If you are looking to burn wood at home, you must buy the right wood. You may be keen to put that cosy wood burner to use, or just want the right wood to take with you on a camping trip. But, before you rush out to buy any old wood, you should be aware that not all wood types make good fuel - and some can even be dangerous.

It is crucial for homeowners with wood burning stoves to know what wood is toxic to burn in the UK, ensuring they maintain a healthy indoor ambience. Here we look at the five worst woods for burning - and the five considered among the best.

Editor’s Note 3rd December - This article was originally published in June 2021. Today we have updated with a new section “What wood is toxic to burn?” and made other minor enhancements. 7th November 2023 - Today’s update includes various refinements and enhancements to improve the reader experience.

What wood must I avoid in a log burner?

Perhaps you are asking yourself “What wood can you not burn in a log burner or wood burning stove” or maybe “What wood is toxic to burn in the UK”? Well, read on as we explore five of the very worst woods to burn in log burn in log burners, wood burning stoves, fire pits, and outdoor fires, etc.,

1. Driftwood

While this type of wood may look attractive, it is definitely not a good performer in home fires. Driftwood is likely to have come from the sea and is therefore likely to contain chlorine content. Chlorine comes from the absorption of salt and, when burned, will give off harmful chemicals and toxins.

Avoid burning driftwood, it produces harmful chemicals and toxins

Avoid burning driftwood, it produces harmful chemicals and toxins

Do not be fooled by the pretty colours driftwood makes when it burns; these are toxic chemicals, and it is thought that they contribute to cancer. Freshwater driftwood can be just as bad for burning as driftwood that has come from the sea. It will be a wet wood and is likely to have been floating around in rivers for a long period, therefore absorbing all kinds of unsavoury substances.

2. Green wood

Green wood (also called unseasoned wood) is wood that has only recently been harvested. For wood to be suitable for burning - and a range of other purposes - it needs to be properly dried and cured. Burning wet or green wood in a wood burner, can produce something called creosote, a thick tar that blocks your chimneys. This leads to poor ventilation and possible intoxication inside your home. This also increases the risk of a chimney fire as the airflow will be blocked.

3. Mouldy or rotten wood

In its natural habitat, wood is the perfect breeding ground for mould and fungi. However, when it goes through the drying process, this mould is removed, making it safe for burning. If you spot a yellow or green patch on your wood, this is mould and burning it will release various pollutants that will float around in your room. If you burn rotten wood, it will be less dense and therefore will not burn as well. This low-grade quality of wood will likely produce more smoke and unpleasant odours when used in wood burners.

4. Plywood and chipboard

This is cheap wood that is often used to make furniture. That furniture is made by using adhesive to glue panels of chipboard or plywood together. Even if your plywood or chipboard contains minor amounts of adhesive, if this is burned it will fill your room with harmful toxins. Burning this material is like a major no-no for indoor air quality. We are talking about releasing nasty chemicals that will mess with your health.

5. Any type of treated wood

While it may be tempting to throw old bits of furniture into the fire, it is not ideal. Many woods used in furniture will have been coated in all sorts of substances, including paint, varnish, and adhesive. The same is true of garden fencing panels, which are usually either dip or pressure treated wood, full of preservatives to make them last for years – do not be tempted to throw these on the fire. These chemicals all produce toxins when burnt so before you know it, you could be breathing in thick, toxic smoke.

What wood is toxic to burn?

Focusing specifically on what wood is toxic to burn and building on “what wood can you not burn in a log burner” above, think carefully before you throw “any old wood” into your log burner, fire pits or other wood burning equipment:

  • Driftwood - looks cool, but the presence of salt releases toxic chlorine gas
  • Green or unseasoned wood - smokes excessively and may release harmful particles
  • Mouldy or rotten wood - spores and hazardous substances are discharged into the atmosphere
  • Old furniture wood - unfortunately, burning old furniture will mean burning wood which has been painted or treated a lot
  • Plywood or MDF - comprises adhesives and resins that could be harmful to your health
  • Treated or painted wood - includes chemicals that have the potential to produce dangerous vapours
  • Wood from toxic trees and woody shrubs - some trees and shrubs are just not meant to be burned (e.g., cherry, elder, horse chestnut, laburnum, oleander, rhododendron, and yew, etc.,)
  • Wood with vines or ivy - these plants are toxic, and burning them is a bad idea

Top five types of woods to burn

If you are looking for a good choice of types of wood to burn, be sure to read this next section. Choose any of the dry wood types below as a great option to use in a wood burning stove, wood burner, or in outdoor fires.

Good Woods to Burn Kiln Dried Logs

Good Woods to Burn Kiln Dried Logs

1. Birch

Birch is a type of hardwood and one of the densest you can buy. Due to its density, it offers great heat output and the longest burn times available and reaches extremely hot temperatures. Many dried birch products come mixed with another type of hardwood to negate the natural phloem that is found in the inner layer of its bark. Without this process taking place, birch can retain too much moisture content in the phloem so, although it is one of the best woods for burning, make sure you research this when buying your birch.

2. Ash

Ash logs are another type of hardwood that is thought to offer one of the best performances when it comes to burning. Ash firewood creates a very steady and clean flame that will burn hotter. It is one of the most eco-friendly logs to burn as it produces one of the longest burn times. Although it is always best to burn kiln dried wood, ash is one of the few kinds of wood that can be burnt in its green state. Whether buying birch or ash for firewood, make sure you are buying it with as low firewood moisture content as possible.

3. Apple wood

Wood from apple trees is one of the most popular woods to burn on home fires. This beautiful wood has a really lovely fragrant smell, making it ideal for indoor use. It also burns very slowly and produces a manageable amount of smoke. This makes it brilliant for cooking - either on wood burning stoves or outdoor barbecues and campfires.

4. Oak

Like the previous three wood types, oak is a hardwood that is particularly popular for indoor and outdoor burning. This wood needs to be dried for at least 12 months before it is ready to be used. The best quality oak for burning is arguably kiln dried oak. While kiln dried hardwood is more expensive than softwood types in terms of quantity, it offers much longer burn times, making it more eco-friendly. It is also much denser than softwood types, meaning that it will produce much less smoke. Kiln dried oak logs also produce a beautiful crackling sound when they burn, which many people love to listen to.

5. Beech

Beech - particularly the American variety - is a particularly good wood for burning. It is one of the densest woods you can buy, meaning that it also boasts one of the longest burn times. This slow-burning, low-moisture wood is not the fastest to light up, but, once it has reached its hottest, you will enjoy a long, warm fire, which will burn hot with a pleasant smell.


So, there you have it. These are the best types of wood you can buy for your fire. Make sure they have been properly dried and cured before you buy them and do not be afraid to spend a little more on this high-quality firewood; it will last longer and produce heat energy with minimal smoke and toxins, which is ideal for a wood stove. Remember to avoid the woods mentioned at the top of this article; no matter how tempting it may be to use discarded wood of any variety, many types are just not suitable for home fires.

Contacting Cozilogs

We hope you have found this article about five bad and good woods for burning in a log burner, wood burning stove, or open fires valuable. Now you have learned what wood can you not burn in a log burner, why not buy some of our kiln dried firewood today?


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