You may have heard some of the old wives’ tales offering home remedies for cleaning your chimney. They make for interesting reading, but there’s no way a homeowner should rely on such “tricks” as opposed to trusting chimney professionals with modern equipment to ensure that a chimney is safe and not in need of repairs.
Home Remedies – Note: Not Recommended!
Some chimney cleaning home remedies which are rumored to help with chimney cleanings include:
- Throwing salt on your logs as they are burning.
- Burning potato peels, to soften the creosote in the flue.
- Droping a brick-filled burlap bag down your chimney.
- Running the top part of a pine tree down your chimney.
- Starting a chimney fire (WARNING: A chimney fire can easily start a house fire and can damage the chimney).
None of these tricks are reliable chimney-cleaning methods, by any stretch of the imagination. The best way to ensure that the chimney and fireplace are not fire hazards is to have them cleaned, maintained, and inspected by qualified professionals. A clean chimney is important because it’s a matter of safety.
Creosote Deposits – The Main Hazard
The biggest problem in chimneys is the buildup of creosote and soot in the flue. There are three types of creosote, all of which can contribute to chimney obstruction and to chimney fires; the worst is a slick, shiny substance that is both highly flammable and difficult to clean, though every form of creosote is flammable. Here’s a little more information about creosote and soot:
- Creosote is a black or dark brown tar deposited on the chimney walls.
- Soot is a black carbonaceous substance which is produced during the incomplete combustion of wood, coal, oil, and other organic substances. The fine particles rise up the chimney and adhere to the sides of the flue lining.
- Wood smoke is the cause of creosote. When wood burns clean, less creosote is deposited on the flue lining. Fires that produce a lot of smoke leave more creosote deposits. The largest amount of creosote is produced when burning wet firewood, which is not recommended.Creosote can cause chimney fires; and as mentioned above, chimney fires are dangerous which can lead house fires.
- Creosote, particularly when mixed with moisture, can damage the flue lining.
- Creosote can hinder the flow of heat, air, and smoke out of your chimney, which reduces the efficiency of your fireplace and potentially exposes the household to dangerous gases. An obstructed chimney can cause deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
Modern Chimney Sweeping – Tools of the Trade
Primary cleaning tools and supplies designed to remove creosote and soot are used by chimney sweeps today are brushes, vacuums, and chemical cleaners. Through the centuries, technological advances have improved the effectiveness of chimney cleaning tools. There is no need for modern day chimney sweeps to be covered in black soot, like Dick Van Dyke’s charming character in Mary Poppins.
Brushes – There are various brushes used when cleaning chimneys. The most basic brush is a long wire brush which has strength and flexibility, allowing tight spaces to be cleaned of all chimney deposits. To scrape off creosote that is in glaze form, stiff flat wire bristle brushes are used. Hand brushes are used to clean tight spaces, such as the smoke chamber and chimney caps.
Vacuums – Of course, chimney cleaning is a very dirty job. Vacuums are effectively used to prevent the mess from entering the home and to remove pollutants which enter the air during the cleaning processes.
Chemical Cleaners – When brushes can’t get all of the creosote and soot deposits from the walls of the flue lining, chemical cleaning agents are used.
In the same way that DIY methods of cleaning a chimney are not dependable, some people who pose as chimney professionals cannot be depended upon to do the job they are hired for. Beware of phone offers for remarkably inexpensive chimney cleaning services because the industry is unregulated and scammers often take advantage of that fact.
Our professionals are trained, licensed, and certified experts who can be depended upon to do a thorough and reliable job of performing all chimney services.
Northeastern Chimney, Inc.
formerly Nayaug Chimney Services, LLC
37 Cody Street, West Hartford, CT 06110