Here are the most common reasons your wood burning fireplace is smoking and how to stop it from smoking and get rid of the odors it causes in your home.
Why Is My Fireplace Smoking?
Smoke from the fireplace backing up into your house instead of going up the chimney is caused by a chimney draft problem.
Heat naturally rises, and a chimney draft is the process of hot smoke from the fireplace traveling up the chimney to the outdoors. A proper draft will eliminate a backdraft of smoke into your home because it will pull the smoke up through the flue.
The three most common causes of a chimney draft problem are improper temperatures, negative air pressure, and chimney blockages.
Let’s explore each of these smoking fireplace issues and how to solve them.
For a proper chimney draft, the outside temperature needs to be at least 20 degrees colder than inside. This will ensure that the warmer air from inside your home will rise, taking the smoke with it, rather than settling into the firebox and ultimately into your home.
While a fire in warm weather might create a nice ambiance, it can lead to a smoking fireplace. Resist having a wood burning fire when there isn’t enough temperature difference for proper drafting.
Negative Air Pressure
The air pressure inside the house needs to be about the same as outside in order for the chimney draft to work.
If you live in a newer home with airtight insulation, the air pressure outside will often be higher than the air pressure indoors. And air pressure seeks to balance out. If it is higher outdoors, air will push from the outside in, including coming down the chimney.
If you have a wood burning fire in these conditions, smoke will be pushed down and into your home rather than properly venting.
One way to test air pressure is to crack open a window while the fireplace is lit and see if the smoke decreases. In other words, will air come in from outside and then be sucked into the fireplace and up the chimney? That’s what you want.
If cracking a window works to stop the fireplace smoking, you probably have negative air pressure in your home. The best way to fix this is to install an air supply vent inside the firebox.
Something else that can cause negative air pressure in the home is running the exhaust fan in a kitchen or bathroom because it pushes air out and pulls air into your home from other locations, including down the chimney.
If your fireplace is smoking, try turning off all exhaust fans in the house and see if that improves the smoke issue.
If something is clogging up your chimney, smoke will spill out of the fireplace instead of traveling up the flue. During the warmer months when your fireplace goes unused, leaves, debris, or even animal nests can block the chimney. If your fireplace is smoking and you’ve ruled out other causes, consider having a professional come out to inspect the chimney for blockages.
Note – those blockages can also catch fire. It makes sense to have your chimney flue inspected and cleaned yearly.
How to Get Rid of the Fireplace Smoke Smell in the House?
Once you’ve figured out why your fireplace is smoking, the next thing you’ll want to do is get rid of the smoke smell.
Of course, start by airing out your home. Open windows and doors for an hour or so, and let fresh air flow in and out, taking nasty smoke smells with it.
Vinegar eliminates odors. Set out bowls of vinegar, or mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle and spray around the fireplace and problem areas of the house. The vinegar smell only lasts about 24 hours after use. It dissipates and takes the odor with it.
Set up an air purifier in the room to remove the smoke smell.
Put a container of charcoal briquets near the fireplace to absorb the smell.
Kitty litter neutralizes and absorbs odors. Set a container of it in the room with the worst smoke smell.
Fireplace deodorant usually comes in a container that you open and place inside the firebox to take away the smoke smell.
To clean furniture and curtains that smell smoky, use an upholstery cleaner.
For carpets, sprinkle some baking soda on it and let it sit for a few hours, then vacuum. If you’re still having trouble getting the smell out, use a carpet shampoo and give it a good scrub.
How do I stop my fireplace backdraft?
To stop your fireplace from smoking, follow these steps:
Wait to start a fire in your fireplace until the outside temperature is at least 20 degrees cooler than the temperature of your house.
In freezing weather, warm up the flue of your wood burning fireplace before starting the fire. Light a piece of paper (rolled up) and use the fireplace tongs to hold it in the flue for a few minutes. This will help ensure that the air in the fireplace is warm and wants to rise, not settle back into the house.
Make sure the chimney is clear of debris that could be inhibiting the chimney draft. Call a professional to remove any animal nests or organic materials like leaves.
How long does it take for fire smoke smell to go away?
A few days to a month depending on how bad the smell is and what steps you take to get rid of it.
If you’re willing to put in a little effort to combat the smoke smell in your home, you should be able to get rid of it completely within a month. If the smoke smell isn’t too bad to begin with, it may clear out entirely within a week or two if you clean everything up nicely and use some odor-neutralizing tools like vinegar and charcoal.