The Unexpected Kitchen Ingredient You Can Use To Help Clean Your Chimney

If you've seen "Mary Poppins," images of Dick Van Dyke and the other chimney sweepers singing "Chim Chim Cher-ee" may come to mind when you think of cleaning a chimney. The chimney-cleaning process has changed a lot since the Edwardian era in which the film was set, and what many people don't realize is that you can actually use potato peels to help clean them, which is a vital part of preparing them for winter use.

Some people consider a fireplace a favorite feature in a home, but having to clean the associated chimney can be an inevitable drawback. Although many modern homes with fireplaces don't have chimneys, there are still thousands of homes that do. Every time you burn pine, spruce, and various other types of wood, there's a chance that creosote will develop on the walls. This black, smokey and sticky residue develops from the smoke that burning certain types of wood creates, and it's extremely flammable. It can tarnish your chimney and even cause a chimney fire unless you take steps to prevent it.

It's widely known that potato peels offer various health benefits when consumed, but they can also provide benefits for your chimney by helping to remove excess creosote. First, you have to burn them.

How to properly burn potato peels for chimney cleaning

To use potato peels to clean your chimney, grab a few fresh, large, raw potatoes. Keep in mind that you may need more if you have a large fireplace. Make sure the potato peels are completely dry. Don't forget: Raw potatoes are made of 79% water, per a 2013 study published in Advances in Nutrition.

The high water content means that any freshly peeled skin will still have some moisture from the potatoes. To dry them out, set the peels out on a cookie sheet in a dry area for one or two days. And since you'll only be using the peels, you can save the potatoes and cook them later. 

For the final step, get a fire going in your fireplace, and carefully throw the peels in over the flames. As the peels burn, their latent energy will create a chemical reaction that will dry up the creosote in your chimney, lowering the risk of a creosote-related fire.

Is burning potato peels enough to keep your chimney clean?

While burning potato peels can dry up potentially dangerous creosote, eliminating the risk of an unwanted fire, it won't prevent new creosote from forming. It also won't remove the residue or any other debris. To properly and thoroughly clean your chimney, it's usually best to hire a professional, which will cost $120 to $390 on average, at the time of writing (via Forbes). While you may be tempted to clean it yourself to save money, you may find the time, effort, and risks not worth the savings. 

Cleaning a chimney involves several steps, including removing creosote. There are various products available that can help dissolve and remove creosote during the cleaning process if you are going to tackle the job yourself, such as creosote remover. However, burning dried potato peels helps dry up this buildup, and as dry creosote is easier to remove than the substance in its sticky form, these vegetable skins can serve as a great first step in the process.