Fireplace Odor? Fix my stinking chimney!

Fireplace Odor? My chimney stinks!


Ask the Chimney Sweep recently received this question about fireplace odor that you may be dealing with yourself:

I have a wood-burning fireplace that I have not used in at least six years. I have had it cleaned 3 times since last using it. In the late spring and summer, or when it is raining, the fireplace odor is so horrible that I can’t deal with it. It doesn’t bother anyone else. It isn’t “smokey” smell, it is sharp, acrid chemical creosote smell. Short of ordering specially-made doors (2,000$ and that still won’t be totally tight) for it or getting the fireplace taken out (have no idea how much, brick home), I don’t know what else to do.

First off, I agree with you, chimney creosote odors stinks!!

This chimney cap is clogged up with glazed creosote. Most likely associated with closing down the damper with a wood stove. The fire likely never had a chance to burn good and hot because the damper was too tight.


For many homeowners, however, fireplace odor has become second-nature. It emits through the home through the furnace and the duct work to the point where creosote is now a part of the smell of the entire house. Check the faces of your guests the next time they’re over. If you notice anyone cringe or wince when they walk through the door, it may be time to get the fireplace checked out! Additionally, if you’re living with any children or elderly relatives, this also a potential health risk to consider. If it’s a bother to the nose, just think of the bother it is for your lungs! On top of this, creosote build-up can lead to chimney fires! Fortunately, there are much simpler ways to resolve this problem than expensively removing your fireplace.

What causes those nasty fireplace odors?

There are many potential causes of creosote odor, but there are several obvious factors that can easily contribute to creosote build up, thus resulting in fireplace odor.

  • Using wet and unseasoned wood. 

When you’re burning wood in your fireplace, you want to make sure the wood is seasoned properly for burning. If the wood is not completely dry or seasoned, there is moisture in the wood that translates into creosote deposits when burned. Even if the wood looks completely dry, you cannot know this for sure with the human eye alone. The best practice is to buy a moisture meter. A moisture meter is an inexpensive device that you can shove straight into wood that does a very efficient job of determining the moisture content in your wood. You can read more about moisture meters here.

  • Keeping the damper too tight.

For many wood-burning homeowners, it is a habit to keep the damper not open enough. It is important to know that creosote build-up is largely determined by airflow through the chimney system. Frequent hot fires are important to moving the gases in creosote up and out of the chimney. If you’re closing your damper too tight then you’re restricting your air flow, preventing everything from flowing smoothly through your chimney system, which allows for much more likelihood of creosote build up.

  • Your home is fairly airtight.

Creosote odor most often occurs in the spring/summer because the air conditioner is on and pulling creosote odors through the house. Spring rains and those hot summer, humid days are perfect times for odors to be carried back through the house. Air needs to be able to circulate throughout the duct work in your home. If your home is air tight with the air conditioner blasting, usually with lots of glass, tight windows, air has no way to travel outward through your home. This means air can only travel downward through your chimney system, redistributing all the creosote back into your fireplace, instead of out of it.

Chimney Odor Solutions?


Anti-Creo-Soot is a great product to prevent creosote. However, these chemical removers are NOT nearly as effective against serious odor problems in the home.


Many people resort to using chemical cleaners, air fresheners, place heavy glass doors over their fireplaces to resolve their odor issues. Unfortunately, all this does is mask the problem. Creosote odor is distributed into the ventilation of your entire home, so simply blocking or treating the firebox is not going to remove the odor. You must attack the source of. Creosote builds up in the firebox, the smoke chamber, and the chimney flues. This means a complete treatment is in order.

PCR (Poultice Creosote Remover)

Get a quote from your chimney sweep on using PCR to help resolve a severe fireplace odor problem.


Our most effective and recommended treated for creosote odor is Poultice Creosote Remover (PCR). PCR is designed to completely remove glazed creosote all of forms from the flue tiles, smoke chambers, and fireplaces. Poulitce Creosote Remover is a substance that when applied, the creosote dissolves and completely absorbs it. PCR can be applied by brush in easily accessible areas or with a specially designed tool that can be pulled up through the chimney by a winch, check out our video below. Once it completely drys out the creosote, the creosote fails to stick to the chimney and falls off the sides of the flue tiles. The remaining PCR is removed by then sweeping out the rest of the chimney.

  • Completely removes creosote of all forms
  • Eliminates the need for rigorous and ineffective cleaning methods
  • Cleans and prepares surface of flue tiles for additional chimney applications

How to do I get PCR treatment?

The best way to get PCR treatment is to get a chimney sweep to do the treatment. Using the provided resource on the front page of NCSG (National Chimney Sweeps Guild), you can search by your zip code and it will provide you with the nearest NCSG chimney sweep.

Once you’ve found a chimney sweep in your area, you’ll want to ask them if they do PCR treatment. Whenever you allow a contractor into your home you’ll want to do research. Check out Google, Angie’s List, Yelp. A professional will have all the equipment necessary and know-how to complete the job safely. As a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor, I can tell you, everyone I know who’s has this done has told me they’ve been incredibly satisfied with this removing their problems with creosote odors!

Don’t forget to visit our channel, Ask the Chimney Sweep on YouTube.

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.….Educational Videos….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

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