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Just got back from a delightful couple of days hiking in the Cathedral Range in Victoria Australia, and I'm washing all the pots and plates, and cursing the black soot that comes off my Trangia alcohol fuel stove. Putting it through the dishwasher seems to have no effect, and it spreads to everything you touch.

Are there any pro-tips for removing soot or even better, preventing it? I'm running the stove on methylated spirits, which in Australia is ethanol that has a small amount of methanol Denatonium Benzoate, Methyl Isobutyl Ketone and Fluorescein added.

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    In my experience, this is dependent on the fuel used. I use the locally common methyl hydrate and it burns absolutely clean with no residue. Take a look at outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/20056/… for more info.
    – Gabriel
    Jul 9, 2021 at 13:45
  • @Gabriel that's pure methanol, which is more readily available in some places than others. In the UK I could order it but not pick it up in a shop easily. In my experiments it also burnt very clear. Methylated spirits in the UK is now denatured with isopropanol not methanol (in mainly ethanol), and IPA burns smokily - good for seeing the flame though. When I used Trangias a lot (25-30 years ago) methylated spirits was ethanol+methanol as the OP has - and we still had soot.
    – Chris H
    Jul 9, 2021 at 14:19
  • @ChrisH -- It is and was probably the dye that is/was the culprit.
    – Martin F
    Jul 9, 2021 at 19:05
  • @MartinF quite possibly., though I've seen soot from IPA and alternative fuels as linked in my previous comment (and I like a bit of IPA to make the flame more visible). I can get my hands on small quantities of methanol (we have some in work that we don't use) or IPA, but not undyed meths; that is available on ebay but in large containers
    – Chris H
    Jul 9, 2021 at 19:54
  • I've actually looked up the ingredients of metho sold here and edited the question.
    – stib
    Jul 12, 2021 at 1:42

8 Answers 8

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If unable to change fuel, as others have mentioned... as a youth I would spread dish soap (like dawn) over the outside of the pot (where the flames would hit). Then heat up my water/cook on a wood fire which would get the outside of the pot covered in soot. However, because of the dish soap, it came off easily during cleanup; and I would discover any spots I missed with the dish soap.

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  • I used the same method when I was in the boy scouts. Very effective also on wood fires. May 13, 2022 at 9:49
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This is just a matter of what fuel you use. Some fuels burn cleaner than others. You may need to experiment a little bit to find a fuel that is available in your area and that burns cleanly. For example, I'm in California, and what I use is a certain brand of denatured alcohol that is sold as paint thinner at hardware stores.

The clean burning is a huge advantage of an alcohol stove, and it's the reason that I use one whenever I can. I only use a white gas stove if I'm going to be at high elevation and need to melt snow.

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  • I looked up methanol as a fuel, but it's something like ten times the cost of methylated spirits. Guess I'll just stick to washing everything with lots of dish soap.
    – stib
    Jul 13, 2021 at 7:45
  • @stib, I can get methanol on ebay for about twice what I pay for meths (UK, so it will be different), also on ebay at a similar price point I can find bioethanol fuel that's still denatured (with MEK and IPA) but undyed, and with less of the denaturing agents added.
    – Chris H
    Jul 14, 2021 at 8:45
  • Ok, I'll keep looking around. Most of the methanol here seems to be for car racing.
    – stib
    Jul 15, 2021 at 2:57
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This is common with Trangias. I used to find the same in the UK when I used them. My miniature alcohol stove does the same. I've never found a way to prevent it occurring, though it can be made easier to clean off. Like you, I've never found a dishwasher to do anything to it, though any that doesn't come off with a cloth won't come off easily. A few drops of meths on a dry cloth may help get it off, saving your washing up water.

It's sometimes said that adding a little water to the fuel helps, though I've never been convinced. The cause is likely to be the denaturing additives rather than the ethanol itself - I suspect the ketone.

We used to wipe neat washing up liquid over the base of the pan after washing up. That made the soot clean off more easily.

Using the simmer ring makes things a little worse, as the flame from the jets is cleaner - but you'll need to use the simmer ring for long cooking or it will be too fierce.

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  • yeah, I've heard of the water trick and it definitely doesn't work. The metho sold here is 5% water anyway.
    – stib
    Jul 12, 2021 at 1:41
  • Ours nominally doesn't have any water in, but it will have once it's been opened for a while. Apart from a few % isopropanol, ours also has a little methyl-ethyl ketone which might not help. I don't know how cleanly it burns, but it does so too rapidly for for me to but some and experiment with that alone.
    – Chris H
    Jul 12, 2021 at 8:04
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When I was a Scout master we used to spread a thin film of dish soap all over the exterior of pans we used to cook on a wood fire (veeery sooty). Then washing away the soot required little or no effort.

Soot can be caused by the fuel in itself, or by an insufficient amount of oxygen in the flame. I don't know the model of your stove but maybe increasing the air content (i.e. burning leaner) may help.

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I rub my trangia in sand on fresh water beaches at the lake. The sand takes the soot right of, slightly scratches the pan. It also seems to work to take sand into the hand and scrub the trangia with it but I have no idea what this does for the longevity of the gear. I think if you get fine enough white sand it should not be too abrasive

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I believe, originally, the stove was meant to be used with methanol, which is no longer available for 'normal' consumers in many countries.

If methanol is available for you, it does not leave much soot on the pans.

If ethanol is your only choise, there is a trick, that decreases the amount of soot in the flames:

Thin your alcohol down with water - you can add water, so the alcohol percentage in your fuel is down to 75% - I'd say go for 80%, maybe a bit more in cold weather.

This will decrease the amount of soot on your cookware, when using ethanol as fuel.

I agree, that it sounds counter-intuitive, but try it out ..

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  • The water trick is the accepted wisdom, however in my experience it doesn't work at all.
    – stib
    Oct 10, 2023 at 4:27
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I was able to clean the soot / residue from a stainless steel kettle very nicely with Cif Cream Cleaner and a small cotton pad. However, it is not recommended for aluminum.

https://www.cifclean.co.uk/products/catalog/cif-cream-cleaner-lemon-500ml.html

I don't know if there is an alcohol stove and fuel combination which would leave the pots clean.

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I use stainless Steelo to clean the pots. Easiest thing I have found to use.

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  • what's a Steelo? duckduckgo returns results about a TV host?
    – njzk2
    Aug 31, 2023 at 19:45
  • Steel wool. An abrasive cleaning pad made of thin metal fibres.
    – stib
    Sep 1, 2023 at 6:09

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