Don't count on TSP to clean your chimney

thechimneysweep Posted By thechimneysweep, Apr 30, 2008 at 11:39 PM

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  1. thechimneysweep

    Minister of Fire

    Nov 19, 2005
    Bellingham, WA
    Awhile back, a forum member reported that he had compared the ingredient labels of several off-the-shelf chemical creosote remover/destroyers, and discovered that they all contained trisodium phosphate dodecylhydrate (TSP). As I recall, he had a problem with glaze creosote buildup, and figured he could save himself tons of sponduits by just buying the TSP in bulk and sprinkling it on his fire, effectively cutting out the "middle men" who were marketing the same chemical in solution and gleefully pocketing the exhorbitant markup.

    A subsequent posting, as I recall, asked about what quantity of TSP should be applied to achieve the desired result.

    I wanted to speak up on both occasions, but, noting the thousands of daily visitors to the forum, decided instead to invest in TSP futures. Now that the stampede of TSP buyers has ensured a comfortable retirement, I think it is time to debunk this myth.

    While it is true that TSP is often used in chemical glaze removal sprays, it is not the active ingredient.

    The active ingredient in chemical creosote removers is generally some kind of chlorine salt, such as sodium chloride. Many also contain additional metallic chlorides to accelerate the breakdown of the glaze. These salts not only break down glaze creosote, but are horrendously corrosive to metal. The TSP is added to neutralize the metal corrosion properties of the active chemicals, so that glaze removal sprays and powders can be used without fear of damage to steel and cast iron woodstoves and manufactured metal venting components.

    Professional Chimney Sweeps use a stronger chemical soup, available only to the trade, which contains a more powerful caustic, Sodium Hydroxide. Unlike the off-the-shelf products, which are sprayed onto the wood or into the firebox and carried aloft to be deposited on the glaze by natural condensation, the industrial-strength soup is applied directly to the glaze using a proprietary spray head at the end of a long hose attached to a compressor or pump sprayer.

    Professional chemical glaze removal is done in two stages. After the Sodium Hydroxide mixture has done its job and the creosote has been broken down and swept out (Stage 1), another chemical mixture must be applied to neutralize the corrosiveness of the original spray. The Stage 2 mixture is the one that contains TSP.
  2. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart LLC Mid-Atlantic Division
    Staff Member

    Nov 18, 2005
    Northern Virginia
    Damnit Tom! I bought all of those TSP futures and now you are killing the market.
  3. Carl

    New Member

    Mar 14, 2008
    Northern Michigan
    Opps......just called my broker and changed some stocks. %-P

    Don't know why just a normal brushing isn't enough cleaning for any chimney. Chemicals are like medicines, you need to use three more to combat the effects of the original one. :)

    I have never used anything other than a good chimney brush in all my years of burning. If the wood is dry and burned hot enough then the chimney doesn't get very dirty. Don't think we haven't had any chimney fires as I think everyone gets lazy and does at one time or another. Sometimes things just get away from you and it happens which wakens you up for a few more years as long as your chimney survives it.
  4. fossil

    Accidental Moderator
    Staff Member

    Sep 30, 2007
    Bend, OR
    Ha! I just knew it couldn't be that simple, so I sold TSP short. I'm gonna make a killing. I can buy more wood. Rick
  5. doug60


    Apr 30, 2008
    north jersey
    Ive been using TSP for about 4 years it makes a big difference . One paint can capfull once a week.
  6. jebatty

    Minister of Fire

    Jan 1, 2008
    Northern MN
    If my memory is right, TSP is alkaline and creosote is acidic. To some degree at least TSP should act to break down creosote. Alkalines, probably at least in the pH 8-11 range are not harmful to steel, as many boilers recommend boiler water pH in this range.

    Sodium hydroxide also is alkaline, but intensely so, and can be quite dangerous to use. Thus, in proper hands and procedures and with appropriate additional chemicals to aid the creosote breakdown, with a neutralizer to follow, it does its job.
  7. burntime

    New Member

    Aug 18, 2006
    C'mon hunting season!
    I missed the ride again!!! First it was whachamadohigies and now tsp. Guess I gotta keep working!!!
  8. Redox

    Minister of Fire

    Feb 23, 2008
    Burbs of B'more, MD, Hon!
    Doin' that Lawrence Welk thing again, are 'ya, Pook?

  9. RedRanger

    New Member

    Nov 19, 2007
    British Columbia
    Tom is a wealth of knowledge on this forum. Having said that, use the tsp, won`t hurt, unless of course ya don`t clean your chimney at least once a year. Use it in tandem,that`s it folks, no subistute for a good and effecient real chimney clean. But yes, it does work to soften up the hard particules. no question about it.!! It is not, and I repeat not a substitute for a good chimney clean, they must be done in tandem!!!!!!!!!!
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