Your fireplace is beautiful on the outside, but can you say the same for the inside. Keeping your chimney clean is keeping your home safe. There are many fireplace cleaning tools out there, but the chimney brush is one of the most vital. A chimney brush breaks up the buildup of creosote and soot inside your chimney.
Chimney brushes help keep exhaust flowing up and out of the home rather than into the home. If you never clean your chimney, you'll find yourself in danger. Creosote buildup can block exhaust fumes and cause a chimney fire. But, a chimney brush is not a one size fits all solution. Some types work better for certain chimneys than others do. In this buyer's guide, we will tell you everything you need to know to find the right chimney brush for your fireplace.
What is a Chimney Brush?
Metal wire chimney brush
A chimney brush is a tool used to clean chimney flues. Its tough bristles remove soot and creosote buildup from the chimney pipe or flu to allow exhaust fumes to escape your home safely. As a homeowner, you can clean your chimney on your own, but using a chimney brush effectively is not easy. If unsure, leave it to the professionals.
But, if you're a capable DIYer or just curious, we have some tips to get you started a little later in the article. First, you should know about the different types of chimney brushes, so you know what works best for your hearth.
Chimney Brush Shape
What is the shape of your chimney? That's the question you have to consider before buying your chimney brush. Most chimneys are round, square, or rectangular, so most brushes are too.
You may have an irregular shaped chimney. In that case, your best bet is to buy a round, rectangle, or square brush (whichever resembles your chimney shape the most) and cut it to fit.
A clean chimney flue
The material makeup of your brush is important. You need a different brush, depending on the type of chimney you have. Poly brushes work best for metal venting systems. Steel brushes work best with masonry chimneys. The construction of steel and poly brushes are the same. It's the materials that make the difference.
Plastic (poly). - As mentioned earlier, plastic or polypropylene brushes are best for metal venting applications. We're talking steel stovepipe, steel chimney liners, steel chimney pipe, and pellet vent pipe. The metal bristles on steel brushes can wear down the metal venting components, which is why it's best to go with a poly chimney brush. Poly brushes are acid-resistant, so creosote will not break them down.
Steel - Steel brushes have wire bristles coated with zinc to resist corrosion. These are tougher than poly brushes and are best with clay, brick, or stone chimneys. The steel bristles are tough enough to remove creosote and soot within a masonry chimney without degrading the flue.
Rods connect to your chimney brush. They give you the overall length you need to scrape the soot out of the chimney. Choosing the right rod for your chimney brush is simple when you have the right information. This section goes over the different types of rods and their advantages and disadvantages.
Fiberglass Rods - If you need a rod that bends very little, go with fiberglass. Use these in chimneys that have only shallow 15 degree offsets or less. Fiberglass rods are stiff and can help you push through that severe buildup inside the chimney. That strength is also a disadvantage. The rigidness of this rod prevents you from using it for venting systems that have any significant offsets. Pushing this rod through an elbow is enough to splinter or even break it.
Nylon Rods - For a more flexible solution, go with nylon. A nylon rod works for venting systems that have tight bends. A nylon rod is so flexible it can bend to 90 degrees or more. The flexibility of nylon rods means it can be a bit tougher to clean because it does not have the strength of fiberglass. If your bend is at the end of your venting system, using a combination of fiberglass and nylon can give you the best setup for removing soot and creosote buildup.
Chimney rod adapters
Poly Rods - These work best in conjunction with poly brushes. Poly rods are made of heavy-duty plastic and are best used with metal venting systems. Poly rods, like brushes, will not scratch the chimney walls. Poly rods can come rigid or flexible to suit your needs.
What Size Chimney Brush Do I Need?
After picking the right shape, you have to choose the right size. Chimneys range in sizes, so the brushes must do the same. To find the right size, you must know the size of your chimney. If you do not know the size of your chimney, we'll tell you how to measure it.
Measuring for a metal chimney - If you have a pre-fab or metal chimney, you'll have to remove the chimney cap, then measure the inner diameter of the pipe. If you already know the inner diameter of your venting system, there's no need to measure it! Select the adequately sized brush based on the overall diameter. Remember, for metal chimneys, use a poly brush.
Measuring for a masonry chimney - For a masonry chimney, you need to measure the length and width of the flue, then buy a brush as close to those dimensions as possible. Steel wire brushes are best for masonry chimneys. It is acceptable to round up to the next largest inch in either direction if your chimney falls into an odd size bracket.
If for any reason, you can't find a chimney brush in the exact size you need, it's best to go bigger rather than smaller. A larger brush may be harder to push through, but there's a little give to the bristles that can make it work. If your brush is too big, then cut it down to size with a wire snipper. A chimney brush that is too small will not clean as well.
When To Use a Chimney Brush
How often you should clean your chimney depends on the buildup inside. Before cleaning, find a flashlight and look up into your flue. If you see dusty, gray/black, soft buildup, that can be removed with a chimney brush. If you see hard, black, shiny buildup, you'll need to apply some creosote remover first.
Once you've determined the state of your chimney, it's time to start cleaning. Attach the rods to your brush and clean your chimney with short, forceful plunges up and down. For more stubborn buildup or on chimneys that have twists and turns, you'll notice your chimney brush has a loop at the top. You can tie a rope to that and have a partner on the opposite end of the chimney pull the brush. This back and forth will clean the chimney more effectively.
Chimney cleaning is a dirty job. Be sure you take the proper precautions to cover or remove furniture so as not to get soot on everything.
Despite these quick tips, there is one that is the absolute best way to clean your chimney: hire a professional. A professional chimney sweep has all the tools and expertise to clean your flue quickly and effectively.
When searching for chimney brushes, it can be tough to navigate through all the brands and companies out there. In this section, we've put together three of the leading brands as a starting point for your search.
Rutland - For more than 130 years, professional chimney sweeps have trusted Rutland. This company makes a ton of products centered around cleaning the chimney. You'll find creosote remover, rods, sealant, and of course, brushes. Rutland is a one-stop-shop, and their chimney brushes are some of the best in the industry.
AW Perkins - While AW Perkins doesn't have 100 years of experience behind them, they do create some good brushes. Besides chimney brushes, AW Creates a line of tools to help the professional chimney sweep and the DIYer.
Schaefer - This company has been in the business of making chimney cleaning supplies for more than 100 years. Schaefer makes brushes in many shapes, both steel and poly, and of all sizes, making them one of the most diverse brush manufacturers on the market.
How long will my Chimney Brush last?
It depends. If you are a homeowner with a poly brush, most likely, you'll get 4-5 seasons of use out of it before it starts to wear down. A professional chimney sweep will see a poly brush last half that time.
Dirty chimney brush
With a steel brush, a typical homeowner using is a few times each season will see anywhere between 8 to 10 seasons of use out of it. That is if the brush is sized correctly, oiled after use, and stored in a dry area. A professional chimney sweep will see closer to 3-4 seasons of use out of a steel brush. If your brush is oversized, it will degrade faster because of fatigue from the extra bending and flexing.
After you order your chimney brush, it will ship via parcel in a cardboard box. No special instructions or pallets to wait on. Chimney brushes will arrive at your home in standard fashion.
Chimney brushes are an essential part of cleaning your fireplace flue. Without cleaning your chimney, you'll have soot caked on the inside called creosote. This stuff can cause a chimney fire if left uncleaned. Chimney brushes go a long way in cleaning and protecting your home.
With the help of this article, you know what kind of brush you need; steel or poly. You know what shape, and you know how to measure your chimney to get the right size brush. Now it's time to start searching for the brush right for you.
If you have questions or concerns, don't hesitate to call one of our NFI certified professionals at 1-800-203-1642. For more information on fireplace tools or other related products, feel free to peruse the other helpful articles on this site.
What would you recommend for a 10" X 10" square masonry chimney, clay tile?
I would recommend the 11"x11" brush for adequate surface area coverage. This will require the brush to be pushed into the smoke chamber from the top of the chimney prior to reversing to pull the brush out.