or cooking baked potatoes on a camp fire can be a delightful time if everyone in the family is involved. Don’t forget to finish off your delicious meal with some s’mores from an open campfire.

Charcoal Grill / Stove and Fuel

If you’re not using the fire pit to cook, then a charcoal grill or Coleman stove is a camping essential. Don’t forget to bring extra charcoal briquettes or fuel or you might have to make a run to the nearest town to restock. Coffee Wick Fire Starters are a great way to start your charcoal grills too. 


One of the first things people pack for camping is usually a flashlight. Flashlights are considered an essential item, not because people often forget to bring one, but that they only bring one without any extra batteries. You don’t want to be hundreds of miles away from home alone in the dark do you? Bring a flashlight for each member of your family along with extra batteries just in case.

Insect Repellant

One of the most frequently forgotten items is insect repellant. When camping near water, insect repellant is a must. It is also recommended to bring citronella candles and create a small smoky fire to drive pests away from your campsite.

While these are just the camping essentials, there are plenty of other items you can bring that will make your stay more enjoyable, such as chairs around the campfire, a cooler, extra clothing, kitchen supplies and trash bags. Before you start packing for your next camping trip, check your equipment to ensure everything is in good working condition. Make sure you have all of the important items and you will be prepared for a wonderful camping experience.

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The Best Types of Firewood to Burn in Your Fireplace

Ray Leonzi1 comment

How much firewood do you burn in your fireplace or wood stove? Do you ever think about the types of wood you are burning? There are many types of wood that burn better than others in your fireplace or wood stove, so Coffee Wick came up with a list of some of the best. Before we get into the list of the best firewood to burn, here are a few random facts about firewood.

Random Firewood Facts

  • How much is a cord of wood? A cord of wood is 128 cubic feet, stacked. I have a Ford F-150 with an 8 foot bed and it took 2 truckloads to get approximately 1 cord of firewood

  • Is it best to season your firewood? Completely dried out firewood works best. The best way to tell if your firewood is still wet is if it smokes a lot while burning. The wood will sometimes bubble due to excess moisture still trapped inside the wood. The wood can also make a hissing noise while burning too.

  • Where do you get your firewood? Firewood can be bought, picked up on the side of the road after some tree work has been completed (ask the owner of the house if you can take it) or some people even buy permits or get permission from landowners or municipalities to cut down trees and haul it out on their own.

  • What is heat value? Heat value is how much heat the wood generates as compared to say heating oil. The higher the heat value, the better. Oak and maple have a very high heat value.

  • Tips for stacking and storing firewood. I like to stack my firewood on wood pallets. This keeps the firewood off of the ground so it doesn’t get wet and begin to rot. I usually cover my firewood with plastic tarps over the winter to keep the snow off. I only cover the top and leave the sides exposed to keep the airflow going. During the spring and summer time I take the plastic tarps off and let the wood breathe and season over the warm summer months. It usually takes a good year to have the wood fully seasoned.

Best Types of Firewood

Hardwoods are the best, burn the hottest and last the longest. Hardwoods are easy to get as most are readily available. Types of hardwoods are red and white oak, maple, yellow birch, ironwood, apple and hickory to name a few. Oak and maple wood are likely to be the most readily available (well it seems that way here in the northeast). Hardwoods need to be seasoned longer than other types of wood to make sure they are not wet. Trying to burn wet wood is no fun. Also, I have to say oak is one of the heaviest types of woods to load in the pickup right after the tree has been cut. Make sure you have help with you, especially if you are taking it home to split. Un-split wood is extremely heavy, especially oak!

Softwoods are still ok to burn however they will not last as long as the hardwoods mentioned above. I like to burn the softer type woods in the fire pit as I am not looking for a lot of heat throw in the spring or summer.  Types of softwoods are any type of pine, cedar, redwood , hemlock and fir. These types of woods are also readily available. They will season faster, burn quicker and still let off enough heat to enjoy your fire.

I like to split my firewood the old fashion way. I use a railroad spike and a sledgehammer. They work great, separating the wood pretty easily. The best part is that it’s a great workout, plus it gets you out of the house to enjoy some fresh air.

I hope you enjoyed this article and it helps you decide which type of firewood best suites your needs. Now if you need something to light your firewood, our Coffee Kindling Fire Starters work extremely well. They are made with recycled coffee grounds and all natural soy wax, burns for 30 minutes and leaves no residue. Pick up a box today and try us out. As always, Light. Sit Back. Enjoy.


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Winter Road Trip Giveaway

Ray Leonzi

We recently partnered with the awesome people at Mountain House to put some winter road trip essentials to the test and we are offering one lucky winner the chance to win it all - $1,800 worth of gear!!! 

Winter Road Trip Giveaway - Coffee Wick

Photo Credit: Uncage the Soul


A family loaded up the fam into a camper van from GoCamp and they headed out to a snowy, open road. Gear from Orion Coolers, Teton Sports, Solo Stove, Coffee Wick and of course the project coordinator Mountain House! Now you can win all of this gear through our great Winter Road Trip Giveaway!!!


Click to enter here:


Your email address is all that's required for entry, but if you follow along on Facebook and Instagram you'll have the chance at earning additional entries. Last day to enter is Tuesday, January 23, 2018. Winner will be contacted by email on January 24, 2018.  Good luck and safe travels! 


Winter Road Trip Giveaway Prizes:


  • Mountain House - 14 Day Food Supply

  • GoCamp - 3 Day Camper Van Rental

  • Orion Coolers - 55 Cooler

  • Solo Stove - Bonfire Stove

  • Coffee Wick - Case of Fire Starters

  • Teton Sports - Canvas Mammoth Double Sleeping Bag + 2 ComfortLite Organic Cotton Pillows

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