Most homeowners know that creosote buildup can be quite dangerous in their chimneys. It can lead to respiratory illnesses and even chimney fires that might spread to their homes. Although creosote is typically thickest toward the top of the chimney, it’s possible for the substance to build up in your fireplace to some degree, too. If you want to remove it, you can call a professional for a cleaning or follow the steps below.
Prepare for Cleaning
Whether wet or dry, creosote can irritate your eyes, skin, and lungs – especially if you are sensitive or you have a preexisting respiratory condition. There are a few things you should do to prepare for cleaning.
- Open the Windows – Make sure you’re cleaning your fireplace in a well-ventilated area. Opening windows on all sides of your house will help ensure that fumes and odors find their way outdoors.
- Protect Your Home – Next, lay down plastic sheets or tarps all around the area where you’ll be working. This will prevent soot and creosote from staining carpets, furniture, and more.
- Wear Protective Clothing – Your clothing should be thick; jeans and a long-sleeved shirt are ideal for preventing creosote from getting on your skin. Be sure to wear rubber cloves, googles that are not ventilated, and a face mask to reduce the risk of breathing in the potentially dangerous particles.
Make the Cleaning Solution
The solution that you will use to clean the creosote from the fireplace consists of an equal amount of salt and dish liquid, such as Dawn. Stir this together, then add a half cup of ammonia. Be sure that you use enough salt and dish liquid to make your cleaning solution more like a paste than a liquid. Finely granulated salt works best as it is slightly abrasive and will help loosen the creosote in your fireplace.
Cleaning the Fireplace
After you have prepared the work area, yourself, and the cleaning solution, the next step is to apply the paste you created directly to the fireplace anywhere that you can see creosote. Apply until the entire area is covered, then allow it to sit and penetrate the creosote for a period of at least 15 minutes. The thicker and more stubborn the creosote, the longer you can let the paste sit. A period of 30 to 45 minutes is sufficient for even the thickest areas.
Scrub the Fireplace Clean
Using a piece of steel wool or a stiff brush, scrub all the areas of the fireplace. Moving in circles is ideal since this will help further loosen any creosote that your paste could not properly penetrate. Continue scrubbing until the creosote is no longer visible or your paste has been completely removed. Then, use a spray bottle filled with clean, cold water and saturate the brick completely. Finally, using clean towels, wipe away the loosened creosote and any remaining paste.
Though these steps are ideal for removing creosote from your fireplace, you may find that you need to reapply your cleaning paste a second time if the initial scrubbing does not loosen the creosote sufficiently. You can also contact a professional to handle the cleaning for you if you are unable to do so yourself, feel uncomfortable, or have medical issues.