How to Clean a Chimney

Cleaning a chimney is messy and requires specialized equipment. Clean Chimney Sweep Charleston sets up plastic or drop cloths to protect your floor and uses a dual HEPA filter vacuum. They remove drafting obstructions such as leaves, twigs, and animal nests that block the flue.


The CSIA recommends that a chimney be inspected at least once a year. This is to prevent chimney fires, which can be very expensive to repair and could threaten the health of your family.

Over time, a dangerous and toxic layer of creosote accumulates inside chimney flues. It can ignite and cause a chimney fire, which could spread to the home and threaten the lives of family members. A professional chimney sweep can remove this hazardous buildup and keep it from recurring.

If you want to try cleaning your chimney yourself, it’s important to be comfortable working at heights and use ladder safety. It’s also best to have an assistant on hand to help you stay safe. Chimney sweeping is messy, and soot and creosote can fall on furniture and floors throughout the house. Protect your belongings and the rest of your home by covering them with tarps or drop cloths.

When a chimney sweep arrives at your house, they will cover the floor of the fireplace room with a protective tarp. They’ll also take care to cover rugs and other furnishings, like tapestries and draperies. This will keep them clean and avoid any messes during the sweeping process.

Chimney sweeping involves using a brush and chimney rods to scrub the walls of the chimney. They can either start at the top and work their way down or start at the bottom and work their way up. They can also use a chemical cleaner to remove thick creosote and glaze deposits that brushes can’t reach.

Some professionals will use a special camera that fits into chimneys to inspect for problems. This is a very helpful tool for determining the condition of your chimney, and it can save you money by preventing unnecessary repairs or replacements. Look for a chimney sweep that is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) or a member of the National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG). These organizations promote professionalism and ethical accountability in the industry.

Clean the firebox.

Before sweeping, remove all loose ash and wood debris from your firebox and sift through the ashes to ensure they are completely removed. It is also important to cover the floor surrounding your fireplace with a tarp or painter’s drop cloth. This will minimize dust particles from settling on your furniture and other items in the room.

If you are cleaning the chimney from inside the fireplace, use a wire brush to scrape the ash and creosote off the bottom of your flue’s entrance. It is important to clean this area because it is where most creosote accumulates and can cause damage if not removed.

Sweeping your chimney is not a job for everyone and requires special equipment to be done safely. The best option is to hire a professional chimney sweep. The National Fireplace Institute and Chimney Safety Institute both certify chimney professionals and host searchable databases of certified sweeps. Personal recommendations and paywalled sites like Angie’s List can also be helpful in finding the right sweep for your home.

A reputable chimney sweep will remove soot, creosote, and blockages from the firebox, damper, smoke chamber, and smoke shelf. They will also sweep the inside of your chimney flue and ensure that all cracks and creosote are properly repaired to prevent a chimney fire.

To hire a professional chimney sweep, ask about their experience, pricing, payment methods, and availability. They should also be able to tell you whether they have the necessary tools and supplies for your chimney’s unique needs. It is recommended to have your chimney swept at least once a year and more often if you use your fireplace frequently. This will decrease your risk of a chimney fire and improve the air quality in your home.

Clean the chimney liner.

A chimney sweep will remove any creosote that has accumulated inside the flue with special brushes. This corrosive substance, if left unattended, will eat away at the inside of the chimney liner. It can also damage interior chimney masonry because it is acidic, and the longer it comes into contact with these materials, the more damage it causes.

During this process, the chimney sweep will also check for any signs of moisture damage to the chimney flue, flashing, or chimney masonry. This is especially important if the homeowner has had a chimney fire in the past. Chimney fires can cause severe structural damage to a home and may even destroy it.

The chimney sweep will also check for a damaged or leaking chimney cap and replace it if necessary. It is very important to have the chimney cap properly installed in order to keep rain and animals out of the fireplace, stove, or chimney system.

A professional chimney sweep can also help you avoid expensive repairs to your fireplace or wood-burning stove by helping you schedule regular sweepings. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends getting your chimney swept at least once every year. However, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) suggests having your chimney swept more often to prevent buildup from becoming a problem.

Getting your chimney swept regularly will also save you money on home insurance because most standard home insurance policies require homeowners to verify that their fireplaces and chimneys are in good condition. In addition, a well-insulated chimney liner will minimize creosote buildup and the need for frequent sweeping. To help reduce the need for frequent sweeping, you can try to soften the creosote by burning potato peels in the fireplace or putting them into a burlap bag and dropping them down the chimney.

Clean the smoke chamber.

The smoke chamber and the firebox can get extremely dirty, especially if you use an appliance like a wood stove. These spaces can hold a lot of creosote and soot from burning fires, and they are hard to clean. The chimney sweep should remove as much as possible with a scraper and vacuum up the rest.

Before the chimney sweep arrives, lay drop cloths around your hearth area to protect your carpet and furniture. Make sure you have a heavy-duty shop vacuum available to capture the debris and dirt that is loosened from the cleaning process. If you have pets, confine them to another room until the sweep is finished. If you have children, keep them away from the fireplace and sweeper’s tools and hose.

Chimney sweeps will use a variety of specialized tools, including electric rods, brushes, scrapers, and cleaners, to ensure your chimney is cleaned thoroughly. Make sure your chimney sweep has a Clean Chimney Sweep certification from the CSIA, and ask about their insurance policies.

In addition to removing soot and creosote from the walls of the chimney, chimney sweeps will also check for blockages inside the flue and outside the chimney. They will look for obstructions that prevent a draft from circulating properly, such as twigs, animal nests, and leaf debris. If they find a drafting obstruction, they will remove it.

The chimney sweep may also recommend repairs to your chimney system. They will discuss the options with you in a clear and concise manner, and you can then decide whether or not to go forward with the repair. The sweeper will give you a written estimate and explain what the costs will be. If you do not agree with the estimate, you can always request a second opinion from another certified chimney sweep.

Clean the flue.

The flue is where the vast majority of creosote buildup accumulates. It’s also where most chimney fires occur. Sweeps use special brushes and chemicals to remove creosote and other blockages in the flue, smoke chamber, and chimney shelf. The sweep also checks the flue for cracks, which could allow carbon monoxide and other dangerous gases to leak into the house.

The chimney sweep also examines the masonry and metal components of the chimney to ensure they’re sound and free from damage. During the cleaning process, they may also remove chimney caps and repair any cracked bricks. They’ll also clean the flue’s entrance at the bottom of the chimney, where a damper handle is attached. If the chimney is used to vent a fuel-burning appliance, like a gas- or oil-fired boiler or furnace, the sweep will check that the chimney has the proper liner, which protects the combustible areas of the home from toxic fumes.

A professional chimney sweep will always put safety first. Unless you have the training and experience to work on your roof, it’s not a good idea to attempt a DIY chimney cleaning. A fall from a rooftop can paralyze or even kill you. Chimney sweeps will wear protective clothing and eye protection when working on your roof, as well as a harness and rope to prevent falling.

The CSIA recommends hiring a certified chimney sweep who has the appropriate tools and training for the job. It’s also a good idea to choose a company that is licensed and insured. If you want to hire a chimney sweep, use the CSIA Certified Professional Locator to find a qualified person near you.