How to Sweep Your Chimney
Some chimneys can be swept from the bottom, but most require a trip to the roof to get the job done. Start the job by going to your local home supply store and buying a chimney cleaning brush and extension handles. Sometimes, this is a kit.
Get a wire chimney brush that is slightly larger than your chimney opening if possible. You want it to be able to scrape the soot and other build up from the sides of the chimney as you push it down and pull it up. You need enough screw on extensions to reach from the bottom of your chimney to about three feet above the top.
For inside the house, you will need something to cover the exterior of the fireplace opening to keep dust and debris from covering everything in sight. A small shovel and bucket will likely be needed to scoop out the chunks of residue that will fall into your fireplace. Get a decent vacuum to remove the last of the dust and soot.
Cover the fireplace opening as tight as possible. It might even be a good idea to cover anything near the fireplace with old sheets or plastic for additional protection. Anything that cannot be cleaned should be removed from the room. Have someone who will stay near the fireplace or stove to tell you when you have reached the bottom of the chimney with the brush.
If your chimney is covered with a screen or cap to keep out birds and rodents, this will have to be removed before you begin the sweeping process. Most of the time these just pull off or out. However, you may need a screwdriver and possibly a small hammer to get it off and back onto your chimney.
Place a sturdy ladder against the eave of your house. It is best if you have a friend to hold it. This is even more true if you rarely get on a roof. Make sure the ladder can extend about three or four feet above the edge of your roof. This will give you something to hold when you are getting off and on the ladder from the roof.
If you do not have anyone to hold the ladder, take some wire and fasten the ladder to the eave so that it will not slip. Falling off a ladder even if only about eight feet can break bones and leave you helpless for a long time.
A little caution at this point can save you a lot of grief. Do not wear a shoe with a slick sole. You need traction for working on the roof. This is not the time to act cool. If you are uncertain about walking around on the roof, crawl on the roof. Having more contact points with the roof surface lessens the chance of a fall. You may get a little teasing, but it will pass.
Attach the first extension to the chimney brush. Remove any screen or covering from the top of the chimney. With the pole as vertical as you can get it, begin to push the brush down the chimney. You may have to work it up and down slowly as you push it deeper into the chimney.
If it gets stuck, just work carefully with it to get it loose. Always try to loosen it by moving it up and down, but mostly up. You have already cleaned the chimney down to it. So, it should come up easier than it goes down. Keep working it up and down until you reach the bottom.
Once you reach the bottom, keep working the up and down motion until the brush comes back out the top. Use a flashlight to inspect the chimney. If you can see debris is still hanging from the inside of the chimney walls, repeat the cleaning process. You may not get every crumb to break loose, but it should look fairly clean when you inspect it.
Replace the cap or screen on the chimney. Make sure that it is a good snug fit. Disassemble the extensions from the brush and if you are not too high up, drop everything carefully off of the roof to the ground. If you fastened the ladder to the house, loose the fasteners while on the ladder. Gather up the pieces of the chimney cleaning kit and put them somewhere so that you can wash them up later.
Inside the house, remove the covering from the fireplace or stove. Use the shovel and scoop as much of the debris from the fireplace as possible. Dispose of this waste in whatever manner is acceptable where you live. Using the vacuum cleaner, remove the rest of the soot, ash, and dust. Remove any other coverings that you used and wipe down soiled surfaces. This is a good time to reset the damper on the chimney while it is clean and handy.
Clean your tools and put them away for the next time. It is a good idea to clean a chimney in the spring and fall. A good cleaning in the spring will keep a lot of the dust and debris from falling down and invading you house. Cleaning in the fall will get rid of any possible bird activity, leaves, and other dust that may have accumulated over the summer. The fall cleaning is much less messy and goes faster than the spring cleaning.