Does Your Fireplace Smell?

We probably expect a bit of a mess occasionally and the residue of burning embers, but the one thing you won’t expect to come from your fireplace is an unpleasant odour. With fireplaces there’s a perception that if there are any nasties hidden in the chimney then the heat will get rid of them.

But smell they do and it comes along in the warmer months when your fireplace is redundant. So what makes them pong and what can you do to be rid of it?


Remember creosote, we talked about it last month. Creosote is the combustible material in the venting portion of the chimney and if left unchecked its residue sits in your fireplace as both a threat to your safety and to leave a nasty odour. Like firewood creosote never burns off completely but if you use hardwood that has been dried for a minimum of six months then you can prevent creosote from forming.

Leaves and debris

A good chimney sweep will get rid of most of your potential odours. If leaves enter through your chimney they will sit there and decompose. After you’ve had your chimney swept it would be a good idea to invest in a chimney cap.


Sadly, small birds, possums and a couple of varieties of rats might find their way into your chimney and then they’re unable to find a way out. Perhaps they nestle in a small crestle and stay there to die leaving only their odour behind. It’s another good reason for a chimney sweep and a bit of mesh across the top of a chimney cap to discourage the little guys.


Old water can smell and leave mould. Mould is not great for a number of reasons. Yes it smells, and its spores multiply which can make people who are susceptible to allergies very sick. Mould illness is a real thing and if it’s in your home you need to be rid of it. The other problem with water is rust. It can rust your damper and the lining of your flue. Another reason for a chimney cap.

Negative air pressure

This usually occurs in newer homes that lack airflow because they are so tightly sealed. You are reliant on various points in the house for airflow: beneath doors; open windows; vents etc. In winter your fireplace and chimney are the home’s central points for exiting air but in summer, without a fire, the opposite happens, the chimney lets air in. So with the chimney acting as the entry point and no other point for air to escape you have the dilemma of old air being trapped inside the home. Hence the smell.

There’s a few solutions. Leave a window or two open for air to escape. Place a glass screen across your fireplace to limit the amount of air that’s entering. Alternatively, a damper with a chain dropping to the hearth so you can open and close it is another alternative.

Summing it all up

All of those measures regardless of the specific issues should work effectively. The only other areas that might require fireplace odour removal are your fabric and upholstery. Fabric and carpet cleaners have a pleasant deodourising effect. Get them down professionally after each winter. It’s not a bad idea!

The bottom line is that a fireplace for all the pleasure it brings, requires maintenance. If you do it at the end of winter you should be ok for summer assuming you follow our very simple and practical suggestions.
Fireside fireplaces in Sydney is the Hills District’s premier retail outlet for the world’s best wood fireplace brands. Fireside are happy to answer any of your questions about cleaning your fireplace and odour removal. A good clean every season should suffice but it’s best to check up on the build up of creosote dust – at about six millimetres it should be cleaned away. Of course, a freestanding wood or gas fireplace would remove the need to clean a fireplace. If you call into Fireside fireplaces in Castle Hill they can take you through a range of fireplaces to suit the aesthetic and heating requirements of your home.

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