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Using Sooteater to clean chimney -- first time tips

Post in 'The Gear' started by sksmass, Sep 29, 2012.

  1. sksmass

    sksmass Member

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    I just used a Sooteater to clean my chimney liner for the first time and I am pretty pleased with the result.

    I have a 27' tall 6" SS flex liner going down to my 1st floor Woodstock Fireview install. After one season of burning my first cleaning yielded about 10 cups of incredibly lightweight brown coffee ground-like fluff. Out of curiosity I weighed it on my kitchen scale and it weighed ~9oz. This was really light stuff.

    So, check this math -- a 27' six inch liner has about 6,107 square inches of surface area. 10 cups of powder is about 153 cubic inches, which, when spread over the whole surface, would be about 0.025 inches thick -- which is less than 1/32 of an inch. So, I figure, on average, I had less than 1/32 of an inch of buildup in the flue. Which doesn't seem that bad, especially given that it was all the fluffy kind of buildup.

    Anyway, here's some tips on using the Sooteater.

    I have a steep slate roof and am afraid of heights so cleaning from the top is a no-go. So, to clean from the bottom I bought two complete sooteater setups so that I would have enough flex rod to reach the top (each set comes with 18' of rod).

    Tip #1: the night before I cleaned the chimney I duct-taped one of those glow-sticks to the top of a rod section and kept feeding sections into the chimney until someone from the outside could see the glow-stick shining through the spark screen. Then I marked the bottom rod so I would know exactly when to stop the next day before I hit the top.

    Tip #1b: for the love of all that's holy DON'T let go of 27' of flex rod while it is up your chimney. I made that mistake. Quick as lightning 27' of flex rod shot out of my chimney like a snake and slammed into the opposite wall. No damage to the wall, thankfully, but the metal parts of the rod sections did chip the edge of stone fireplace surround as they flew over the edge. Minor damage that is hard to notice from a distance, so I'll just chalk that up to a life-lesson.

    Tip #2: the instructions call for some complicated setup where you tape off your fireplace opening with sheet plastic to keep the soot and ash down. That seemed like a pain in the butt, plus you'd need to vacuum that stuff up from your fireplace anyway which is also pretty dusty. So, you know those thin filmy bags that mattresses and electronics often get shipped in? They look to me like natural filter bags. So I grabbed one of those, took it to my wife's sewing machine, and sewed it into a long "sock" shape with about a 6" diameter and one closed end. I put a piece of duct tape on the outside of the bag about halfway down and cut a slit in it to pass the rods through. In this way I could bungee cord the sock to the pipe, feed the rods through the slit, and all the stuff would just fall into this filter sock. It worked pretty well. Pictures attached.

    I used my 5.4 amp corded drill. It worked fine for all 27'.

    Almost all of the soot fell into my filter bag.
    photo.JPG photo2.JPG
    jaychino415 likes this.

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  2. mfglickman

    mfglickman Minister of Fire

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    I am ;lol at #1b. thanks for the tips!!!
  3. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    I love my sooteater! I am lucky in that I have a basement install, so I don't bother with the whole sheeting thing, just vacuum it up when I am done.

    I too am laughing at the image of the rod flying through your house... Sorry to get such a laugh at your expense. As for your sock idea- it is those kinds of ideas that keep me coming back to this forum!
  4. Lakeside

    Lakeside Burning Hunk

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    Good Tips Sks,

    I have a T-Snout here are some pictures of my cleaning setup with a Sooteater. A large hose clamp , plastic jug and the vacuum cleaner line attached to the bottom , make for a quick and clean bottom up cleaning.
    Note: the plastic jug is reenforced with duck tape.

    So far two cleanings have each only produced a 1/2 cup of light powder .

    Bottom up works good for me , I can do my cleaning in 45 minutes total, I have never looked down my chimney myself.



    clean_st-1.JPG clean_st-2.JPG clean_st-3.JPG clean_st-4.JPG
  5. Blasket

    Blasket New Member

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  6. sksmass

    sksmass Member

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    Now you got me worried. Did I get too much powder? I thought I was burning pretty efficiently last winter. I am using great wood (like 16% moisture). I didn't get any flaky or glossy creosote. Just the fluffy kind. What do you think? Am I OK?

    I might try your direct-to-vacuum setup next time. Although I might modify it by putting the vaccuum outside the house and running a section of flex HDPE drainage pipe from the vacuum to the flue. I always worry about the superfine particles that get passed through a vaccuum filter and into the house. Perhaps I am paranoid but I figure there's gotta be stuff we can't see, and that is probably the worst stuff for your lungs.
  7. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    Well, i usually do a mid year cleaning, so that may account for the lower volume of material coming from the pipe. Sounds like the stuff you are getting should not bee too much of a concern. If you are burning dry wood you should be just fine.
  8. BIGDADDY

    BIGDADDY Feeling the Heat

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    What no ladder. You're cutting out a lot of the "fun"
  9. melissa71

    melissa71 New Member

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    Lakeside, I love your jug set up! Brilliant!
  10. melissa71

    melissa71 New Member

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    Ok, I know I should've done it sooner, but I finally cleaned my stove pipe. I got a few flakey bits but most of the stuff looked like coffee grounds. I ended up with about 1 1/2 cups, which I think was from being a chicken and only doing slow smouldering fires at first. Going to check it next month and see what I get. It will be a lot easier next time, there's definitely a comfort/learning curve with this. I was afraid of messing up the insulated pipe. The installer had said that if the pipe was dropped at all, that it would ruin the whole thing. (thart was when it was left in the box waiting for him to do the installation)Had a helluva time getting the screw holes lined up at first. Now I just need to get some stove bright paint to touch up the scratches from the installer, and a few I did telescoping the pipe.
  11. Lakeside

    Lakeside Burning Hunk

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    Melissa,

    Good for you, I am sure it will be a much faster cleaning next time.

    Did you go with the jug method ?
  12. melissa71

    melissa71 New Member

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    I tried to do the jug method, but I didn't have a nice round bottle, I tried a milk gallon. It almost worked, but my hole was in a bad spot. So I used a garbage bag taped to the connector. (hope that's the right word, lol) I taped over both sides of the hole in the bag (for the fiberglass poles) with super strong red duct tape my husband gets from work. It'll stick to wet concrete and is super tough. That worked out pretty well. The duct tape kept the bag from ripping, and it didn't wrap around the drill or pole. I'm going to buy a nice big bottle of bleach, so I have a better container for next time. I think I just got lucky with the bag. I could see where it could go horribly wrong and make a huge mess. :) I'm just glad the 1st time is over, next time will be a piece of cake.
    Lakeside likes this.
  13. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    I use a trash bag and haven't had issues with that.
    melissa71 likes this.
  14. blacktail

    blacktail Feeling the Heat

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    I love my sooteater. And my insert and chimney are about as easy as could be. I just move a couple of the bricks in the top of the insert, start the first rod up the chimney, tape plastic around the door with a small slit for the rods, and commence cleaning. I cleaned my chimney about a week ago at 11:00pm.
    melissa71 likes this.
  15. melissa71

    melissa71 New Member

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    Good to know, I thought for sure, that the bag would get wrapped up in the pole and tear. I was watching that puppy like a hawk. I still have beige carpet in the stove room. I can't wait to be able to get hardwood floors.
  16. neumsky

    neumsky Minister of Fire

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  17. Machria

    Machria Minister of Fire

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    I used a small garbage bag, but instead of putting a hole in the bag, just put the bag around the pipe and tape it all the way around except leaving about 1" uncovered and that small piece of the bag just handing down and the pole up thru that hole. Now simply tape the loose bag up high over where the "hole" was, kind of overlap the bag over the pole going up. it's not a perfect seal, but I didn't have anything spil out of there.

    The real question is, how fast are you supposted to let the thing spin around in there?
  18. 1750

    1750 Feeling the Heat

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    I just got my Sooteater in the mail.

    I was going to clean the chimney this weekend, but then it was 47F and we decided to touch off the fire to warm the place up.

    Maybe next weekend if things stay warm.

    If anyone has any essential wisdom not captured in this thread for my first cleaning with the Sooteater, now is your chance to save me the pain of any mistakes you made. :)
  19. Camben

    Camben New Member

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    I am planning on getting one of these too. I don't have the round stove pipe like a lot of the pics show. Mine is just the teracotta chimney. I wonder how the sooteater will work for that design?
  20. 1750

    1750 Feeling the Heat

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    It would seem the flexible filaments should work in the corners, like a string trimmer cuts grass in an inside corner.

    Maybe someone here has already tested that out for you and will pipe-up.

    Good luck!
    mtarbert likes this.
  21. 1750

    1750 Feeling the Heat

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    Alright, the first cleaning with the Sooteater went pretty well.

    I had a tough time getting the telescoping piece up far enough to get the process started -- I think the soot on the upper piece keeps the lower piece from sliding easily. I'm going to be on the look out for a gallon bleach bottle to use as Lakeside's excellent instruction pictures showed -- the bag I used started to rip about mid-way through the process.

    The Sooteater works really pretty well and seems simple and well-constructed. I had a little trouble getting the quick-release pieces disconnected under the pressure of the curved rod, but I think that will get better with practice.

    We had about 4 cups of granular black soot, and the pipe looked clean as a whistle afterward.
  22. mike van

    mike van Member

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    A half cup? Really, I wouldn't take the time to clean that. My old Harman in a masonry chimney, sometimes I'd get a full 5 gal pail. Thats when it was loose. Most times it wasn't. Praise be to Garn for freeing me of that job.
  23. 1750

    1750 Feeling the Heat

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    There was about 4 cups, Mike. I cleaned it because I never had done it before and had my new Sooteater to try out. :)

    Although, even if I didn't think it needed it, I'd be afraid of letting it go much longer -- it was already pretty tough to get the telescoping piece slid up. It felt like I needed to skim the soot off the outer section of the telescope. If I let it go too long, I'm not sure I'd have been able to raise it as needed to do the cleaning!
  24. Lakeside

    Lakeside Burning Hunk

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    Mike Van yes it seems hard to believe 1/2 cup , I think the vacuum cleaner maybe blowing some out thru the filter.
    On the other hand I do pay close attention to the dryness of the fuel always less than 20 % and I tend to favor a hot burn.

    So far so good , I will be doing this years cleaning soon , plan to review it closely.

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