How to Clean a Chimney in 4 Steps

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From enjoying a glass of wine by the fire to cozying up on cold winter nights, there's plenty to love about a home with a fireplace. However, with this covetable selling point comes great responsibility. Ensuring that your fireplace and chimney stay clean is essential to maintaining a safe home. Letting residue build up can pose a threat to air quality, proper ventilation, and environmental health over time. While chimney cleaning is often handled by a professional, this task is easier to accomplish than you might think—as long as you have the right items at hand.

Read on to learn the four steps to effectively cleaning a chimney.

What You'll Need

1. Prep the area.

Unless you want your entire living room coated in ash, this a pretty crucial step. Grab a painter's cloth or tarp (garbage bags also work in a pinch), and protect the area immediately surrounding the fireplace. Remove excess bits of wood and ash, and then open the fireplace damper. Next, use the plastic sheeting to seal off the entire fireplace, making sure all the edges are firmly secured with high-quality tape.

2. Start from the top.

Once the interior area is sealed, put your goggles and dust mask on, grab your ladder, and head up to the roof. Carefully remove any exterior hardware on the top of the chimney, and then brush downward inside the flue (the channel through which smoke is released) with your chimney brush. For this task, a brush with as large a diameter as possible will be the most effective. Keep brushing until you reach the smoke shelf (the flat area located just behind the damper), carefully remove the brush, and securely replace any external guards.

3. Clean from the bottom.

The main goal of cleaning a chimney is to tackle an element known as creosote, a form of tar produced by burning wood that can have a negative impact on health. Once you're back inside the house, wait for the dust to settle, and then carefully peel back a small section of the taped plastic sheeting. Using a chimney brush with a smaller diameter, reach up, and thoroughly sweep inside the chimney from the bottom (as high as you're able to reach). Take your time, and make sure to be wearing your protective gear.

4. Restore the area.

Reseal the open portion of the sheeting, then allow plenty of time to let all the residue settle. While the dust settles, make sure all windows and doors are closed to prevent a cross-breeze. Finally, gently pull back the plastic sheeting, and vacuum any remaining debris.

How often you should clean your chimney has a lot to do with how often you use it. However, having your chimney inspected about once a year is a good rule of thumb. Now that you know how to clean a chimney, you're ready to enjoy it for the season to come.

Up next, read on to learn how to clean a mattress in five easy steps.

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