Tools of the Trade: Chimney Cleaning Equipment

Everyone loves a good fire burning in the fireplace. Every once in a while, though (generally between burn seasons), your chimney needs to be cleaned to remove buildup and keep you safe for many fires to come. A qualified chimney sweep should be able to tell you during your annual chimney inspection if a cleaning is necessary (which should be done when soot buildup reaches 1/8” in thickness), and the procedure can be completed by the sweep or by yourself with the help of a few essential chimney cleaning tools. Here’s what you (or your sweep) will need…

Chimney Cleaning Essentials

  • Chimney Sweep Wire BrushWire Brush – Think Mary Poppins. These flat, round brushes are used to get into the chimney to scrape buildup like soot and creosote off of the inside walls. Creosote can accumulate and thicken into a “glaze” form, which is especially tricky to remove, but these tough brushes are able to get into the tight space of a chimney and loosen the debris. Sometimes they’re recommended especially for masonry chimneys that have clay flues.
  • Polypropylene Brush – This is strictly an alternative to a wire brush, and they needn’t be used together. Polypropylene is better used with a chimney that has a stainless steel chimney liner, as the brush won’t damage it. This change is necessary, as using a different material may void the warranty on the steel liner.
  • Chimney Cleaning Rods – The round wire or polypropylene brushes come as standalone tools and must be paired with rods of appropriate length. These rods are attached to the brush and enable you or your sweep to scale the brush the entire length of the chimney interior, cleaning every nook and cranny along the way. They come in several sizes and can connect to one another to extend the length so there’s never a worry over whether a brush can be made long enough.
  • Chimney Cleaning LadderLadder – It goes without saying that cleaning a chimney is hard work and that different parts of the unit will have to be dealt with in special ways. Sometimes the chimney must be accessed from the top, such as when the chimney cap is cleaned, so a long and sturdy ladder will be essential to get to the roof.
  • Chemical Agents – Not all chimney cleaning tools are hardware. Chimney residue can sometimes be thickly caked on, so brushes or scraping tools won’t quite do the job just yet. As an alternative, chemical cleaners are employed. A variety of products are available to reduce creosote. Spray-on powders, like Chimney Saver’s Cre-Away, can therefore be used to coat the fireplace and chimney walls and break down glaze. Spraying this on before a fire ensures that when the fireplace is lit, creosote and soot lose their sticking power and can be removed by traditional means. The product reduces the flammability of creosote, removes residue odor and absorbs creosote oils.
  • Hand Brush – Luckily some of the muck inside your fireplace and chimney can be easily accessed. This is typically the case with debris like ash, which often settles in the fireplace or against chimney walls. A hand brush has a short handle and can be used to sweep away unwanted dusty residue, kind of like a broom. This tool is also used in tighter spaces, where maneuvering a large and/or long-handled brush would be difficult.
  • chimney cleaning vaccumsVacuums – Chimney cleaning is messy business! You’ll want to have at least one heavy duty vacuum on-hand during the cleaning (or more likely after it) to rid your home of any leftover particles. Consider using something like a high capacity Shop Vac with a long and flexible hose to remove the ash you swept up with the hand brush and get into tricky corners around the base of the fireplace and lower parts of the chimney. The Shop Vac is preferable to avoid clogging and overworking your household stand-up vacuum cleaner. Using a vacuum will not only get rid of debris from surfaces but also help keep the air in your home clean after the chimney procedure.

A lot of work goes into cleaning and maintaining your chimney. Brushes, rods, chemicals—these are just a few tools that will help to get the job done when the chimney requires a little bit of extra TLC. It is possible to do the cleaning yourself, however, nothing’s better than a certified chimney sweep when you want to ensure the best possible results. Give High’s Chimney a call today and we’ll see you through!

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