Difference Between Soot and Creosote

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Creosote is a tarry residue that condenses from wood or coal particles, hydrocarbons, gases and other airborne debris. These substances stick to the surface as they cool, forming layers of flammable deposits. Creosote may be dry and crackling to the touch, thick and flaky layers or shiny and hardened black gooey substances. Creosote forms as gases cool, so deposits occur when chimney temperatures are cool and when air is not hot enough to carry the particles out of the chimney. Restricted air supply also allows the sticky particles to settle.


Soot is a powdery residue of unburned carbon particles. The soot, usually brown or black, is like a dust or smudgy smoke that settles on surfaces. At first, soot can be easily brushed or wiped off. But it gradually accumulates in layers in chimneys, fireplaces and stovepipes. Soot deposits may accumulate over time and reduce airflow up to 30 percent so that the flue does not vent properly. This may cause smoke to back up in a home and cause health problems.


Regular chimney or stovepipe maintenance is the most reliable way to remove creosote and soot. The deposits are scrubbed off with chimney scrubbers or stovepipe brushes. Stovepipes may be disassembled for cleaning, but brick chimneys are fixed and typically cleaned by scrubbing downward with a chimney brush from the roof and upward from the firebox with a wire brush. Homeowners are sometimes tempted to build a hot fire to burn out the creosote deposits. This is not wise because the creosote may burn as an extremely hot fire in the chimney and damage the chimney and house structure.

Important Tips

Annual chimney inspection by a qualified chimney sweep service is recommended to prevent dangerous chimney fires. Between inspections, homeowners can help prevent dangerous buildup of soot and creosote with the use of RUTLAND Soot and Creosote Removers. To determine how often you should use RUTLAND Soot and Creosote Removers, it's important to keep in mind the type of wood you burn, how often you use your wood-burning appliance, and how hot the type of wood you use burns

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