While we haven’t experienced fireplace smell ourselves, we’ve talked with others who have and they say it was a major pain to deal with. Curious to learn more, we spent some time finding out exactly what causes fireplace smell and 11 different ways to get rid of it.
Fireplace smell can come from creosote buildup, pests, or other issues with your fireplace or chimney. The best ways to get rid of fireplace smell is to have a yearly chimney cleaning and to use vinegar to spot clean your fireplace and surrounding area. This includes the mantel, carpets, and fireplace surround.
So while fireplace smell can seem like it can stick to many surfaces, there are ways to prevent it as well as clean it. Let’s take a closer look at where fireplace smell comes from in the first place.
Reasons Why Fireplaces Smell Bad
Before you clean, it is helpful to understand what causes fireplace smell. In most cases, these smells arise from one or more of these common causes:
- Creosote buildup
- Air pressure issues
- Excess moisture
- Tree Debris
Each of these can bring a different but still stinky smell into your home. Unfortunately, some of these odors are a natural result of using a fireplace.
What is Creosote?
Creosote is a chemical that comes from burning wood. Each time you use your fireplace, creosote builds up as a part of the smoke that the fire gives off. As smoke rises from the fire, creosote often sticks to the inside of your chimney. Creosote can quickly transition from a gas into solid tar, especially at lower temperatures.
With continued fireplace use, creosote will continue to collect in your chimney. The main danger here is that it’s highly flammable. If the build-up of creosote in your chimney ignites, it can cause a chimney fire and spread to the rest of the house. Other than that, creosote can also lead to health complications.
While creosote can seem scary, it’s a normal by-product of wood-burning fires. Having a professional perform yearly chimney inspections and cleanings is the best way to prevent creosote buildup.
However, the effects of creosote can be magnified when combined with the next issue.
How Air Pressure Brings Smells Inside
Air pressure plays a significant role in how much your home will smell during, and after you use your fireplace.
For starters, your home has many vents that let the air out of your house. For example, bathrooms and kitchens include vents to release smells and fumes from your living spaces.
The problem is that as air leaves your home, it creates negative air pressure inside your house. That means that the air pressure inside your house becomes significantly lower than the air outside your house. The result is that the high-pressure air (outside air) will naturally flow into the low-pressure area (indoor air) to achieve balance.
One of the entry points for that high-pressure air is your chimney. As the air flows in through your chimney, it carries the smoke and creosote smell with it. You can reduce this effect by closing your damper when you’re not using the fireplace.
Animals in Your Chimney
Pests are another common cause of fireplace smell. Whether dead or alive, an animal in your chimney can cause a bad smell. Either smell can easily ruin your fireplace experience.
As with creosote, negative air pressure only exacerbates the problem as the airflow carries with it the stink of your unwanted housemate.
Moisture Makes for Must
Even with a good chimney cap, sometimes rainfall can drip inside. When this happens, the water inside your chimney can mix with the creosote and create an unpleasant musty smell.
Along with that, excess moisture can compromise the structural integrity of your chimney. High amounts of moisture also encourage the creosote to further stick to the inside of the chimney.
Getting rid of moisture is a difficult task, but we’ll soon cover some options that will help resolve it.
Another somewhat surprising cause of bad chimney smell is tree debris. Without a proper chimney cover, there is nothing preventing trees from dropping their leaves and twigs into your chimney.
This may seem harmless, but tree leaves and branches can lead to bad smells when it begins to break down and rot.
Like the other smells, it’s made worse when it’s carried down the chimney and into the home with negative air pressure.
If you’re curious if branches are the cause of your fireplace smell, you can go outside and see how many trees have their canopies above your home. If you have large trees hanging over your chimney, their leaves may be the cause of the bad smell.
Is Fireplace Smell Bad for You?
Now that you know some of the leading causes of fireplace smell, it may be helpful to know if fireplace small bad for you.
Fireplace smell can be bad for you, especially if the source of the smell is harmful, such as creosote. Other smells like rotting branches and leaves are unpleasant but don’t have as adverse effects. If your fireplace smells, close the damper and call a professional to have your chimney inspected.
We already covered some of the inherent dangers of creosote, but other harmful particles also come from wood smoke.
It’s hard to detect how many of those particles you are inhaling as your use your fireplace. But if you’re experiencing a noticeable bad smell from your fireplace, treat that smell as a sign that those harmful particles are present in the air you are breathing. With that in mind, let’s continue to our list of the 11 best ways to get fireplace smells out of your house.
11 Ways to Get Fireplace Smell Out of Your House
There are several methods for getting rid of bad fireplace smells. Some require the help of a qualified professional, while others are natural home remedies. Listed below are 11 of the most effective fireplace smell solutions.
- Fireplace Deodorant
- Close your Damper
- Hire a Chimney Sweep
- Get a Chimney Cover
- Use an Air Purifier
- Get a Fireplace Door
- Waterproof Your Chimney
- Clean Your Firebox
- Clean Your Carpets and Upholstery
In the sections below, we’ll show you how each of these methods can help you get rid of fireplace smell.
One of the simplest ways to get rid of fireplace smells is to use charcoal. Charcoal has a natural ability to neutralize odors. This inherent quality makes this a quick and easy way to reduce the smell coming from your chimney. Applying charcoal is fairly easy as well.
All you need to do is place charcoal in your firebox. Simply fill a bucket and leave it in the firebox. As an alternative, kitty litter will have the same effect.
Keep in mind that this method is a way to block some or all of the smell from coming down the chimney and into the house. But that doesn’t mean that it treats the root cause of your fireplace smell. For that, you’ll likely need a more intensive approach.
Vinegar is another simple home remedy for fireplace smells and any other smells. In our home, we also use a vinegar-water solution as an environmentally-friendly way to clean the kitchen and bathroom. This natural remedy works similarly to charcoal and is equally easy to use as most homes have vinegar stocked in the kitchen.
All you need to do is mix vinegar with an equal amount of water. Put that solution in a spray bottle. Then spray your fireplace and the surrounding areas.
3. Fireplace Deodorant
If you are not satisfied with your homemade fireplace smell solutions, you can try purchasing fireplace deodorant. These products have a special formula that helps to get rid of fireplace smells with minimal effort on your part.
A bottle of fireplace deodorant usually has a wick covering the opening of the bottle. To use the product, pull the wick up, then place the bottle inside your fireplace. After that, the fireplace deodorant will provide a fresh scent to your fireplace for several months.
4. Close your Damper
Here is another quick fix for your fireplace smell problems. And this one is somewhat of a no-brainer—make sure that you close your damper.
The damper is responsible for closing your chimney off from your living space. It prevents exterior air from flowing through your chimney and into your house.
By closing your damper, you may reduce much of the fireplace smell. While this is a simple solution, it is worth checking to see if your damper is closed before you pursue any other more-involved remedies.
5. Hire a Chimney Sweep
Hiring a chimney sweep is the most effective way to address the cause of your fireplace smell. While other remedies focus only on getting rid of odors, a chimney sweep can help you get rid of what’s causing the odor in the first place.
One of the primary benefits of hiring a chimney sweep is that they can do a thorough cleaning of your chimney. This includes removing any built-up creosote on the inside of your chimney, as well as any leaf debris or animal remains that may be there.
Chimney sweeps can also help add new attachments such as a chimney cap or cowl, and alert you to parts of your chimney that may need repair.
Even if you don’t experience a bad fireplace smell, you should consider having your chimney swept at least once each year. This regular cleaning will also help decrease the likelihood that your chimney’s creosote will start a house fire.
6. Get a Chimney Cover
Remember how we mentioned that rainfall could be one of the leading causes of odor in your chimney? Well, there’s another simple solution to this issue. If your chimney does not already have one, you should consider installing a chimney cap.
A chimney cap or cover is an effective way to make sure that nothing from the outside of your home can fall into your chimney.
This includes leaves, rainwater, and pests. To have a chimney cover installed, you will need to call a professional. But the money you spend may be well worth the reduction in smell and potential future damages to your chimney.
7. Use an Air Purifier
Air purifiers are a useful appliance for dealing with fireplace odors. And you may already have one in your home. If so, relocate it to the room where your fireplace is.
An air purifier also serves to clean your air, making it safer for you to breathe. While they may not be 100% successful in getting all harmful particles out of the air, they will certainly help.
If you wanted to take it a step further, you can consider buying or renting an ozone generator. I used one when I first moved out of my parents 10 years ago and moved into an apartment that smelled of cigarette smoke. I ran the ozone machine for part of the day, let it air out, and there were zero traces of the smell left.
8. Get a Fireplace Door
A fireplace door is simply a physical barrier that will help prevent bad smells from entering your home.
As with the damper and the chimney cover, a fireplace door is another way of blocking air from traveling through your chimney and into your house.
Fireplace doors come in many options, so choose one that works with the unique shape and size of your fireplace. Also, check that the fireplace door is made of a non-porous material. Otherwise, the door won’t be useful in shielding you from airborne odors.
9. Waterproof Your Chimney
We’ve already mentioned that moisture can cause bad smells and deterioration to your chimney. Because of this, consider checking the waterproof state of your chimney.
Absorption is a quality of the most common chimney materials. Although not noticeable to the naked eye, masonry such as bricks can soak up some water.
Through snow and rain, your chimney will slowly begin to degrade. As a preventative measure, hire a professional to waterproof your chimney to slow future damage. The reduced moisture may also help prevent fireplace smells as well.
10. Clean Your Firebox
If you neglect your firebox, you mind find your home is full of fireplace smell. After burning a few fires in your fireplace, your firebox will begin to collect soot and ash.
These substances can cause a smell in your home. Luckily, it’s easy to get rid of this smell. All you need to do is clean out your firebox regularly.
11. Clean Your Carpets and Upholstery
Even after you address the root cause of your fireplace smell, that smell may linger in your home. The reason for this is that the smell of smoke can get into your carpets and upholstery. The scent will continue to linger as long as you don’t clean these surfaces.
For carpets, a thorough vacuuming might fix the issue. But if the smell still lingers, you should put some baking soda on your carpets and couches to absorb the smell.
Allow the baking soda to rest for a while before you vacuum it. The longer the baking soda rests, the more effective this treatment will be.
If that doesn’t work, you can use a special upholstery shampoo. Many products are perfect for cleaning and deodorizing couches that will help ease the fireplace smell.
Do Fireplaces Smell More in the Summer?
We’ve covered many of the main causes of fireplace smell and ways to get rid of it. But you should also know that fireplaces can smell worse in the summer.
Fireplaces smell during the summer because the weather is more humid and rainy. Those two factors can create a lot of moisture in the fireplace and make a smell appear that was somewhat undetectable in the other months.
If you experience a sudden change in the smell of your fireplace in the summer, this is likely why. Still, the solution to get rid of fireplace smell should be the same.
Chimney Sweep vs. Chimney Inspection
While most consider a chimney sweep to be someone who can care for all aspects of chimney care, it’s not exactly the case. In fact, the role of a chimney sweep is somewhat limited in scope.
The only true responsibility of a chimney sweep is to clean your chimney. Their services may expand beyond that slightly. But to get a comprehensive understanding of the state of your chimney, you need a chimney inspection.
One of the most important aspects is that a chimney inspection will alert you to any structural issues with your chimney. Structural deficiencies can prevent your chimney from operating to full capacity and are also a safety concern. This is why it’s best to have a chimney inspection at least once a year, especially if you have fireplace smell.
While we’re lucky enough not to have experienced fireplace smell yet, it’s bound to happen at some point. If you currently have fireplace smell, remember to close the damper, place charcoal in the firebox, clean surfaces with vinegar, and call a professional for a chimney inspection.
Need More Help?
You can always ask us here at Fireplace Tips, but you should know the other resources available to you! Here are the resources we recommend.
- Chimney Safety Institute of North America (CSIA): The CSIA is your BEST resource for fireplace and chimney safety at home. They’re a non-profit governed by a volunteer board of directors dedicated to the education, training, and certification of chimney and industry related professionals.
- Self-Sufficiency and Off-Grid: If you’re like me and passionate about off-grid and self-sufficiency, see my number 1 resource—Abundance Plus. Check out their Frugal Homesteading Course on growing 90% of your own food. Get 7-days free and 10% off with the code: TYLER10