How to clean a wood burning chimney

Updated July 20, 2017

Having a wood burning fireplace is an asset to any home. Providing warmth during the winter and offering atmosphere year-round, wood fireplaces give a rustic flair to even the most modern of homes. Fireplaces, unfortunately, also require regular upkeep for them to remain clean and safe. Wood burning fireplaces, especially, deposit large amounts of soot and creosote into their chimneys. Left unchecked, these deposits can cause chimney fires, but with some work and a trusty chimney brush, they can be removed from any wood burning chimney.


Dress in appropriate safety gear before beginning to clean your chimney. This includes: work clothes, a pair of sturdy goggles, comfortable work gloves, and a dust mask.

Remove the damper plate from the fireplace by taking out the pins holding it in place. Take care, as the metal pins and plate may be brittle due to heat exposure.

Look up the chimney flue using a mirror and torch to check for large obstructions and the thickness of the creosote. Pay attention to any specific obstructions to be removed, such as a bird's nest, for example. Also, take note of how much creosote needs to be cleaned off.

Place a dust sheet over the fireplace opening, preventing soot and creosote from coming into your house. Seal this dust sheet with masking tape, keeping it in place. Place a second dust sheet on the floor next to the fireplace, in case any soot or creosote escapes.

Outside, set your ladder evenly against the chimney, and carefully climb to the top of it. Look down the chimney with the torch, again checking for major obstructions and creosote thickness.


Remove any nests, pushing them to the bottom with the chimney brush, if they are not within arm's reach.

Clean the chimney using the chimney brush. Scrub all around, in a quick up and down motion, allowing creosote deposits to fall to the bottom. Look down the chimney with the torch occasionally, checking to see if all the creosote has been removed. Return inside when you have finished cleaning.

Remove the dust sheet sealing the fireplace, taking care not to let the soot and creosote make a mess everywhere.

Use the workshop vacuum and clean up the soot and creosote in the fireplace, making sure to clean the smoke shelf above the damper. Use a wire brush to scour the inside of the fireplace. Use the shop vacuum to clean this up and anything that might have escaped the fireplace.

Put the damper plate back in place. Try opening and closing the damper to make sure it still works.


Chimneys are easiest to clean when warm. Make sure to get a chimney brush designed for your flue.


Secure your ladder to prevent any accidents. Ensure that your chimney is structurally sound before working on it.

Things You'll Need

  • Goggles
  • Dust mask
  • Gloves
  • Work clothes
  • Torch
  • Dust sheet
  • Masking tape
  • Ladder
  • Mirror
  • Chimney brush
  • Bucket
  • Workshop vacuum
  • Wire brush
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About the Author

Aaron Metzger is a computer science graduate student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He currently does research in the field of educational data mining and intelligent tutoring system. He has technical writing training and experience.