11 Things You Should Never Burn in Your Fireplace

These outliers will make you glad you read up.

On a chilly night, there's nothing quite like cozying up next to a fire with a good book and a cup of tea —or a cranberry margarita. While gas fireplaces are becoming more and more common (and may be better for the planet and your health), there's just something about the crackling of logs. If you've whipped up a tiny inferno, you may be burning through logs and considering tossing a few other things into the blaze. Turns out, that's not such a great idea.

When you're burning wood in your fireplace, it contains small particles that can get into your eyes and lungs. If you're throwing things other than wood in the fire, those materials can contain toxic or harmful chemicals that are released when burned. Nothing ruins a comfy night by the fire like inhaling a bunch of toxins.

Still wondering, "What can I burn in my fireplace?" The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the folks charged with making sure the air is clean, suggests only one thing is safe, and that's properly seasoned firewood that contains little-to-no moisture.

What is properly seasoned firewood? It's wood that has been dried outdoors for at least six months before being burnt. That's because green wood, which has not been seasoned, burns slowly, creates a lot of smoke, and causes highly flammable creosote to build up in your chimney. Properly seasoned wood is dry, grayish in color, may be cracked, and may have loose or detached bark. Light it up with clean newspaper and dry kindling and let it burn.

In addition to unseasoned wood, here are a few other things that the EPA recommends never burning in your fireplace, because of the potential for releasing toxic fumes and carcinogens.

  • Wet wood, which produces more smoke than seasoned wood and can cause dangerous creosote build-up inside your chimney
  • Household trash, including cardboard
  • Plastic or rubber
  • Styrofoam or foam
  • Magazines
  • Cereal boxes, printed boxes, or wrapping paper with colored ink
  • Wood that has been coated, painted, or pressure treated, which can damage your fireplace
  • Plywood, particle board, or any wood with glue on or in it, like wooden pallets
  • Ocean driftwood, because the salt can corrode your fireplace
  • Rotted, diseased, or moldy wood, which can make those toxins airborne
  • Manure or animal remains

Some of the items above might illicit an "well, obviously," but we'd all rather be safe than sorry, wouldn't you?

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