When a fire burns, creosote and other particles begin to line the chimney. Cleaning the chimney and fireplace regularly helps remove creosote, reducing the risk of a house fire. A homeowner can clean the chimney at home, though many choose to hire a professional chimney sweep.
Signs - The most obvious sign that a chimney needs cleaning is a sour smell coming from the fireplace. Always allow the fireplace and chimney to cool for several days before cleaning.
Supplies - To sweep a chimney at home properly, it is important to use the correct supplies. You will need plastic sheeting, duct tape, a steel chimney sweeping brush, a long rope, water jug, white vinegar, water and a wet/dry vacuum.
Cleaning - Begin by covering the fireplace opening with plastic sheeting. Seal the area shut with duct tape to prevent chimney soot and ash from getting into the home. From the roof, tie the water jug to one end of the rope to act as a weight and a chimney brush to the other. Drop the brush down the chimney, scrubbing the sides as it is pulled back up the flue. Repeat until no more soot is visible on chimney walls.
Fireplace - Do not forget to clean out the fireplace after sweeping the chimney. Use a wet/dry vacuum to remove all of the soot and ash in the fireplace. Mix together equal parts warm water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray down the walls of the fireplace and scrub clean with a wire brush or the chimney brush.