Fireplaces provide warmth and comfort during cold winter weather, but they can take on an unpleasant odor if winter temperatures temporarily rise. If your chimney begins to smell when the temperatures go above freezing, there are likely creosote deposits in the chimney. As the weather warms, these deposits begin to smell. Ridding your fireplace of the stench requires removing the creosote deposits, but there are also other short- and long-term solutions that can help you reduce the smell.
Creosote Deposits Need to Be Removed
Creosote deposits should be professionally removed from a chimney, and not just because they smell when it's warm. Creosote can catch fire, thus presenting a safety risk.
If your fireplace smells, have the chimney cleaned by a chimney sweep before you have another fire. This will both reduce the risk of a chimney fire and remove the source of the stench.
Cat Litter and Baking Soda Are Short-Term Solutions
Even if you aren't having any fires in your fireplace, it may still give off a stench if there is a lot of creosote buildup in the chimney and temperatures rise. While you're waiting for a chimney sweep to come, you can use either clay-based cat litter or baking soda to limit how much stink enters your house. Both materials will absorb the odors put off by the deposits if they're sprinkled in your fireplace.
To apply either cat litter or baking soda, simply follow these steps:
- remove any ashes in the fireplace
- shut the flue to prevent a downdraft from blowing the cat litter or baking soda into your house
- dust the floor of the fireplace with an even coating of cat litter or baking soda
- if the odor returns, remove the cat litter or baking soda and replace it with more
If the smell is particularly bad, you can use both cat litter and baking soda for a double-strength treatment. First apply a layer of cat litter, and then sprinkle baking soda on the litter.
Neither clay-based cat litter or baking soda will catch fire. MomsEveryday recommends using a clay-based cat litter to guard against fires when barbecuing. The City of Garden Grove, California mentions that baking soda can be used to put out stove-top fires. While you shouldn't have a fire in your fireplace until the creosote deposits are removed, you can safely build a fire on top of clay-based cat litter or baking soda. Once your chimney is clean, you can have a fire, and remove the cat litter or baking soda when you clean out the ashes.
Deodorizers, Dampers and Vents are Long-Term Solutions
Sometimes, smells put off by creosote remain even after the deposits are removed. While clay-based cat litter and baking soda are viable short-term solutions, few homeowners want to regularly change out the cat litter or baking soda in their fireplace. Instead, a long-term solution is needed.
If your chimney smells after it's cleaned out, there are three long-term solutions you might consider:
- a top-mounted damper can be installed to prevent downdrafts that bring odors into your house
- putting another vent in your home may reverse the airflow so that odors flow out your chimney and not into your home through the fireplace
- commercial chimney deodorizers, which are stronger than clay-based cat litter and baking soda, can be applied to reduce and mask odors
If you notice a smell coming from your fireplace during a winter thaw, the most important thing to do is call a chimney sweep. There are creosote deposits in your chimney that must be cleaned out. Once you've contacted a chimney sweep, you can use clay-based cat litter and baking soda to mitigate the smell until the chimney sweep comes. If your fireplace continues to smell after the chimney's cleaned, consider one of the three long-term solutions. For more information and advice, contact a company like Alpine Fireplaces.