What is Creosote?

Creosote is a tar like substance that can build up in a chimney. When wood or coal is burned slowly, it produces tar and other organic vapors which combine with expelled moisture to form creosote. The creosote vapors condense in the relatively cool chimney flue of a slow-burning fire. As a result, creosote residue accumulates on the flue lining. If ignited, this creosote creates an extremely hot fire which may ignite surrounding materials resulting in a building fire.The chimney connector and chimney should be inspected at least twice a month during the heating season to determine if a creosote buildup has occurred.

How do you get rid of creosote?

If creosote has accumulated, it should be removed. Failure to remove creosote may result in ignition and may cause a house/building fire. Creosote may be removed using a chimney brush or other commonly available materials from your local hardware retailer. Chimney fires burn very hot. If the chimney connector should glow red, immediately call the fire department, then reduce the fire by closing the inlet air control and pour a large quantity of coarse salt, baking soda, or cool ashes on top of the fire in the firebox.

Tips for Preventing Creosote Buildup:
  1. Burn only seasoned wood that has dried for at least one year.
  2. Burn hardwood rather than soft wood. Hardwood is denser or heavier wood and burns hotter.
  3. Do not attempt to burn (or mix in) green or wet wood. The use of green or wet wood will cause a rapid build up of creosote. Wood that hisses, sizzles and blackens without igniting in five minutes must be considered too wet to burn.
  4. Do not attempt to extend the burn time by using wet wood. Not only does burning wet wood rapidly build up creosote, but it reduces the heat output by up to 25 percent.
  5. Burn the stove with the air inlet control wide open for 10-25 minutes every time fresh wood is loaded into the stove. Do not load more than ¼ to ½ of the fuel capacity at one time. Loading too much wood at once will cause excessive smoke which contains creosote. Mature fires or coals produce very little creosote-producing smoke.
  6. Burn with the control open for several minutes at numerous intervals throughout the day, being careful not to over fire the unit. Following this process will help to warm the chimney and reduce the amount of creosote forming condensation within the chimney.
  7. Creosote inevitably will form in your chimney and connector pipe. Following these steps will help reduce the rate of build up.
  8. Establish a routine for the handling of fuel, firing, and operating the stove. Check daily for creosote build up until experience shows how often you need to clean for safe operation. Be aware that the hotter the fire, the less creosote is deposited and weekly cleanings may be necessary in mild weather even though monthly cleanings may be enough in the colder months.