The National Agricultural Safety Database (NASD) advises the public to perform yearly maintenance on chimneys in order to prevent house fires. Over time, chimneys can become clogged by built up chemicals and ash, such as creosote. This buildup can prevent smoke from properly venting and, in some cases, even cause a chimney fire. While cleaning your chimney, keep an eye out for structural problems like warping and cracking. Periodically, it is a good idea to have a professional look at your chimney to ensure that it is still safe.
Check with the manufacturer of your stove to see if there is a specific brand or design of chimney brush that will work best with your model. If not, choose one that is appropriate for the size of your chimney.2
Open the flue and remove the damper, if your stove model has one.3
Examine buildup (such as creosote) in order to determine which areas of the chimney will require the most cleaning. Use the flashlight if it is too dark and use the mirror to see around difficult angles. Typically, most of the buildup will be in the top third of the chimney. Keep an eye out for any bird's nests or other obstructions that may have to be removed.4
Cover the bottom of your chimney with a tarp or plastic sheet. Some stoves allow you to disconnect the stove pipe from the chimney and then cover that opening. Others have a special access door that allows you to collect ashes and debris. Depending on your model, cover whatever opening you must in order to prevent the debris from escaping into your house.5
Put on protective gear, such as a pair of goggles, a dust mask and gloves. Chimney dust is very irritating to the eyes and respiratory system, and can be difficult to remove from clothing.6
Use your brush according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Vigorously brush the entire length of the chimney, making sure you spend extra time cleaning the areas that have the most buildup. If the wire brush you are using allows you to, consider adding a weight to the lower end of the brush so that you can push and pull the brush repeatedly.7
Peel away the tarp after the dust and debris settle. Remove all loosened debris from the bottom of the chimney using a small broom and dustpan. Use the vacuum to remove any remaining dust. You will need to use a vacuum with a filter that can handle chimney dust and debris. Ordinary household vacuums typically cannot.