Some state, that burning dry potato skin would remove or reduce carbon black in a chimney. One can find many examples for this online:

The potato peels burn at high energy and will help push the soot and creosote out of the chimney.

I could not find any evidence for this yet and guess it is an urban legend. Is there any evidence for this effect or explanation (chemical reaction?) how it works?


"3. To facilitate cleaning, it is a good idea to burn dry potato skins (about 10 liters) in the boiler a day or two prior to cleaning. The starch in the potato skins acts as a catalyst, allowing the boiler to burn off accumulated soot and creosote more easily."

from the Orlan Installation, Operation And Maintenance Manual Wood gasification boilers from 18-80 kW

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    This is another example of the claim - which could be cited in the question - but it doesn't answer the question. To answer the question we need some evidence that it works. (This one at least describes a mechanism by which it might work). – Mark Dec 16 '15 at 19:30
  • It is the best source till now and even gives an explanation. I mark this as answer until we found a better evidence. – Jonas Stein Dec 16 '15 at 21:24
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    This is really not an example or answer to the claim, because it is about cleaning the heat exchanging tubes of a boiler. While these tubes do outlet into a chimney, there's no claim or evidence here for an effect on the chimney itself, or any other chimney. There are differences in size, materials, and safety considerations. – Dan Getz Aug 2 '20 at 14:05

Fire in the hearth will deposit soot and tar in the chimney to a certain extent depending on the fuel and the temperature of burning. In general, the cooler the fire is, the more soot and tar is deposited - the hotter, the less soot and tar.

As to potato peelings which have been dried, I have no specific reference as to the latent energy of combustion, I'll have to take your word for it that they burn fast and hot.

There is a tipping point at which the chimney starts to clean itself - this is called a chimney fire. This may result in the catastrophic failure of the house structure, as small gaps in the masonry next to surrounding timbers promote their combustion, or the masonry becoming so hot; that the surrounding wooden structure will start to burn. This is not always the case, but it's a judgement call that would need to be made by a suitably qualified professional.

There are some damage limitation tips: here.

The only effective and safe way to clean a chimney is with a Sweep's Brush and Rods. (From a UK Government Agency)

As to further references and reading, this document is highly detailed and comprehensive: Here.

  • If potato skins can clean a chimney, it must be a chemical reaction of their smoke. A wood fire would create much more heat energy than potato skins of several weeks collected at home. I do not think that the skins should cause a chimney fire as cleaning method, because it could be achieved much easier. Can you give a hint, where in the linked documents potato skins are mentioned? I expect, that people just like to throw everything in the fire and someone started the urban legend it would clean... But it is hard to find evidence. – Jonas Stein Feb 28 '14 at 22:51
  • I don't have any links to share, I'm sorry. It's difficult to see what reaction with peel-smoke there could be which would be useful. As far as I am aware, "reduction" type reactions do not occur in soot or tar, only "oxidation" type ones, or polymerization but that's not relevant. Evidence is, as you say, hard to come by. – Bitter dreggs. Mar 3 '14 at 3:20
  • This is good information about chimney safety, but it really doesn't address the question. – Mark Dec 16 '15 at 19:27

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