A chimney is an essential but understated part of a kitchen. There are different kinds of chimneys but in India, we mainly use mesh-type Chimney filters because of the oily nature of our food.
Such kinds of chimneys have to be cleaned every 15 days or at least once every month. To be fair, cleaning chimneys is a time-consuming task and most people would prefer hiring professionals to do the job. However, if you are someone who is up for the challenge, then this article is for you.
Why Should You Clean the Chimney?
Chimneys are important because they help in removing the steam, smoke, and vapors from the kitchen. Indian cuisine involves the use of a lot of spices and oils as compared to western cooking. Hence, it results in a fair amount of grease and smoke that ought to be removed. Else, the aroma and vapors will linger in the kitchen and you won’t get the fresh environment. If you don’t clean the chimneys, then these vapors would clog them and reduce the efficiency, making them practically useless.
Also, unclean chimneys have caused thousands of home fires. This is due to the buildup of Creosote, which is a flammable material that sticks to the Chimney lining. Creosote is an oily residue that forms due to the burning of wood.
How Often Should You Clean Kitchen Chimneys?
This question depends on the kind of food and the amount of load that the chimney handles. Normally, the filters should be cleaned once every 2 months, but considering the Indian style of cooking, it is wise to clean them every month.
It is recommended to inspect the Chimney structure once a year. This will help to analyze the buildup of soot and other materials, venting systems, stove systems, and furnace flues. Some Chimneys have had 10 Gallons of materials removed from them. This is what causes Chimney Fires. Also, unused Chimneys might even serve as a potential nest for birds.
Methods to Clean Chimney Filters at Home
1. Using Dishwasher
Dishwashing Liquid consists of liquid surfactants. Surfactants are molecules that help to reduce surface tension between two interfaces, thus helping in easy separation. These surfactants will help to remove the grease and oil residues deposited on the chimney filter.
First of all, remove the filters and then apply some Dishwashing Liquid preferably with the help of a sponge. Take a bucket full of hot water and immerse the filters in these buckets for a period of about 2 hours. Then, scrub the filters using soft rubber and continue until there is no grease left.
Wash the filters using fresh water and leave them to dry. If the grease deposition is quite thick, then after applying the liquid, set it on a burner and let it boil for half an hour. This is a faster approach and will help eliminate grease from the hard-to-reach spots.
2. Using Vinegar
Vinegar or Acetic Acid is not the strongest acid but its acidic nature is strong enough to dissolve deposits of minerals, dirt, grease, etc. It is also capable of eliminating Bacteria. Hence, it is widely used as a cleaning agent in many fields. Since it is commonly available and non-toxic, you can easily use it to clean the chimneys as well.
Take a bucket full of boiling water and Vinegar solution. Place the chimney filters in the bucket and leave them there for 2 hours. Then scrub the filters using rubber and wipe them with a cotton cloth. Finally, let the filters dry.
3. Using Caustic Soda
Caustic Soda, also known as Sodium Hydroxide is quite a capable cleaning agent that is inexpensive as well. It converts grease into soap, which can easily dissolve in water. However, you need to be careful while using this as it is toxic. Also, it can cause chemical burns if you do not use Gloves. Also, the fumes emanating are not ideal for your health as well.
Remove the chimney filters and put them in a tub. Sprinkle some caustic soda on top. Now, add boiling water to it. You can see fumes appearing. Let the filters remain soaked for at least 2 or 3 hours. Remove the filters and scrub them with a brush. Finally, rinse using water and let them dry.
4. Using Paint Thinner
This should only be used as a last resort. Paint thinners consist of solvents like Acetone, Toluene, and Turpentine. They are highly flammable and should be used with care. These solvents easily evaporate so most probably you would end up inhaling a fair amount of vapor. Hence, it is recommended only for the very hard-to-clean parts of filters. However, this method works much faster compared to previous methods.
While using paint thinners, make sure that you are outside so that the vapors can disperse easily. Take a cotton or microfiber cloth and add the thinner. Now, scrub the filters using this cloth. After scrubbing, wash the filter with water and leave it in the sun. Alternatively, instead of Thinner, you can also use Nail Polish.
5. With Baking Soda
Baking Soda or Sodium Bicarbonate is a substance of basic nature and it is a very common ingredient in kitchens. Baking Soda reacts with Acidic Vinegar and this reaction is helpful for cleaning purposes. It is non-toxic, and slightly abrasive compared to soaps, which makes it easy to remove grease stains. Additionally, it also absorbs odors as well.
For cleaning, you need to prepare a hot water solution of 3 spoons of Baking Soda, 2 spoons of Vinegar, and 3 Spoons of Salt in a tub. Immerse the filters in this tub for a few hours and then scrub it.
All the methods mentioned above are quite safe except the Caustic Soda one, where it is best to utilize Gloves and Protective Kit. However, sometimes the grease buildup gets too thick where you would need to resort to such a method. If we have to recommend a method, it would be the Dishwashing Liquid as it is easily available in most homes and is quite efficient. Moreover, it does not need additional ingredients as well.
We have described the general methods on how to clean the Filters but there might be Filters on the market that might need a particular cleaning technique. In such cases, follow the instructions given. Moreover, if you lack confidence or find the cleaning procedure confusing, then consider professional help.