While many household items and materials are flammable, many are not safe to burn inside your home. We’ve put together a list of what you should and shouldn’t burn in your own home, including information about why each material isn’t recommended.
To start, we’ll go over which materials and items should NOT be burned in your fireplace:
- Cardboard in all forms (including pizza, cereal, and shipping boxes) should never be burned in your fireplace. These materials are often treated with wax, plastic, ink, paint, and other materials which can release toxic fumes when burned. Even untreated cardboard can be a potential danger in your home due to its ability to burn fast and hot. This can cause large, high flames which can cause damage.
- Magazines & Wrapping Paper. These materials present similar concerns as cardboard. Many magazine pages and wrapping papers are treated with high pigment inks and coatings which can release toxic fumes or smoke when burned. This rule goes for any kind of colored paper. Including coupons, newspaper inserts, junk mail, and other catalogs. A small amount of black and white newspaper is safe to use if your fire needs a boost, but it should be anchored in under the wood. When paper is burnt, bits can sometimes float up and out of your chimney if it is uncapped, creating a potential fire hazard.
- Dryer Lint. Dryer lint is often included on lists of quick fire-starters, and while it is safe to use outdoors (where fumes can more easily disperse), it is not recommended for indoor/fireplace use. The synthetic (plastic) fibers from clothes often contained in dryer lint can release toxic chemicals when burned.
- Fire Accelerant & Lighter Fluid. You should always avoid using lighter fluid or any other accelerant in your fireplace. These are designed for outdoor use only. Many contain methanol and petroleum-based chemicals which can produce toxic fumes. These materials also create intense and hot fires which can damage the integrity of your fireplace, and put your home at risk.
- Incorrect Types of Wood. For many, this category can be the most confusing. We are going to break down which wood types and wood products should be avoided in your fireplace.
- Treated or Coated Wood. Wood that has been coated, sealed, painted, or pressure-treated can release these toxic chemicals into the air when burned. These chemicals can cause damage to your eyes, lungs, and skin, but can also cause damage to your fireplace and chimney.
- Christmas Trees. Christmas trees (evergreen trees such as pine, spruce, and cedar) are fine to burn if they are well seasoned.
- While floating in the sea, driftwood collects and absorbs many of the wonderful minerals in the ocean. Unfortunately, burning these salts creates toxic fumes. Burning this wood can also release the salts it contains, causing corrosion to your fireplace and chimney.
- Wet Wood. Last but not least, do not burn wet wood in your fireplace. Burning wet wood creates far more smoke than seasoned wood and can create dangerous creosote build up in your chimney. This build up is extremely flammable and is the leading cause of chimney fires.
The upside is that the list of what you SHOULD burn in your fireplace is much easier to remember:
- Seasoned Wood. The one and only thing you should be burning in your fireplace is dry, seasoned firewood! Seasoned wood means that the wood has been left out for a long period to dry, and all moisture has been removed. Hardwoods such as maple, oak, and ash are often recommended as firewood. These have little sap compared to other softwoods, and often provide you with a longer burn time. Looking to season your own firewood? Check out our guide.
If your chimney is due for its annual inspection or if you are concerned about creosote buildup, give Black Goose a call! Our expertly trained staff offers chimney sweep services, as well as repair, installation, and restoration of fireplaces, wood stoves, and gas fireplace inserts. Our lead technicians are all nationally certified and ready to provide you with the best service in town. Give us a call at 757-596-2298 to schedule your appointment today!