Thursday, February 14, 2013

Clean Creosote From My Wood Burners

Creosote is a dangerous problem.

Creosote occurs in wood burners and fireplaces where moisture or a cool draft drops the temperature of the smoke below 250 degrees Fahrenheit. It forms a sticky tar-like substance that catches unburned particles or other volatile substances that drift into the vent. Eventually, it will harden and form a thick glaze that most brushes cannot remove. As it clogs the vent, the risk of a fire increases dramatically. Cleaning creosote from your wood burner is vital for your safety.


To successfully clean creosote from a wood burner, first inspect the flue. If the creosote is severe and is clogging more than half of the flue, don't attempt this method; contact a professional instead. Otherwise, purchase a chemical catalyst such as Anti-Creo Soot (liquid) or Third Stage Removal. Both of these are available at most home improvement centers. Also gather some dry, seasoned firewood, matches or firestarters, a chimney or flue brush, and a fireplace thermometer, if necessary.

For safety, you should also wear goggles, gloves and a long-sleeved shirt and pants, as the catalyst may damage the skin. Make sure to keep pets and children out of the room while you are using it.

Application of Catalyst

Make sure you read the instructions for the catalyst thoroughly, as they may be slightly different for some types of wood burning appliances. For most appliances such as a wood burner, spray between 40 and 60 squirts of the catalyst on the wood, interior walls of the firebox and near the entrance to the flue. Go ahead and be liberal with the application, as this won't result in any negative reactions.

Do not spray the catalyst on hot coals or burning embers. For catalytic combustors, make sure it is in bypass mode before and after the treatment, and make sure not to spray the catalyst into a hot or operating combustor. In pellet stoves, apply 6 to 10 squirts to the hopper and fire chamber daily before use.

Fire and Cleaning

Build a small, hot fire in the fire box. It needs to reach over 300 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point the catalyst will begin to act. Maintain this temperature with a small fire for about 45 minutes, and make sure your burner doesn't overheat. Don't try to burn a large fire, as these are far less efficient than a small fire, and do not necessarily make the burner hotter. However, you'll need to stay with the fire to ensure it doesn't go out during the 45 minutes it needs to burn.

Once the fire has burned down and cooled, you can attempt to brush out the creosote and soot from the flue. The catalyst should break it down into harmless flakes that will come out with a regular brush. If not, however, you can repeat this process, using up to 60 squirts of catalyst for 7 consecutive days. After that, you may need to call a professional to handle it.

Daily Maintenance

Once the initial creosote has been removed, you still need to take additional steps to ensure it stays gone. Use 6 to 12 squirts daily in the same manner as described above, burning a small fire with only dry and seasoned firewood. Don't allow your fire to smolder, and make sure that any sources of unnecessary draft or moisture are removed. It may be a good idea to have your wood burner inspected if you suspect there might be structural damage causing this.

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