Cozying up around the fireplace is a great way to enjoy a chilly winter evening with your family. But to keep your home and family safe, it’s important to know how to clean your chimney afterward.
According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association, a leading factor contributing to residential fires is the failure to properly clean chimneys. In some cases, dirty chimneys can lead to small, undetectable fires that damage the structural integrity of the chimney. These fires are especially dangerous because you might not even know about them.
Luckily, we’ve got the details for you so you can make chimney maintenance part of your housekeeping routine. Here is how to clean your chimney so your home will be safe and clean.
What’s in Your Chimney?
To know how to clean your chimney effectively, it is important to know what you are looking for. So what is it, exactly, that you are trying to remove when cleaning your chimney?
The main nuisance you want to eliminate is creosote. Creosote is a tar-like substance that is formed by burning wood. High levels of creosote in your chimney can lead to respiratory problems or skin irritation for your family.
In some cases, animals like birds or squirrels might build nests in your chimney. The twigs and leaves from these nests can ignite, which can lead to dangerous house fires.
Supplies You Will Need
The first step to learning how to clean your chimney is making sure you have the right tools and supplies on hand. Without the right supplies, you could damage your chimney or injure yourself.
To protect your eyes, make sure to always wear safety glasses and a dust mask when cleaning the chimney. This will prevent dust and debris from irritating your eyes or nose.
You will also need to lay down a thick plastic tarp to keep your floor clean during the process. To clean the chimney, you can use a combination of chimney brushes and a vacuum cleaner.
Prepare Your Fireplace
Before you start working on the chimney, you will need to seal the fireplace. This will prevent wood and ashes from filling your living room.
Tape down the tarp on the floor immediately in front of the fireplace. Then, also use the tarp to seal off the entire inside of your fireplace. Make sure that the tarp is well secured.
Start at the Top
To start cleaning your chimney, you should start from the top. Whenever you do work on your roof, make sure that someone else is home. This person can serve as a spotter to keep your ladder in place and will be able to assist you if you fall and injure yourself.
Once you get up on the roof, remove any hardware from the chimney, and use the chimney brush to clean into the flue. Make sure to choose a chimney brush with as large a diameter as possible. This will help to brush away ash and debris from the sides of the chimney.
Continue brushing your chimney until you reach the smoke shelf. This is the flat part just beyond the damper. Once you have accomplished this, remove the brush and replace any guards that you removed.
Move to the Bottom
Once you have cleaned the top of your chimney, it will be time to move back to the bottom. Before peeling back the tarp to start cleaning, make sure to give the dust time to settle. Peel back the tarp very slowly to prevent ash from flying everywhere.
When cleaning from the bottom, you should use a chimney brush with a smaller diameter. Clean as high inside the chimney you are able to reach from the bottom. You can also attach the chimney brush to a rod or a broomstick so you can reach up higher into the chimney.
After you have cleaned the top of the chimney and the bottom of the chimney, it is time to finish up. Again, be extremely careful when removing the tarp.
Also, make sure that all doors and windows are closed so that breeze will not blow ash around. After you’ve wrapped up the tarp, use a vacuum to clean up any additional ash or debris. Depending on your vacuum’s capacity and the size of your chimney, you may need to empty the vacuum’s bag halfway through.
How Often Should You Clean Your Chimney?
While cleaning your chimney is relatively straight-forward, it is a time-consuming task. So how often should homeowners go through the process?
In short, it depends on how often you use your chimney. At a bare minimum, your chimney should be cleaned once a year. If you use it more frequently, every four to six months might be more appropriate.
If you are noticing that you are having difficulty burning a fire in your fireplace, this can be a sign that it’s time to clean your chimney. That’s because debris can block airflow into your chimney. This will prevent a fire from getting the oxygen it needs to continue burning.
Using a Chimney Liner
One way to make your job easier when cleaning a chimney is to use a chimney liner. A chimney liner works by catching the combustion products and directing them out the flue. This prevents debris from getting caught in the chimney.
While you will still need to clean your chimney, using a chimney liner will make it so less debris is trapped in the chimney. Companies like Chimney Liner Pro offer liners made from multiple types of materials that can be used with various types of chimneys.
Learn More About How to Clean Your Chimney
With these tips in mind, you will be on your way to keeping your chimney clean and your home secure. Of course, if you feel that taking on chimney cleaning is too big of a project for you, you can always look into a professional cleaning service.
What other tips do you know about how to clean your chimney? Let us know in the comments below!