A wood-burning fireplace is an excellent addition to your home. It would be best to keep it in excellent condition to ensure it continues functioning normally.
The buildup of creosote in the fireplace and chimney is a problem many homeowners face. Creosote can block your chimney flue and affect its performance, so it’s important to remove it regularly.
The good thing is that you can prevent excessive creosote buildup in your chimney by burning materials like rock salt and sweeping logs. In this post, we will discuss what to burn to clean chimney.
What can I burn to clean my chimney?
Chimney cleaning is necessary to ensure the safe and efficient operation of your chimney. So, what can you burn to clean it? There are many homemade creosote removers that you can use. Much has been written about these cleaners, but are they really efficient? Let’s discuss each in detail.
1. Do potato peels clean chimneys?
Potato peels have been used to remove creosote for decades. This is because potato peels burn at high energy, pushing layers of creosote out of the flue.
All you need is potato peels and a cookie sheet. Follow these steps to remove creosote:
Step 1 – Put the wet potato peels on the cookie sheet or any flat surface. Don’t place it in direct heat or sunlight.
Step 2 – Air dries the potato peels for 24-48 hours.
Step 3 – Burn the potato peels in the fireplace. Potato peels usually burn at high energy, removing part of the creosote buildup.
This is a simple and cost-effective technique. The only problem is that it doesn’t remove all the creosote; it only reduces it. You will still require annual professional cleaning to remove all the creosote.
2. Does burning aluminum cans clean your chimney?
You can use aluminum cans to prevent creosote buildup. Burning aluminum cans increases the heat in the chimney, preventing creosote accumulation. Follow these steps:
Step 1 – Open the damper fully and put kindling and newspaper in the firebox. Roll up some newspaper and hold it near the flue to create a draft.
Step 2 – Light the kindling and newspaper and gradually add dry hardwood.
Step 3 – Grow a hot fire by expertly adding the wood (do not stack the logs too tightly as it will reduce the amount of oxygen that gets into the fire). Add aluminum cans to the fire. As the hot fire burns, the aluminum cans release manganese, breaking creosote into powder. You can easily remove the creosote that fell into the firebox when the fire dies.
This is a great creosote removal technique, as you can easily access aluminum cans.
The downside is that the high temperatures do not greatly impact aluminum oxides. So, burning aluminum cans to clean a chimney is ineffective.
3. Does burning rock salt clean chimneys?
Burning rock salt is another way to reduce the creosote buildup in your chimney’s inner walls. Rock salt dissolves portions of creosote when it is burned. Here are the steps to follow:
Step 1 – Look for the right firewood. Kiln-dried firewood is a perfect
Step 2 – Start the fire. Don’t make the fire too big; it will create more smoke and increase the amount of creosote.
Step 3 – Add a small amount of rock salt to the fire. The burning of wood creates water which combines with the salt to form an acid.
The acid moves up the flue and dissolves small amounts of the tarry creosote, making it easier to clean off. If you are using a metal flue liner, avoid this method, as the acid can corrode it.
4. Does aspen wood clean chimneys?
Burning aspen is another method you can use to prevent creosote buildup in the chimney. Aspen wood does not have much density, so it burns faster than most firewood.
Aspen wood typically doesn’t have a lot of sap, so it will produce little to no smoke when burning. This will reduce the amount of creosote build up. Ensure the wood is dry before burning because freshly cut aspen has a lot of moisture.
Remember, aspen wood doesn’t burn for a long period. So, you need to have enough firewood for the winter.
5. Do creosote sweeping logs clean chimneys?
Creosote sweeping logs or chimney sweeping logs are ideal for preventing creosote buildup. They are logs that contain chemicals that loosen creosote when burned.
When the logs are burning, these chemicals move up the flue and attach to the creosote, making it loosen.
This makes it easier for chimney sweeps to remove the tarry substance. This technique is great as it prevents creosote from hardening.
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What causes creosote buildup in the chimney?
Several factors contribute to creosote buildup in your chimney. Let’s discuss each.
- Using unseasoned firewood – Unseasoned firewood contains a lot of moisture. When this firewood is burned, it creates less heat as most energy is used to eliminate the water in the wood. This speeds up the smoke condensation process, leading to creosote formation.
- Poor airflow – Not opening the damper fully and closing the glass fireplace doors too tightly can restrict airflow in the fireplace. This means smoke will take longer to leave the chimney, causing creosote buildup.
- If the flue is too big – Oversized flues are typically found in old homes. These flues extend the residence time (the time smoke hangs in the chimney), leading to creosote accumulation in the flue.
- Cool temperatures in the flue – When the temperature inside the chimney is low, smoke will condense quickly, meaning creosote will form easily. Creosote buildup due to cool temperatures usually affects metal chimneys the most. Chimneys on the house’s exterior are usually more likely to experience cooler temperatures from outside.
Where does creosote build up the most?
Creosote usually builds up the most in the chimney’s inner walls but can also accumulate in the fireplace area. When you burn wood, it releases heat energy and other unwanted products like toxic gasses and smoke. One of the unwanted byproducts of wood-burning is creosote.
What does creosote look like? It is a dark brown substance that is sticky, drippy, shiny, flaky, hard, or crusty, depending on the severity of the buildup.
Common signs of creosote accumulation in the chimney
- Fire doesn’t burn well – Too much creosote blocks the chimney, making it difficult for smoke and fumes to escape. This leads to poor airflow, making starting and maintaining a fire difficult.
- Poor draft – Creosote buildup makes it difficult for the chimney to draw air up the chimney. When this happens, smoke and toxic gasses like carbon monoxide can enter your house and cause health issues like wheezing, coughing, and asthma.
- Chimney fires – Creosote is a highly flammable substance, so you should remove it when it accumulates. But how will you know that there is a chimney fire? One obvious sign is when you see flames at the top of the chimney.
Another is when you hear popping or crackling sounds coming from your chimney. Chimney fires have devastating effects. It can cause extensive damage to your chimney and home, leading to costly repairs.
What dissolves creosote?
Various substances can dissolve creosote. The first is sodium chloride which is commonly referred to as table salt.
How does it work? Start by putting some salt in the fire. The salt mixes with water in the burning wood, creating a weak acid that goes up the flue and dissolves small portions of creosote.
Remember, the acid can corrode the metal (when using a metal chimney or liner), so don’t add a lot of salt.
The other way to dissolve creosote is to use chimney cleaners with copper sulfate. Copper sulfate interacts with creosote and causes it to burn at a lower temperature than it normally does.
Note that copper sulfate also combines with moisture from the wood to create sulphuric acid, which can damage the inside of your chimney.
Use the chimney cleaner appropriately by following the manufacturer’s instructions to prevent any damage to your chimney.
What is the best way to clean your chimney?
You can use the above techniques to clean your chimney. Too much creosote in your chimney can lead to problems like a dangerous chimney and home fires.
Some techniques, like burning table salt and aluminum, do not eliminate all the creosote. The NFPA recommends using the services of a professional chimney sweep at least annually.
As you can see, you can keep your chimney free of creosote by burning sweeping logs, rock salt, aluminum cans, and potato peels. You can easily access these cleaning materials. Even as you do these DIY projects, ensure you call a chimney sweep to do professional cleaning at least once every year.