How to Clean a Chimney

Lighting the chimney leads to the accumulation of soot and creosote, a flammable and sticky substance that can cause a fire if it is not removed. Hiring a chimney cleaning professional can be expensive, but if you use your fireplace frequently, consider buying some tools so you can clean your chimney yourself. This article provides instructions on three methods to clean chimneys, as well as tips for doing it safely.

Get ready to clean the fireplace

Determine if you need to clean the fireplace. You should clean it at least once a year, especially if you use it frequently.

  • Take a flashlight and go inside the fireplace. Use a pencil or a plastic knife to remove the creosote that accumulated in the fireplace. If it has a width of 1/8” or less, it is time to clean it.
  • If you can clean your fireplace once a year, do it in the fall, before the burning season begins. Otherwise, it does not make sense to light your fireplace during the winter.

Look for animals inside the fireplace. If it has been a while since you last used your fireplace, look for any signs of animals before doing so. Birds, squirrels or raccoons love to nest inside them, especially in the colder months. Light a flashlight, look for the animals, take necessary steps to remove them.

Measure the density of the chimney. To clean the fireplace, you must use the right tools. Measure the chimney from the bottom to the top. You can climb a ladder and measure it from the top.

  • Determine the size and shape of the flue. It must be square or round, or measure between 6” or 8″.
  • Determine the height of the chimney. If you are guessing, it is better to overestimate, so you can have extra rope and make sure you brush the chimney well, reaching the entire surface.

Buy the necessary cleaning supplements. Go to a hardware store and buy all the materials you need to clean the fireplace:

  • A chimney brush, rope or plastic. Use the measurements to buy the appropriate size.
  • Chimney brush extensions can help you clean up completely. Alternatively, you can buy a rope designed for chimney brushes, or a string system.
  • A wire brush.
  • Plastic or cloths to use inside your house.
  • A high ladder to reach the ceiling, if you plan to clean it from the top down.
  • A broom and dustpan.
  • Mask and protective glasses

Dress appropriately. Use old clothes that do not matter if you have to throw it away later. Cover your hair with a bandana. You can use work gloves to protect your hands. Wear a mask and protective glasses to prevent dust from entering your eyes and mouth.

Prepare your house for cleaning. Place cloth or plastic around the fireplace, spread it around your living room. Use sheets to cover your furniture. Wrap all your carpets.

Removes moisture from the fireplace. Locate the moisture inside the fireplace and use a small brush to clean it. Take it out of the fireplace and separate it with a piece of cloth so that it does not obstruct the brushing of the fireplace while you proceed to clean the fireplace.

Cleaning the chimney from the top down

Prepare the ladder and climb to the roof. Assume that the roof is a safe place to step on, and that you feel safe being there, hold the ladder next to your house. Place the brush, next to the other tools, on your shoulder and climb the ladder.

  • If you are afraid to climb the ladder or stand on the roof, clean the fireplace from below using the method below.
  • If you’re not sure about the quality of your roof, or if you’re leaning and you’re not sure you can maintain the balance, use another method.

Brush a section of the pipe. Place the brush inside the fireplace. Using up and down movements, start cleaning it. Add an extension to the rope if you cannot reach easily. Continue until you are finished.

  • If you use a rope, join that part with the brush. Hold the end of the rope and go down along the chimney. Go up and down while you’re cleaning the entire surface.

Clean the lower part of the chimney. Use a small brush to clean the bottom that you have not cleaned.

Alternative methods

Clean the chimney from the bottom.

  • Attach to other sections.
  • Add the first piece of the pipe to the brush.
  • Insert the brush into the fireplace. Use up and down movements, starting at the top.
  • Add another section of the pipe to extend the brush to the top of the chimney.
  • Continue in this way until you have cleaned the entire surface.

Use a polishing system

  • Buy a rope polishing system to brush the fireplace. Join two strings to the brush, one on the top and one on the bottom, and brush from top to bottom.
  • Attach the polishing system to the brush. Ask for the help of a friend or family member on top of the roof.
  • The person on the roof must hold one part of the rope, and leave the other, with the brush in between, while waiting for another person to hold the rope.
  • Work with other people, use the rope to brush from top to bottom, brushing the entire chimney.

Final work

  • Clean the entrance to the fireplace. In the final part of the fireplace, usually located in the basement, where you will see a small door that leads to that part. The creosote and the soot stay there. Use a small spatula to separate it.
  • Use a brush and a dustpan to clean the remains of the fireplace. Empty the rest in a dumpster.

Use a brush to sweep the remains and clean the cloths. Empty what’s left over in a dumpster.

Dispose of soot and creosote according to local laws. Since these are flammable substances they may not have to be thrown into the dumpster.  Check with local laws before disposing of soot and creosote.

Warnings

  • Call a professional if you do not feel safe during the chimney cleaning process.
  • Do not step on the roof if it is in wet condition.
  • Be careful not to absorb the soot or creosote and clean your skin after having contact.
  • Do not operate flammable materials during the chimney cleaning process.
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