CBC MARKETPLACE: HOME » CHIMNEY
Can this log help clean your chimney?
Broadcast: February 11, 2003 | Reporter:
Clifton Joseph; Producer: Ines
Paulette Lysyshyn and some of her thousands of jars of preserved product
a fireplace or wood burning stove in your home? There's a product
on the market that says it can help protect your home from
chimney fires. It's CSL, the Chimney Sweeping Log.
says on the box that the log "helps clean your chimney while it burns."
The CSL people also say it will “reduce the weight, thickness
and flammability of creosote.”
has received dozens of calls, letters and e-mails over
the past couple of years about the Chimney Sweeping Log.
wants to know one thing: does it work?
for the Chimney Sweeping Log warns that there are “thousands
of reported chimney fires in North America.” The
number of reported chimney fires in Canada has ranged
over the last ten years, but has been in a general pattern
of decline, according to the latest data available from
the Council of Canadian Fire Marshals and Fire Commissioners:
and flue pipe fires for Canada:
1991 - 1,748
1992 - 1,953
1993 - 1,941
1994 - 1,691
1995 - 1,561
1996 - 1,601
1997 - 927
1998 - 1,372
1999 - 1,228
Losses in Canada Annual Report from the Council of
Canadian Fire Marshals and Fire Commissioners
CSL's makers say while it burns like a regular fire log, its active
minerals are released and will start to dry out and reduce those
dangerous deposits making your next fire safer.
other words, it’s a log spiced with a long list of chemical
ingredients designed to treat your chimney. All that for a mere
enlisted the help of four Marketplace viewers to test the
Cab driver Calvin Ralliford
Office manager Mary Lysaght
Two of our volunteers have woodstoves, two have fireplaces and
it's been at least two years since any of them have been cleaned.
From Marshall Byle, we got piles of professional
help. He's a wood burning specialist, qualified instructor and master
chimneysweeper. The chimney-sweeping log is not the first chemical
cleaner he's seen.
not going to put us out of business tomorrow," Byle said. "It’s
well-known, actually some professional chimney sweeps use chemical
chimney cleaners to aid in cleaning chimneys."
first part of our test is a visual inspection of the chimney. We
sent a special small camera up the contours
of the chimney. First we looked at Nicole Terreberry’s chimney.
'It's not going to put us out
of business tomorrow," says Marshall Byle, chimney
good and dirty and it needs to be cleaned out," Byle said.
for the other chimneys of our testers, Mary Lysaght’s was
not that dirty; Giselle Gordon's appeared well used — but
not in danger of a chimney fire; Calvin Ralliford’s was quite
dirty — a potential chimney fire in the making.
Penticton, British Columbia, the CSL’s Canadian distributor,
Mike Wigley (the man who also brought the Chia Pet to Canada) says
his log will do the job — even though it may not be apparent
to the naked eye.
you look up your chimney before you use our product, it’s
going to be a black chimney and you look up at it after you’ve
used our product it's going to be a black chimney."
says his company will make the CSL's test results available to anyone
who wants them.
special camera tracks for creosote — dirty residue that clings
to chimney walls. Level one creosote is the least flammable while
a reading of level three can cause chimney fires. It develops,
for instance, when you burn lots of small fires or use green wood.
you have a level one creosote or level three creosote, CSL will
treat it and make it less flammable, reduce the risk of chimney
fires. That’s what we claim to do," Wigley said.
the log to the test
we give our testers the CSL, we bag some scooped samples of
each home. But it looks like the less-flammable level one creosote,
commonly known as soot.
testers burn the log as directed. After the log burned out, the
testers were forthright in stoking their fires for the next two
weeks. We then made return engagements to see what the log-treated
chimneys looked like, starting with Nicole Terreberry’s.
A not-very-dirty chimney
I don’t really see any difference. There could be some
chemical differences, but I can’t tell just by looking," Marshall
story was much the same at the homes of our other three testers:
the chimneys looked
much the same as they did before they were treated with the
CSL's Mike Wigley agreed to look at our results:
it is impossible for me to look at a video and ascertain the degree
of creosote that’s either on that fireplace before or after," he
looking at a visual of a lot of dust, a lot of accumulation of particles
up the chimney which has happened over a period of time. That’s
not the creosote we’re dealing with."
package, however, doesn’t mention which type of creosote
the log cleans.
the second stage of our test — checking out the flammability
claims — we took more samples of creosote from each home.
We took those samples to a professional lab to test the flammability
before and after the log danced smoke up the chimneys.
took samples of soot pre- and post- log treatment and applied flames
of approximately 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, the same method used by
the lab that did the test for the company. All this to see if the
log really made the chimney samples less likely to burn.
the tests done for the CSL manufacturer, it took less than 20 seconds
for the creosote to erupt into flames. But we waited, and waited
for a fire. Even after a minute and a half, our creosote never caught
fire, neither from the before samples or the after.
"Very little or no effect," says
chemist Abe Kelly
Abe Kelly scrutinized our flammability test.
on the sample presented today, no we cannot draw
any firm conclusions one way or another as to the effectiveness
of the Chimney Sweeping Log… I believe the worst that can
happen with it is very little or no effect."
we showed these test results to Mike Wigley. All of our test
homes had level one creosote or soot. Wigley says we should have
tested for level three creosote, the most likely to catch fire.
But we couldn’t
find any. And three wood-burning specialists told us that the
overwhelming majority of homes never develop level three creosote.
we’ve talked to, say that only 10 per cent or so of fireplaces
actually accumulate the kind of creosote that has the flammability
to really cause a chimney fire.
'Don't assume the log removes
all the risks… We don't claim that,' says Mike Wigley,
CSL's Canadian distributor
again, I will dispute that number as being inaccurate and too low,"
Wigley said — although he didn't offer a number of his own.
says using the log doesn’t nullify the need to have your
chimney swept, which costs about $100. We wondered what the
difference in cleaning done by the CSL was versus a traditional
chimney sweep. So we brought in professional chimney sweepers
to get a comparison. The results were a clean sweep for the
chimney sweepers at each home.
of our testers said they would spend money on the log.
not assume that simply by throwing any log once a year or twice
a year removes all the risks of chimney problems because it does
not and we don’t claim it," Wigley said.
he added that his company has lots of letters and e-mails from people
satisfied with what the log did for their chimneys.
four viewers who helped with our test were not at all impressed
with the dressed up log. But it’s selling, so there are those
out there who like it as it is. It’s up to you to decide
on which side of the divide you reside.
The primary cause of chimney fires is creosote,
the thick tarry substance that develops inside chimneys
through improper burning techniques. It is dark brown or
black in appearance, and can be flaky or crusty.
According to the Chimney Safety Institute
of America, as chimneys expel the by-products of combustion,
condensation occurs in the cooler chimney. The result of
this process is creosote, which can take many forms, and
can be highly combustible. If enough creosote develops,
a chimney fire can occur.
The CSIA advises that conditions such as
a restricted air supply, the use of unseasoned wood, and
cooler-than-normal temperatures can accelerate creosote
The build up of creosote, and consequent
chimney fires, can be prevented by:
1. using seasoned woods that have been split
and dried properly, and especially avoiding green wood
2. burning small hot fires that burn completely
3. not burning garbage or any painted or treated wood that can spark a chimney
of Canada Burn it Smart program: “Burn it Smart – and
Safely;” Chimney Safety Institute of America: “Creosote
and Chimney Fires – what you must know”