A Smell of Creosote Smoke in the House

Updated February 21, 2017

Creosote is a byproduct of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. It is a black sooty or slimy substance that can cover the inside of your chimney and fireplace and can eventually move to your furniture, carpet and flooring. Creosote has the sort of strong, acrid smell that's often associated with campfires.

Removing Creosote

Cleaning your chimney every few months will help keep the creosote smell at bay. You can hire a professional chimney sweep to clean your chimney, or you can save money and attempt it on your own. Remove creosote by scrubbing the inside of the chimney and fireplace with stiff-bristled chimney brushes. Protect your floors with dust sheets before you clean out the chimney.

Persistent Smells

Creosoe smells might still be present even after you've cleaned them from your chimney and fireplace. This is often because the smell can become embedded in your carpet, furniture or upholstery. You can remove the smells with natural odour absorbers and neutralisers. Spray hard surfaces with white vinegar and wipe it up to neutralise surface odours. Sprinkle baking soda over soft areas such as carpet or upholstery. The baking soda will absorb the smells. Keep the baking soda in the area for several hours before you vacuum it up. Place white vinegar in a bowl in the centre of the room. The white vinegar will evaporate and neutralise any odours in the air.

Chimney Downdrafts

Chimneys are one of the biggest air pathways in your home. When your chimney is in use, the force of the fire pushes the air out of the chimney. However, if the fireplace is not in use, air can easily flow from the chimney into your home. This is referred to as a downdraft. Downdrafts can carry leftover creosote smells into your home. This is even the case if a chimney sweep has removed all of the creosote from your chimney surface. Prevent this by closing the damper and fire screen when you aren't using the chimney.

Preventing Creosote

One way to prevent creosote-associated smells is to prevent creosote from developing in your fireplace and chimney. Creosote is a residue that forms when you are improperly burning the wood or are burning the wrong type of wood. One indication of an improper flame is one that smokes a lot. Never burn wet wood, and always burn the wood at a high temperature. Roaring flames will not produce as much creosote as small flames.

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About the Author

Kaye Wagner has been working in the fields of journalism and public relations since 2006 and is a recipient of a National Hearst Award. She is particularly interested in home-and-garden projects, as well as beauty and fashion writing. An avid traveler, she also writes travel reviews and guides. Wagner earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Brigham Young University.