Managing Your HVAC System

Clean Away Creosote And Make Your Fireplace Safe For The Winter

With the cold season rapidly approaching, it's time to clean your fireplace. A dirty fireplace contains dangerous chemicals like creosote, which is a waste product of burning wood. But you can make your fireplace safe for the upcoming winter by cleaning the one place creosote shows up the most – your chimney. Here's what you should know about creosote and the best methods to get rid of it.

How Creosote Forms in Your Chimney

Every time you use your fireplace, creosote forms. It doesn't matter what type of wood you use, how much you use, or how often you use it. Creosote's dangerous for a number of reasons, including how it forms.

As smoke rises from the wood burning in your fireplace, it coats the walls of your chimney and eventually becomes soot. Soot quickly turns into a nasty, grayish-black to brown substance known as creosote. Sometimes, creosote liquefies to a tar-like substance and oozes down the chimney's interior walls. Regardless of what it looks like, you should never ignore creosote.

Here are three critical reasons why you shouldn't:

1.  It Produces Poisonous Odors

Creosote gives off odorous vapors or gases that leave the chimney and travel back into the home. The poisonous vapors creep into your home's indoor environment, leaving it poorly ventilated and hazardous to your health. The odors permeate your lungs as you breathe in the air around you. As a result, it brings on a number of respiratory problems that include:  

  • Allergies
  • Coughing
  • Frequent colds

But the health concerns above aren't the only problems creosote brings you. It makes your home vulnerable to fires.

2.  It Creates a Fire Hazard

Creosote is a flammable substance, which means it ignites easily when exposed to excessive heat. Even lighting your fireplace for the night places you at risk for a fire.

If the creosote piles up and blocks the airflow inside your chimney, the situation becomes worse. The dangerous gases can't flow upward and out of the chimney's opening or damper. It can either stay within the chimney or backtrack into the house.

The hotter your home gets, the more chances of it catching fire. To avoid this potential threat, use the tips below to clean your chimney.

How Can You Clean or Remove Creosote

The most important thing to do first is protect your respiratory system from creosote's odors with a facemask. You may purchase a facemask with a built-in filtering system to accomplish this. You can get it from your local medical store or pharmacy.

In addition, purchase a sturdy pair of utility gloves to keep soot off your hands. The creosote in the soot can irritate your hands, which may make them itch, turn red or swell up.

Now, you're ready to clean your chimney. Here's what you need to do:

  • Place a plastic covering over the flooring in front of your chimney. This protects it from soot stains. If you don't have a plastic covering, use an old sheet you can throw away after you clean the chimney.
  • Move furnishings away from the cleaning site to keep them safe from any soot that billows out of the chimney.
  • Remove your firebox and set it on the covering.
  • Run warm or hot water into a large bucket and add dishwashing liquid to it. Dishwashing liquid removes grease, soot and other debris quickly. It produces foam that penetrates these things.
  • Use a large scrubbing brush with a strong handle to clean the inside of the chimney first. Dip the brush into the soapy water and remove as much debris from the chimney as you can see or reach. To clean deeper areas of the chimney, wet a long-handled scrubbing brush with the soapy water and place it as far into the chimney as you can reach. Be sure to change the water when it becomes too dirty. Also, rinse the brushes off under a bathroom, kitchen or laundry room faucet to remove any stuck on soot and dirt from the bristles.
  • Dip the brush into the water and use it to clean the area that contained your firebox. You can wet a small hand towel with the soapy water and carefully clean the firebox. Then clear away any soot that shows on the outside of the fireplace with the brush or towel.
  • Use a clean rag to dry every area that still has water or moisture on it.
  • Replace your firebox and allow sufficient time for your fireplace and chimney to dry completely.

If your chimney doesn't get clean enough for you, or if it contains too much creosote or soot to remove by yourself, contact your heating specialists for assistance.

Keep every winter warm and toasty by keeping your chimney and fireplace free of creosote. If you have concerns about the safety of your fireplace, consult with the experts today.