How to Clean a Chimney

A chimney against the skyline with a tree and mountains.
What You'll Need
Tape measure
Putty knife
Chimney cleaning brush
Brush extension rods
Stiff wire brush
Drop cloth
Aluminum waste container
Dust mask
Work gloves
Old clothing
Shop vacuum

As the outside temperature drops and the air gets cooler, home owners start building warm fires, but in order to enjoy the comforts of a cozy fire, it's important to check that your chimney is clean before you light up your first piece of firewood.

Step 1 - Decide If You Need to Clean

Decide whether your chimney is in need of cleaning. Your chimney should be cleaned and maintained on an annual basis. If you use your fireplace often, you should clean the chimney often as well.

Step 2 - Inspect Your Chimney

Use a flashlight to visually check the flue of your chimney. Be sure the light is bright enough to check as far up the flue as possible. Check for any signs that an animal has taken up residence in your chimney. If necessary, contact an animal rescue organization to help you remove the animal from the space. Scrape off any excess creosote debris with a putty knife. If the debris is more than 1/8 of an inch in thickness, plan to clean out the entire chimney.

Step 3 - Measure Your Flue

Determine the height of your flue. You will need cleaning tools that will reach all of the areas of your chimney. Use a tape measure to determine the dimensions of your chimney space. If it is easier to estimate the measurement, add an extra amount to your calculation so that you are sure to have the right amount of rope to reach throughout. Most chimneys are round or square and are typically six or eight inches in length.

Step 4 - Organize Your Equipment

Put on your old clothing and cover your hair with a hood or cap. Consider wearing work gloves to keep your hands from becoming dirty. Put on your dust mask and goggles to protect your eyes and mouth from soot and debris.

Step 5 - Prepare the Room

Lay your drop cloth on the floor in front of your fireplace so that it extends outward into your living space. Lay other drop cloths over the pieces of furniture that are in the room. Remove any rugs that are in the space.

Step 6 - Remove the Damper

Use your flashlight to locate the damper insider the flue. Take your wire brush and rub it around the damper to loosen it. Remove the damper and lay it on your drop cloth. By removing the damper you will be able to clean the flue without anything getting in the way of your brush.

Step 7 - Clean the Top Section First

Connect the extension rod to the cleaning brush. Push the extended brush up into the flue. Scrub the flue, moving the brush upward and downward. If necessary, connect a second extension rod to the first one. Continue scrubbing the walls of the flue until the entire inside is complete. Pull the extension brush out from inside the flue. Take the rods apart. Place all of the parts onto the drop cloth.

Step 8 - Clean the Bottom Section Next

Once the top section of your chimney flue is clean, begin working on the bottom section. Use your smaller brush to scrub the bottom parts of the interior walls of the chimney. Use the spade to shovel the debris into your aluminum waste container. A disposable aluminum casserole tin works great for collecting the waste.

Step 9 - Clean the Fireplace Last

Now that the entire chimney flue is clean, you can finish by removing the debris from the fireplace. Use your broom to sweep out the debris onto the dustpan. Empty the dustpan into the aluminum container. Use your shop vacuum to remove any smaller remaining debris in the crevices. Empty the shop vacuum into the aluminum container as well. Reattach the handle of the damper inside the chimney flue. For more details on how to clean the fireplace, visit our guide.

Step 10 - Dispose of the Waste Properly

If you are unsure of your local regulations regarding disposal of chimney waste, contact your local government office. Creosote is a flammable substance and should never be put into the trash where it could start a fire.