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The holiday season is one of the heaviest use periods for our fireplaces; the holiday traditions of many families involve gathering together in front of an open fire. However, it is important to be careful what you burn to maximize fireplace safety and efficiency.

What you burn in your fireplace has a direct impact on fireplace performance. Therefore, only seasoned firewood should be burned, no matter how tempting it is to toss a ball of wrapping paper into the fireplace. While some materials create fire hazards, others can release toxic chemicals or even damage your fireplace. the following materials should never be burned in your indoor fireplace.

Cardboard and Paper Products

After opening presents, it is tempting to toss the leftover wrapping paper or extra boxes into the fireplace. However, burning paper can quickly create uncontrolled fires with an enormous increase in flames. These fast-burning fires often grow too big for the firebox, causing flames to spread up the chimney or even into the room.

In addition to the fire hazard they create, burning printed wrapping paper can affect the air quality in your home. While wrapping paper made in the United States must use approved chemicals and dyes, paper products created in other countries are not subject to the same regulations. Burning paper leads to the release of toxic chemicals.


While Styrofoam creates a safety hazard as it burns extremely quickly, it is even more dangerous for the toxic chemicals it releases. When it ignites, Styrofoam creates a thick black smoke with chemicals that can damage both the nervous system and lungs. Styrofoam will also stick to the inside of the fireplace and chimney as it melts; in addition to being difficult to remove, this melted foam can reignite in the future.

Pretreated Wood

Burning old wood seems like an easy way to recycle, but it could be hazardous to your health. Wood that has been treated with any paint, stain, varnish, glue, or other chemicals should never be burned. According to the EPA homeowners should “never burn coated, painted, or pressure-treated wood because it releases toxic chemicals when burned.”


Burning garbage is a normal occurrence for many families in rural communities. While it seems like an easy way to decrease waste management costs, burning garbage creates lingering and extremely unpleasant odors. In addition, it affects air quality and leads to health issues. Backyard garbage burning causes nausea and headaches with links to increased risk of heart disease, asthma, and emphysema.

This holiday season, avoid the temptation to burn anything other than seasoned firewood in your fireplace. The health and safety risks to your family are simply not worth it, despite its apparent convenience. For more information on what not to burn or how to find the right firewood for your fireplace, contact Chimney TEK today.

presents under a Christmas tree next to a fireplace