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Managing the cleanliness of a chimney is an ongoing maintenance requirement for those who have wood burning fireplaces and stoves. It’s not just about looks, but about safety. Left alone, chimneys will begin to accumulate soot and creosote, as well as potential debris, and these can act as fire hazards and create issues with ventilation.
What exactly is creosote? It’s a dark, tarry substance that is produced as a result of burning wood or other organic materials. Creosote consists of various chemicals including tar, soot, and other volatile organic compounds – and it is highly combustible. Untended, it drastically increases the risk of chimney fires and can eventually find its way into your living space. Over time, it becomes more stubborn and difficult to get out of your chimney. Thus, the necessity of having it frequently removed.
Enter the creosote burning log. This is a product designed to help keep your chimney cleaner. But does it work?
Creosote burning logs, also marketed as “chimney cleaning logs” or “creosote sweeping logs,” are specially formulated logs that claim to reduce or eliminate creosote buildup in chimneys and stovepipes. They are typically made from a combination of sawdust, paraffin wax, and other additives and work as a chemical cleaner.
When burned in a wood burning appliance, the chemicals they release are designed to react with creosote and help break it down. The idea is that this chemical attack will make creosote loose, flaky, and easy to remove.
So, do creosote logs live up to the hype? The answer is a qualified yes – in other words, it is effective in some ways, but you will want to be sure you’ve managed your expectations. If you’re expecting a totally clean chimney with no other effort expended, you’ll be disappointed. However, creosote logs do have an effect on creosote.
As a chemical cleaner, creosote logs will do some work at making creosote more removable and cause some – maybe much – of the creosote to flake away. Because creosote is tough, this can be a really useful step towards a clean flue!
But it won’t actually remove or stop creosote from forming. You’ll have to give due diligence to carefully removing any flaked creosote from your firebox, flue, smoke chamber, or thimble area, since it can be a hazard in your home environment.
And keep in mind that since burning a creosote log becomes an unguided process, once the smoke starts moving up the flue, you don’t have control over where flaked creosote goes or how much is removed. It can drift into bends or other hard-to-access areas of your chimney system, possibly moving – but not eliminating – the problem.
Creosote burning logs should never be viewed as a substitute for professional chimney sweeping. While they may help reduce creosote buildup to some extent, they aren’t a comprehensive solution to chimney maintenance. Having an experienced, CSIA certified technician sweep your chimney remains essential because:
Creosote burning logs are deemed safe for use in your fireplace by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). But while they offer some benefits in terms of reducing creosote buildup – and aren’t hazardous in themselves – it can be hazardous to put too much faith in them and therefore overlook their limitations.
One such limitation is their overall effectiveness. The efficacy of creosote burning logs can vary depending on a number of factors, such as how often you use your fireplace, the type of wood burned, appliance design, and chimney configuration. If heavy buildup is already present or creosote is of a particularly stubborn composition, these logs may not effectively break it down. And without a careful assessment, it will be nearly impossible to know whether burning the log has been adequately successful or not. And if it hasn’t, the risks remain in play.
Keep in mind as well that while creosote logs are formulated to attack creosote, they aren’t necessarily removing any other type of blockage. So if leaves, twigs, or other types of debris have made their way into your flue, burning a creosote log won’t address these and lead to safe ventilation.
While the accumulation of creosote is accelerated by burning firewood that’s not properly seasoned (such as damp or green wood), even clean-burning wood fires will eventually contribute to build up because combustion will never be one hundred percent complete each time. So for those who use wood-burning appliances, diligent removal will be the best strategy for managing creosote.
Burning creosote logs can offer a supplementary approach to reducing creosote deposits in chimneys and stovepipes, but they can’t replace professional maintenance, including your chimney sweeping. Homeowners should continue to prioritize regular chimney maintenance – think inspections and sweepings – performed by certified professionals to help mitigate risks, maintain efficiency, and protect their investment in their home.
If you need chimney care, book with Lords Chimney today by calling or reaching out online. We’ve got your back.
Every time you burn wood in your fireplace or wood stove, condensation forms on your chimney’s flue. That condensation forms a dark, tar-like, highly combustible substance called creosote. When creosote builds up in your chimney, it can lead to a damaging and dangerous chimney fire, or it can force carbon dioxide back into your home, endangering your family.
Creosote sweeping logs promise a solution. They claim to reduce creosote buildup in your chimney simply by burning them in your chimney. Some such logs carry the seal of approval of the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), but even the CSIA acknowledges that the logs are not a replacement for your annual chimney sweeping and inspection by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep.
Creosote sweeping logs work by sending chemicals up your chimney that react with the creosote, causing it to flake away and fall back down your chimney to your firebox, where it either burns up or can be swept away. At best, the logs only remove up to 60 percent of the creosote from you chimney over a 15-day period. That means that creosote still can build up to dangerous levels within your chimney, blocking smoke from leaving your chimney and potentially igniting a chimney fire.
Additionally, many fireplaces aren’t a straight vertical channel. That means creosote can fall to and gather on your chimney’s horizontal surfaces, where it can build up. If your chimney is a straight vertical line, the creosote that falls into the firebox can cause flare ups that can harm your hearth or someone standing near it.
Your annual chimney sweeping is more than just a cleaning. Your certified chimney sweep also inspects your chimney for structural damage, water leaks, crumbling mortar, and other problems. A creosote sweeping log simply can’t help you identify and solve problems with your chimney. Missing your annual chimney inspection gives small problems, like a minor leak, time to grow into a major problem that potentially will be expensive to repair.
More importantly, your certified chimney sweep looks for problems that could lead to a chimney fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. That includes animals that have nested in your chimney or chimney fires that have gone undetected.
While the CSIA recognizes that creosote sweeping logs can be a valuable piece of chimney maintenance, eliminating some creosote in between professional chimney sweepings, replacing your annual chimney sweeping and inspection with a creosote sweeping log is dangerous both for your home and your family. If you’re overdue for your annual chimney sweeping and inspection, call the CSIA-certified chimney sweeps at Lords Chimney. We’ll make sure that your chimney is creosote-free and ready to burn safely this winter.