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Author Topic: Burning Salt in the Fireplace?
Auntie Witch
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We've only used our fireplace once since we moved in, and the previous owners maintained everything quite well, so we want to clean our chimney, but don't think a full scale, climb on the roof and drop a chain with rags is necessary. We found a cleaner log that says it will clean the chimney, but I'm wary of using chemicals because of my two girls. Mom swears up and down all my dad does is throw table salt in the fire to clean theirs.

Is that even safe? It's been a long, long time since I've had Chemistry class, but wouldn't that release some dangerous gasses? If not, how effective is this? How much salt would I use? And do those chimney cleaning logs work?

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Brad from Georgia
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Well, it says here that the handful of salt works to loosen soot. However, that page IS done by the Salt Institute, so take it with a grain of...you know.

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Silas Sparkhammer
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The worst that could possibly happen is that the salt decomposes into sodium and chlorine. You get exposed to more chlorine when you scrub the sink with bleach, and the sodium will recombine with other elements in the fireplace so quickly you will never be exposed to it at all.

That said...I can't believe that the chemicals would have all that much effect on soot in the chimney!

Silas

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Shamrock
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Salt eats away at concrete, cement and mortar. Those of us who live in cold climates where salt is used on icy walkways in the winter are familar with the crumbling that occurs in the top layer over time.

A handful of salt certainly shouldn't bother a properly constructed and maintained chimney. But if you were using the salt on a daily basis, it could theoretically eat away at the mortar holding the tiles in place. And if you have an unlined flue, it could eat away at the mortar holding the bricks together.

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musicgeek
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quote:
Originally posted by Shamrock:
Salt eats away at concrete, cement and mortar. Those of us who live in cold climates where salt is used on icy walkways in the winter are familar with the crumbling that occurs in the top layer over time.

True enough, but I was under the impression that it only happened in the presence of water, and that it's a physical/mechanical process of breakage rather than a chemical process of decomposition.

http://www.askthebuilder.com/008_Deicing_Salts_And_Concrete.shtml

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Rehcsif
We Three Blings


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The only way to properly clean a chimney is "a full scale, climb on the roof and drop a chain with rags is necessary". If it doesn't need that, then it doesn't need cleaning-- just my two cents.

We hired a guy after buying our current home since we have two fireplaces and I had no idea what condition they were in. He cleaned them, said they weren't all that bad, and said that, contrary to what most sweeps will tell you, if you're not burning fires constantly (e.g. just a fire once or twice each weekend) that you should only need it cleaned every 5-7 years. I found that honesty refreshing...

-Tim

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skeptic
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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
The worst that could possibly happen is that the salt decomposes into sodium and chlorine.

Silas

Salt doesn't/can't decompose into Sodium and Clorine. It would require electrolosis (sp) to do that.
The melting point of salt is much higher than you would get in your average household chimney anyway.

I failed most subjects but always did well at chemistry.

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Casey, making hot chocolate
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The melting point of table salt is 1484F, far, far above what you'll get in a fireplace. Blast furnace, maybe.

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Jason Threadslayer
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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Some jurisdictions require you to have your chimney inspected yearly.

The main danger from an uncleaned chimney is a creosote fire, which leads to a house fire (less common is a clogged chimney). Burning seasoned wood or wood bought from a store (including DuraFlame) will reduce the buildup of creosote.

Smoke entering the house is usually the result of forgetting to open the damper or using unseasoned wood.

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Rehcsif
We Three Blings


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quote:
Originally posted by Jason Threadslayer:
Some jurisdictions require you to have your chimney inspected yearly.

How on earth do they enforce that?

-Tim

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Floater
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quote:
Originally posted by Rehcsif:
quote:
Originally posted by Jason Threadslayer:
Some jurisdictions require you to have your chimney inspected yearly.

How on earth do they enforce that?

-Tim

The chimneysweeper in charge where you live sends you a note that he will be around on a certain day and if he isn't allowed access you'll be fined. It's as simple as that and if you have any problems with the concept, remember it's for your own protection.

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Rehcsif
We Three Blings


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quote:
Originally posted by Floater:
The chimneysweeper in charge where you live sends you a note that he will be around on a certain day and if he isn't allowed access you'll be fined. It's as simple as that and if you have any problems with the concept, remember it's for your own protection.

LOL, uh, ok then!

And if I decide not to use my fireplace for a season?

Sounds like quite a racket for the sweeps!

-Tim

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Floater
Xboxing Day


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quote:
Originally posted by Rehcsif:

And if I decide not to use my fireplace for a season?

Sounds like quite a racket for the sweeps!

Then you just tell the proper authorities that for the time being you don't need your chimney swept. There's no racket at all. If you don't need the services nobody forces it upon you, but if you use the fireplace you have to clean the chimney once in a while. This is the legislation in Sweden, and I can imagine other countries might have similar laws.

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Phaedra
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I don't know of any law about having your chimney swept here in the UK Floater but I wouldn't consider lighting a fire without having it swept first. I had a chimney fire in a fairly modern house we had just moved into and had been assured by the vendor that the chimney had been recently swwept. Given the evidence of other porkies the vendor had told us about the property I should have guessed that was rot too. It put us all at great risk and the extreme heat caused damage to the chimney which cost a small fortune to repair. Better to be safe than sorry so have it done once a year I say.
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Rehcsif
We Three Blings


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There's a lot of things people "should" do. You should have your furnace inspected every year. YOu should have your oil changed every 3000 miles. You should brush your teeth after every meal.

Where we differ is that I believe the government shouldn't be in the business of MANDATING such things.

Yes chimney fires are dangerous -- but I would like to see the proof that you have to have it inspected EVERY YEAR even if you have only made a few fires the past year.

-Tim

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Phaedra
Jingle Bell Hock


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I have to say I don't fancy the idea of legislation to make chimney cleaning mandatory here. I think it would cost a fortune to administer and would have little impact on irresponsible householders. I imagine the majority of people have theirs done regularly anyway.

As for proof that it needs doing every year...the birds nest that caused the fire in my chimney was enough to make me realise I had no idea what was going on up there so I would choose to have it swept at the beginning of each season. What other people choose to do with their flues is their affair. I might feel differently mind if I lived in an attached house.

I grant you the experience I had has left me a bit neurotic about it and I don't use the open fires in my house, which is a bit of a shame really as there is nothing to beat the welcoming glow of an open hearth.

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Rehcsif
We Three Blings


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Sorry to wake up this thread, but there sure is a difference in prices of sweeps, at least here in the Twin Cities. When we moved here, we called around and checked many prices. We have two fireplaces, and some places wanted to charge us 2x the single fee, minus a 'discount' of like $10. Never mind they only had to drive to one house, crawl up on one roof (our chimney is literally the same physical thing -- they run up side by side in the same masonary 'chamber'.

The sweep who got our business was literally half the price of the highest bids. He did an excellent job as well. I was skeptical as to why the price was so cheap, but seeing him work (and the amount of time he spent here) put my fears to rest. He told me that he knows he could be charging a lot more, but feels he gets paid enough at his current rate.

-Tim

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Bassist
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I can remember when my parents "cleaned" out their chimney when I was a bit younger (around 8). They wadded up a bunch of newspapers in the fireplace and lit them - which lit all the creosote inside the flue. We were standing outside with a garden hose spraying down the roof, while this HUGE flame was shooting out the top of the chimney!

In hindsight, very stupid, but it was really neat to watch as a youngster [dunce]

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Shamrock
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quote:
Originally posted by Bassist:
I can remember when my parents "cleaned" out their chimney when I was a bit younger (around 8). They wadded up a bunch of newspapers in the fireplace and lit them - which lit all the creosote inside the flue. We were standing outside with a garden hose spraying down the roof, while this HUGE flame was shooting out the top of the chimney!

In hindsight, very stupid, but it was really neat to watch as a youngster [dunce]

I've been to several house fires over the last 25 years started by morons like your parents. Did they smarten up as they got older?

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noreen
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quote:
Originally posted by Brad from Georgia:
Well, it says here that the handful of salt works to loosen soot. However, that page IS done by the Salt Institute, so take it with a grain of...you know.

Many years ago, I recall my grandfather throwing salt into the wood stove after a chimney fire.

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WildaBeast
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I don't think salt is even flamable, so I'm not exactly sure how throwing it onto a fire would clean a chimney. I remember learning that salt could be used to put out a grease fire, so enough of it might simply put out the fire.

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Finite Fourier Alchemy
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quote:
Originally posted by skeptic:
Salt doesn't/can't decompose into Sodium and Clorine. It would require electrolosis (sp) to do that.
The melting point of salt is much higher than you would get in your average household chimney anyway.

It sure as heck won't decompose in a fire, but anything decomposes if you pump enough energy into it. At some absolutely obscene temperature, the chloride atoms in the molten salt should have enough thermal energy to spontaneously ionize and interact to form chlorine gas.

The energy of ionization of Cl is 350 kJ/mol, so to match that with thermal energy you'd need . . . something like 42,000 K. Or 75,000 F. Nevermind a fire; that's pretty hot for a plasma.

NaCl might react with oxygen at very high (but realistically attainable) temperature. Not sure.

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