Cleaning and Maintaining a Chimney

Cleaning and maintaining a chimney can be a difficult task to undertake. Chimneys are an essential part of having a fireplace. However, they can often be forgotten about. Chimneys need to be cleaned regularly to avoid a buildup of soot. Open wood fires are a beautiful asset to any home as they produce a luxurious glow. However, they need to be maintained to keep their beauty.

Below are some key areas to help you look after you chimney. 


When to Clean your Chimney?

Fireplaces are a beautiful asset to homes. They bring families together and allow you to spread the joy of each other’s company. Quite regularly, chimneys can be forgotten about as you get absorbed in the beauty of the fire. However, remember that when you have a fire burning all the smoke goes up and out the chimney.

Within the smoke, it’s predominantly carbon (soot) including carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, tar, oils and ash. Over time the soot will build upon the walls of the chimney. If not cleaned, the chimney can eventually become blocked and ineffective.

Knowing when to clean your chimney will allow you to have a much healthier fireplace and a lower risk of carbon monoxide entering the room.

It is recommended that chimneys should be checked and cleaned on an annual basis. During winter months the fireplace will be used more readily due to the colder weather. As a result of this, some people like to get their chimney cleaned at the end of the winter, so it’s ready for the next winter. However, others like to have it cleaned just before winter.


How to Clean your Chimney

Cleaning your chimney does take a bit of skill and often it is easier to get a chimney sweep as they will know exactly what they are doing. However, if you’re up for the challenge then here’s how to clean it.  

Firstly, you will need a selection of equipment including:


  • Chimney brush (with extensions)
  • Dustpan and brush
  • A stiff wire brush
  • Groundsheet
  • Dust Mask
  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Torch


You want to make sure that when you’re cleaning the bottom of the chimney, you have a groundsheet down to avoid staining the floor inside your home. Once you’re all set up with your goggles and gloves on, the relevant equipment in front of you and the groundsheet down, then you are then ready to start the cleaning process. You may find that wearing a dust mask will be beneficial as it will prevent you breathing in the soot.


Two Ways to Clean a Chimney

There are generally two ways to clean a chimney. You can either clean it from the top down or the bottom up. It is advised that if you aren’t a professional, then you should clean bottom up as cleaning top down is very dangerous due to having to stand on the roof.

To start the cleaning process, grab your chimney brush and attach the first piece of extension to it. Put the brush into the chimney and start scrubbing the walls to get off all the buildup of soot. The best technique to do this would be to use an ‘up and down’ motion. Once you’ve successfully cleaned the first area, add another extension onto the brush to allow you to reach up a little bit higher. Repeat this the entire way up the chimney until no more soot comes off. If there’s any soot left at a reachable arm’s length, then use the stiff wire brush to remove the excess. Afterwards, check inside the chimney with the torch to ensure you’ve got it all. 

Once you have made your way up the whole chimney, you’ll then want to clean up the mess made on the floor. With the dustpan and brush sweep everything into a bag and dispose of it. 


Can I Clean my Chimney Myself?

Yes, you can clean the chimney yourself if you want to. Bear in mind that you’ll need to buy the correct equipment if you’re going to do this. However, you may find that getting a chimney sweep is quite beneficial as they’ll have a vast amount of experience and knowledge. Real Fires are nice to have in your home as they will bring warmth and offer you the chance to save money on your energy bills. Cleaning a real fire involves emptying the ashtray, wiping the fireplace doors down, along with the thorough cleaning of the chimney walls.


Why You Should Keep Your Chimney Clean

Keeping your chimney clean has many benefits.  

If the chimney isn’t cleaned, the buildup of soot on the chimney walls can block/prevent gases from escaping. This will have an impact on the efficiency of the fire and can also have some safety risks.

These safety risks will entail the fact that harmful gases aren’t able to escape out the chimney and therefore will escape into the home. Another risk is the flammability of the soot. Within soot, there is a product called creosote. Creosote is very flammable and if not removed from the walls if the chimney it can cause an array of problems.

Having regular cleans and maintenance on the chimney will allow your fireplace to be more efficient and significantly safer.


What Parts of a Chimney Need Cleaning?

When cleaning the chimney, the entire chimney needs to be cleaned. This will include the walls of the chimney, the flue, the doors (if your fireplace has them) and the ashtray. In the annual clean of the fireplace, each of these areas will be cleaned and maintained to ensure efficiency and reduce risks. During use of the fire, ash will start to build up and will overflow if the tray isn’t emptied. It’s worth checking this regularly to maintain the efficiency of the fire. If you also have glass doors on your fireplace, it is worth cleaning them when they start to get dirty. Cleaning them will allow you to be able to see the fire and keep it clean.


How to Tell When Your Chimney is Blocked?

Often you will be able to tell when you need to clean your chimney. The easiest way to tell will be that it’s been a year since the last time the chimney was cleaned. However, you can also tell by looking up the chimney. Shine a torch up the chimney and with a fireplace poker, scratch the black surface. A groove should appear where you’ve scratched the wall. If this groove is really thin, then the chimney isn’t likely to need cleaning. Now, if the groove is 1/8 of an inch thick, then it’s recommended to get the chimney cleaned to avoid any issues.

In the rare circumstance that the groove is a 1/4 of an inch thick then it’s best to leave the fireplace and not have a fire until you’ve had it cleaned.