Cleaning your fireplace and chimney aren’t usually tasks that are high on the homeowner’s priority list.  However, a dirty fireplace and chimney can pose large safety risks because of soot build-up.

When soot builds up it becomes a highly flammable and toxic substance known as creosote [LINK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creosote#Build-up_in_chimneys]. Creosote build-up is the number one cause of chimney fires, which usually spread very quickly to other parts of the house and cause a lot of damage. When cleaning your fireplace and chimney your number one goal is to remove creosote.

When cleaning a traditional, wood burning fireplace follow these simple steps. At least twelve hours after your most recent fire:

1)     Prepare for a mess.  Few things are messier than cleaning out your fireplace. Cover nearby furniture. Place drop cloths or old newspaper on the floor around the fireplace. Wear old clothes and rubber kitchen gloves. Consider a hat or other hair covering to keep hair clean and out of your fair. Place a large trashcan that is double-lined nearbyGet a bucket for the ashes.

2)     Check the temperature.  Once you are ready to begin cleaning, check the temperature of your ashes. Place one uncovered hand a few inches above the ashes if you feel any warmth stir the ashes and wait awhile until checking again for heat. If you don’t feel any warmth stir the ashes and feel again. When you are certain the ashes are all cool scoop them into your bucket. Vacuum up any remaining bits of ash.

3)     Take a look around. Get a flashlight and check out your flue and chimney. Locate the metal pull that controls the flue and give it a pull, opening the flue. Leave the flue open while you clean. Look at the interior of your chimney and determine if you have mostly soot or if you have creosote deposits—those will look drier and shinier and sometime crackle when touched.

4)     Scrub it out. Finally get a wire chimney brush and start scrubbing it out. Your brush should be about an inch wider than your flue. Brush vigorously all along the chimney until all ash and creosote is gone.

5)     Clean it out. Once the main deposits are gone mix up a baking soda and vinegar solution and start washing the walls of your chimney and fireplace as high up and you can reach. Work your way down until you have removed any remaining deposits or residue. Wipe out with water and a sponge.

6)     Throw it away. Finally, gather up all your newspapers and debris and put in the trashcan. Be careful to sweep up any spills. Take all materials immediately out to the trash.

How do you clean your chimney?

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