Reasons For Bad Fireplace Smells, Smoky Odors, And Smelly Chimneys

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Wondering why your fireplace smells?

There are many reasons your indoor fireplace could be smelling out your house or allowing smoke into the room.

We have a wood-burning fireplace insert in our home and I always know when it’s past time to sweep the chimney because it won’t draw smoke correctly when lighting the fire or adding wood. Instead, smoke comes out into the room.

That’s the number one reason a fireplace is putting smoke into a room – the chimney needs to be swept. However, there are many more reasons for fireplace smells and odors.

There are also other reasons for bad fireplace smells such as dirty brick, burning poor wood, a malfunctioning fireplace, or even the weather outside.

We’ll get into all of it below!

Reasons For A Smelly Fireplace

fireplace smells in the rain, summer, wind
Some fireplaces, such as an insert, make it easier to prevent smells

These are the most common reasons a fireplace smells smoky, along with some brief stinky fireplace solutions!

1. Chimney needs to be swept

If you can smell built-up creosote, ash, and soo, sweeping the chimney will help.

Be sure to remove all the debris and put it straight onto your garden – it’s a great source of phosphorous.

2. Discolored brick or tile stains

If it’s been a long time since you cleaned the fireplace brick, tile, or stone, the build-up will begin to smell.

We have an article all about cleaning fireplace brick that will help to remove stains and discoloration.

3. The weather

Wind, rain, and heat can all cause fireplace smells.

If you have a problem with wind close up any vents and/or consider temporarily closing up an open fire to prevent all airflow.

Rain coming down the chimney will also cause smells. Ensure you have a good chimney cap to prevent it from getting in.

During hot weather, the sun will heat the chimney and also cause smells. Ensuring the chimney is swept and any air vents are close will help.

4. Closed up house

We notice our fireplace smells most after we’ve been away on holiday.

Our fireplace doesn’t have an air vent to outside, but draws oxygen from the home. In the summer in particualr, smells enter the house through this vent and build up when the house is shut up and not aired out for a while.

To prevent this, there’s always something you can stuff into these vents temporarily, just remember to remove it before you next use the fire. It will minimize the smell, but airing out the house is something we all need to do regardless.

5. Damaged Fireplace

A damaged fireplace may also be the reason for a wood burning smell in the house.

Smoke can leak from damaged areas, or air being able to escape through a malfunctioning fireplace will let bad smells into the room.

If you suspect this to be the problem, get an expert in to help identify the problem.

We experienced this with our Pyroclassic wood burning stove one year when the wetback burst. I won’t get into the whole drama here, but our whole house stank for a while after that!

6. Smelly Firewood

Burning unseasoned or wet wood will cause a lot more smoke, and the smoke will be smellier. Properly season and dry your firewood to prevent this.

Also, some wood simply smells when burned.

For example, I recently cut down a horse-chestnut tree with my DEWALT battery saw. I tried burning the wood once it was dry and seasoned, and it stank!

House Smells Like Smoke From Fireplace

fireplace smells in summer
An open fire will naturally make the home smell a lot more than an insert

If there’s no other source of smoke in your home, then it’s likely your fireplace (unless your neighbor has their fire pit going)!

Most likely, you just need to sweep your chimney which will allow smoke to go up instead of into your living area. A smokey house is a horrible environment to be in, so don’t delay, and even avoid lighting the fire until you’ve had it done.

A used fireplace that has been left sitting will continue to smell for years until properly cleaned, so it’s worth doing asap. Frequent use will help prevent smoky odors.

Why Does My Open Fire Smell?

Open fires can smell in the summer due to a downdraft from outside into the home. This will bring the odor of creosote into your home.

Creosote is the black stuff that you come across when cleaning your chimney. I find it tends to stick around the chimney cap in particular, but it lines the entire flue or chimney of your fireplace.

The best way to stop your open fire from smelling is to apply a plywood cover inside your fireplace which will prevent any backdraft into the home. You can usually do this in such a way that it is not visible from the room (without bending over and looking up the fire).

Generally speaking, closed fireplaces with inserts don’t smell for this reason, unless they cannot be shut tight. If the seal on your fireplace door was not tight, it could become a problem.

How To Get Rid Of Fireplace Smoke Smells

house smells like smoke from fireplace
A clean chimney is key to a safe home

After cleaning out your fire, it’s important to give your house a good airing out.

On a fine day, open up all the doors and windows for a number of hours, and even repeat this on a number of occasions. If things got really stinky, you might consider having your curtains cleaned as these can harbor a lot of those smokey smells.

Many people use essential oils and diffusers to help remove the smell of smoke from their homes.

Reed diffusers are another popular way to have your home smelling nice again.

Others use bowls of activated charcoal to help absorb smoke odors.

How Long Does Smoke Smell Last In House?

The smoke smell will eventually disappear once you start airing out your home – provided you’ve cleaned the chimney!

I’ve found it doesn’t take longer than 3 or 4 good air-outs to basically remove all the fire odors. However, it’s always going to depend on your particular situation – how much was going into the room and for how long, you know?

What Absorbs The Smell Of Smoke?

Here are some products or methods you can use to absorb the smell of smoke:

  • Leave bowls of activated charcoal or fireplace ash around your home
  • Purchases an ecologically friendly deodorizer
  • Use an air purifier
  • Wipe walls and surfaces with vinegar
  • Sprinkle baking soda on the carpets and vacuum

But ultimately, the method of removing the smoke smell from a home that I’ve found most effective is simply airing it out.

Bad Chimney Smells

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it 1000 times: ‘my house smells like a campfire.’

And it happens especially in the summer, when it rains, or when it’s windy.

I can often tell if someone needs to sweep their woodfire chimney as soon as I walk into their home.

Smoke won’t draw up a chimney as it should if it isn’t frequently cleaned. Instead, smoke will come out of the fireplace door when you’re lighting the fire or putting more wood on.

If you continue to use a fire that needs its chimney sweep, it will result in a smokey smell in a home. It seeps into the furniture, curtains, clothing, and even the carpets. The whole house will have a smoky odor.

It can also be a fire danger.

If you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace and want a house that smells amazing, make sure you regularly clean your chimney, firebox, and glass.

How do I stop my chimney from smelling?

This will depend on what’s causing the smell – it’s important to identify that first!

  • Cleaning your chimney (call in a pro if you have any doubts)
  • Cleaning out all the ash and soot in the tray
  • Closing up the chimney so there’s no draft

There should be no chimney smell in the house after taking these steps.

How Often Should I Sweep A Chimney?

what happens if I dont sweep my chimney
Chimney fires are primarily caused by dirty chimneys

Here are 5 ways to tell if you need to sweep your chimney:

  1. Smoke comes out the door, rather than going up the chimney, when lighting the fire or putting more wood on
  2. It’s difficult to light the fire and keep it going
  3. Your fire isn’t putting out as much heat
  4. Excess soot and creosote are coming down into your fireplace
  5. You see signs that birds have built a nest in your chimney

I have seen some wood fire stoves that have basically become completely blocked. These fireplaces were filling the room with smoke before their owners decided to do something about it!

How often you sweep your chimney will depend on the type of wood you are burning and how often it is lit, but at least twice a year is a good rule of thumb.

A fireplace and chimney that is drawing well will keep the smoke out of your home, which is better for your health and keeps things smelling nice!

If you are not burning seasoned wood (wood that does not have a high moisture content), you will need to clean your chimney more frequently. Also, if you have your fire going all the time, or if you keep it burning slowly all night, you may need to sweep your chimney more often.

If you have a small wood stove, like one of the Dwarf Mini Stoves, for example, you may need to sweep the chimney more frequently as they have smaller 3″ stove pipes.

What Happens If Chimney Not Swept?

If you don’t clean your chimney at least once or twice a year, creosote and soot will continue to build up until it does become blocked.

More seriously, you will stand a higher chance of having a chimney fire. If you burn your fire hot there will be less creosote build-up.

Many insurance companies require you to regularly sweep your chimney in order to remain covered for damage caused by a chimney fire and other fireplace-related house damage.

And, as we’ve already covered, if you don’t sweep your chimney, your house will begin to smell more and the inhabitants will be in a health-risk situation.

Why Does My House Smell Like Smoke Without Fire?

Here are some reasons your house smells like smoke without a fireplace:

  • You have a teenager secretly smoking cigarettes in their bedroom
  • There’s smoke coming in through an open window
  • Something is on fire in your house (stop Googling!)
  • An electronic device is faulty and causing burning smells
  • You have a rare syndrome called Kapnosis (from the Greek word for smoke) that causes you to smell smoke although there is no smoke

If you cannot find the source of smoke in your home, don’t delay and call the fire department. Better safe than sorry.

Fireplace Odors

I’ve touched on most of the reasons why fireplaces and wood stoves smell, but here is a summary.

A fire can stink out a house because:

  • The chimney or flue needs swept
  • The firebox needs to be cleaned
  • There is a draft coming down the chimney
  • Your fireplace does not shut airtight
  • You are burning something you shouldn’t be (like treated wood)

It may also be because of a bad fireplace design.

A Drolet Fireplace Insert is a quality design that is highly recommended. Alternatively, a realistic electric fireplace is another way to avoid smells altogether!

So that’s everything we’ve got on fireplace odors for now, but please drop a comment or questions down below if you have anything else you want to add.

When it comes to fireplace smells in your home, the answer in most cases is to have your chimney cleaned. To extend the time between cleans, burn seasoned wood, and don’t keep your fire going on low overnight.

Whether you’re burning oak firewood or birch wood, stay safe and keep warm!


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1 thought on “Reasons For Bad Fireplace Smells, Smoky Odors, And Smelly Chimneys”

  1. I had a chimney fire in my home years ago – someone driving past came and knocked on my door and told me the roof was on fire. Nearly sh*t myself! Fire department had it put out in no time and there wasn’t a lot of damage done. Thankful for the passer by telling us about it or it could have been burning a lot longer before we realized.


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