When we are actively burning wood in our fireplaces or wood stove, we expect it to smell, so we don’t think there is anything wrong with it. Then, spring and summer come around and the fireplace and chimney reek of this acidic, almost metallic, smell mixed with a campfire. Hard to explain at times… but it is definitely unpleasant.

The bad news is that the substance causing that smell is toxic. The good news is that you can get rid of the smell by removing this toxic substance.

What’s Causing My Fireplace to Smell?

black, puffy, tarry creosote

The buildup causing smells in your chimney is called creosote – a dark, messy, sticky muck that attaches itself to the wall of the flue. If left there and not removed, it acts like plaque in your chimney’s arteries and builds up more and more of itself until you get a significant layer. That buildup does two things – 1) starts to smell and 2) because it’s a combustible, threaten to catch on fire.

Any other potential causes of odors?

Now, we’d be happy to book a sweeping service to get rid of your creosote buildup. But first, there are two additional things to consider as well before we get to the final solution.

 If you have done a lot of improvements to your house to button up your doors’ and windows’ airflow, then these modifications might be changing the draft in your home. This is one of the unintentional things that happens when airflow changes. 

You see, a house has to breathe and a fireplace needs air to work correctly. What does this have to do with smells? Well, the air is pulled down the chimney through the firebox and out into the home – bringing all the smells of everything in that chimney with it. Not only will it pull the creosote odors, but it will pull the smell of any animals that have died – and their feces – too… none of which anyone wants to smell.

If you mix all the above with any type of rain that may be getting in from missing or deteriorated mortar joints, spalling bricks, broken chimney caps, etc., then you are getting all the humidity, mildew, pollen, and excess moisture, as well. So, while you think it’s just the “wood” or “campfire” smell, it could be a mixture of any or all of the above.

How Do I Get Rid of Creosote & Other Odors?

If you search online, it will tell you to open up the doors and windows, buy packets of activated charcoal, sprinkle baking soda around your home, and/or mix up a big batch of vinegar and water to spray on the fireplace. Oh – and don’t forget to bathe your pets! The problem with all of these is that they are temporary and they don’t actually get rid of the problem – which is the creosote.

The only way to get rid of creosote is to get your chimney swept.

You see, the smell is just a symptomThe only way to get rid of creosote is to get your chimney swept. That’s it. If you’re handy you can try and do it yourself if you have all the correct tools and equipment, including all the safety equipment.

However, if you think the job is more than you can do on your own, call Winston’s Chimney Service at 703-379-5006 and we’ll come out and take care of it for you.

All our professional chimney technicians are certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and go through mandatory training for every job we perform.

a girl against an orange background holding her nose like something smells bad

But don’t stop with an initial sweeping. If the creosote is glazed and deep, then we may have to treat it with a chemical that will dry out the creosote, so we can take it off in a day or two. If you don’t remember when the last time you had your system cleaned was, this could happen… so, be aware.

When all is said and done, we can then set up a plan to get this maintenance done on an annual basis so the creosote – and the smell – won’t return. 

We’re Here to Solve Your Fireplace Issues

The lack of sweeping is the number one reason fireplaces and chimneys smell. The second reason is water intrusion – which then causes you to smell mold and mildew from and around the fireplace. Then, there’s the draft issue that is discussed above.

That said, if you make the decision to take care of your chimney and venting system from now on, Winston’s Chimney Service can help you do that with an effective maintenance plan. When it comes to chimney repairs, installations, inspections, and more, we handle it all.

Call us at 703-379-5006 for more information or book online with us today.

Winston's Chimney Service
11301 Industrial Road
Manassas, VA 20109