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what is creosote, how dangerous is creosote, how to get rid of creosote

What Is Creosote, What Makes It So Dangerous, and How To Get Rid Of It?

The chilly weather will be here before you know it, and with colder temperatures, many fireplaces will be lighting up for the first time this season.

But if you haven’t had your chimney cleaned or inspected recently, there may be a hidden danger lurking in the deepest parts of your flue: creosote.

What Is Creosote?

Creosote is a by-product of wood combustion. When the temperature in your flue is below 250 degrees Fahrenheit, these gases condense in your chimney and build up along the lining of the flue. Since flue temperatures often dip below 250 degrees, creosote regularly builds up.

Traces of creosote exist within the smoke that rises from an open flame, and when it comes in contact with colder air near the top of the chimney, it solidifies and sticks to the chimney liner and stays in your chimney until it’s removed.

Is Creosote Dangerous?

Yes. Creosote is extremely flammable, which can lead to a chimney fire. 

Having your chimney swept and regularly inspected by a professional company goes beyond keeping your chimney cleaned. It’s a necessary step to prevent dangerous fires and the accumulation of toxins that are detrimental to health. 

As creosote builds up, it passes through three stages. Each progressive stage is more challenging to remove than the last.

First Stage Creosote

When creosote forms, in the first stage, it is flaky and easy to remove. Professionals can quickly get rid of it, making it a good idea to regularly clean your chimney to catch the creosote at this particular stage.

Second Stage Creosote

As more creosote builds up, the consistency thickens and hardens into a shiny, glass-like compound that can’t simply be removed with a brush and requires professional removal. CSIA-certified chimney sweeps use professional tools to remove.

Third Stage Creosote

As the buildup continues, it enters the third stage, turning into a thick, tar-like substance and becoming extremely flammable. This third stage creosote also requires professional removal by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep using professional-grade chemicals, and in extreme cases, replacing the chimney liner may be necessary.

The Dangers of Creosote Buildup

As creosote builds up in your chimney, it can generate a lot of damage. While the different stages pose unique risks, any amount of creosote is problematic. 

Creosote accumulation keeps smoke and air from ventilating and leads to toxic gases like carbon monoxide, which are risky toxins when inhaled. 

Chimney creosote can also lead to chimney fires. Remember, creosote is very flammable, so if it catches on fire, it can spread to your roof or into other parts of your house.

How to Minimize Creosote Buildup & Prevent a Chimney Fire

You can’t prevent creosote from forming since creosote is a natural by-product of any burning wood. But, the good news is that you can avoid buildup creosote from reaching the third stage or causing a chimney fire and putting your family at risk by scheduling regular chimney sweeps and inspections.

You can also follow these 5 helpful tips to minimize creosote buildup:

1. Do not burn freshly cut, unseasoned firewood.

Firewood should be allowed to dry for at least six months to ensure that it is suitable for burning. Fresh wood contains a large amount of moisture, which produces more smoke when it burns. This smoke turns to creosote. The drier wood is, the less smoke is created, and the less creosote is formed.

2. For outdoor chimneys, warm the flue before lighting a fire.

Cool temperatures in the flue create more creosote, thus heating the flue with a torch out of rolled-up newspaper and holding it under the open damper is a good idea.

3. Use Creosote Destroyer Powder.

Sprinkle a few tablespoons of Creosote Destroyer powder on a medium fire; use this every third fire to help prevent creosote buildup.

4. Avoid burning artificial logs.

Packaged logs in your fireplace or your woodstove leave many creosote deposits.

5. Ensure your fireplace has sufficient airflow.

If your fireplace has glass doors, it’s important to open them so that your fire can breathe and burn a greater amount of combustion gases.

These are all safe measures to minimize creosote build-up. However, as you use your fireplace, it is inevitable that creosote build-up will occur. So, it’s important to have professionals check your fireplace at least once a year.

Make sure your fireplace is clean and safe this winter. Contact us today to make an appointment to inspect or clean your chimney so that you can relax and enjoy cozy nights ahead with peace of mind.

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