How to clean your own chimney
I could be shooting myself in the foot giving advice about how to clean your own chimney! However I want you to have the right information to do the job properly IF you intend to try it yourself; especially if there’s no chimney sweep in your local area, or you’re living abroad. Safety is ESSENTIAL, so to have a safe and clean chimney flue - be sure you prepare against avoidable danger by listening to this advice.
Warning: Check your houshold insurance details before sweeping your own chimney. Many household insurance policies state you need a certificate of chimney sweeping backed by a chimney sweeping association (e.g. Guild of master chimney sweeps) to validate your policy. Doing the job yourself might not be enough.
The following instructions are for sweeping an open fire (NOT a stove or closed appliance) with no cowls fitted, just an open clay pot.
Tools of the trade (what you need):-
- Reel of Duct tape
- Large dust sheet
- 1 x old bed sheet (cut a 3cm square hold in the middle)
- Sweep’s brush (best quality you can find)
- Set of universal rods (3/4 inch)
- Adapter for rods’ brush (normally adapts to a Whitworth thread)
- Mask and gloves
- Vacuum with HEPA filter
- Smoke matches or pellets
- Blow dryer/hair dryer (heat source)
Step-by-step – how it is done
- Lay out your dust sheet in front of the fireplace opening.
- Put on your mask and gloves.
- Shine the light up the chimney, using the torch, to work out the size of the flue.
- Cut the brush down to a size a little larger than that of the flue.
- Hold the old bed sheet over the fireplace opening. Duct tape all the way along the top of the sheet, securing it to the top of the fireplace opening. Don’t skimp on the tape – rigorous taping will keep the soot and debris inside the fireplace and away from your room!
- Place the correctly-sized brush inside the fire opening.
- Take your leading rod and push it through the hole in the bed sheet.
- Hold the brush upright, using your arm, and connect the leading rod.
- Get busy with the Duct tape! Tape all of the edges of the bed sheet to the fireplace opening to protect the room from soot. Look out for gaps that debris can fall through.
- Push the leading rod up the chimney and connect another when needed, always turning to the right.
- Repeat this process until you reach the top of the flue and then bring the rods back down, unscrewing them one by one as you go.
- Take a look up the chimney using your torch. Is it still dirty? Repeat steps 5 to 10 until you are happy with the result.
- Use a blow torch/hair dryer to warm the chimney up. Point the heat source up the chimney for approx 8 minutes.
- Light the smoke match or pellet and place it inside the fireplace opening. If all the smoke goes up the chimney, congratulate yourself on a job well done! If it doesn’t, I suggest you call in a professional for help . . . .
- Ask a friend to go outside during this smoke test to observe the pots on the stack. If smoke comes out of more than one pot, you have a leakage. If this is the case, call in a certified chimney sweep as soon as possible.
- When the main bulk of the job is done, use a dustpan and brush or vacuum cleaner to clear the fireplace of soot and debris.
Please make sure you fit CO and smoke alarms in every room that the chimney breast passes through – including any loft space.
Note: I always recommend you hire a professional chimney sweep to clean your open fire or stove.
The information above is only for people insisting upon cleaning their own chimney, against this advice. I am offering these tips in hope that chimney fire and leak risks are kept to a minimum.
Always hire an experienced and registered chimney sweep such as myself. We won’t leave a mess, and we carry the correct equipment for the task in-hand. We are the only people who can issue the appropriate certificate to validate your household insurance.