The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), a non-profit, educational institution focused on the prevention of chimney and venting hazards, is concerned about the consumer use of chemical chimney cleaning products to the exclusion of conventional chimney inspections and cleaning. These products often are promoted for their ability to remove a portion of the creosote from a masonry or metal chimney interior through catalytic action when burned in a fireplace or wood stove. The CSIA believes that the use of these products alone is not an adequate substitute for mechanical chimney cleaning and inspection because it does not provide the same level of protection to the chimney system. Current promotional claims for some of the products may be creating a false sense of security among consumers.
It is the consensus of qualified experts that chimney maintenance is best achieved through annual inspections, and mechanical sweeping, by trained professional chimney sweeps as frequently as needed. Chimney inspections often reveal hidden problems with a chimney structure that could be potentially hazardous. Mechanical sweeping of chimneys not only removes layers of creosote from the chimney surface, it removes the resulting loose soot and creosote from the chimney, fireplace, or wood stove. A substantial percentage of fireplace and wood stove chimneys do not provide a straight path from the firebox to the outside. If chemical chimney cleaning products perform as claimed and cause debris in the chimney to fall, that debris still needs to be removed from the smoke shelf, baffle, catalytic combustor, or offset in order to ensure a properly functioning chimney.
Chemical products that claim to clean or assist in cleaning chimneys are not new. Indeed some of these chemical products are used successfully by professional chimney sweeps in conjunction with the mechanical cleaning of a chimney. In some situations a chimney can develop a hard or tacky layer of creosote in the chimney that cannot be removed by normal mechanical brushing. Under the supervision of a qualified chimney professional certain chemical cleaners may be used to change the chemical composition of the hard or tacky layer of creosote into a brittle or powdery condition to facilitate its removal.
CSIA believes that the optimal method for cleaning a chimney is by a mechanical brushing of the chimney in conjunction with a complete evaluation of the system by a qualified chimney professional. The CSIA and the National Fire Protection Association recommend annual inspections.
For more information about chimney safety or to respond to this bulletin, call Mark McSweeney, CSIA executive Director at (317) 837-5362 or visit www.csia.org. CSIA is a non-profit, educational organization focused on the prevention of chimney and venting hazards.
Adopted: November 2001
HEARTH Education Foundation (HEARTH), is an independent, nonprofit organization that serves the public interest by promoting safety, understanding and responsibility in all facets of the residential fireside.