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Uses for Creosote

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Hello! I am burning super seasoned (over seasoned? Kinda ‘punky’) wood that was given to me from a very old wood pile of most likely fir or hemlock, and was amazed when smoke started pouring into the house one day! Sure enough the chimney cap is almost fully occluded, and after only about two months. The entire flue and cap was fully cleaned before we started burning wood in it. So it seems like a lot of pretty quick accumulation?

So I am pretty open-minded and out of the box and everything and in tune with the permaculture mindset, I am wondering if anybody else has considered the possibility that this creosote might somehow be useful??

A cursory search revealed that creosote was in the past used for some medicinal purposes... they use coal creosote for sealing wood... what else I wonder?

I know it is considered toxic but humans have found lots of uses for toxic things, so as long as we are intelligent about it I’m sure we can avoid poisoning ourselves.

I don’t know, it seems like chemically potent stuff that might just be of value around a homestead somehow...

Any thoughts?
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Posts: 3124
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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The creosote that was used to seal lumber, primarily for railway applications,  has reduced all current and former rail lines and properties to the equivalent of superfund sites.

Workers are now required to wear, well maybe not hazmat suits, but protection sufficient to guard against inhalation of fumes and skin contact, and creosote-contaminated waste must be disposed of as a hazardous material.

I think the best permacultural practice is to take punky wood and other clean wood unsuitable for burning and either let them rot on the forest floor, to act as nurse logs for future growth, or better yet, harness that nurse log function yourself by burying that punky stuff under a garden bed to act as a sponge and nurse log for your choice of plants.

Creosote is a substance we should take pains to avoid creating. It is still listed as only a probable carcinogen, and it appears that the horrific results of daily creosote application to shaved labrats weren't also seen in the human case study of creosote workers that started back in1979.

This is just my feeling, but I think the fact that it's the cheapest method available to industry to preserve wood played a part in the toning down of medical warnings.

I would get that chimney cleared properly before trying to use it. Solid creosote can ignite at as low as 451 degrees Fahrenheit. A thickness of an eighth to a quarter of an inch can be enough to start a chimney fire.

And it gave shaved rats cancerous lesions on the skin, and even in the lung, in a matter of weeks. I wouldn't take unnecessary chances.

Nathanael Armstrong
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Hey thanks for the reply! All that makes sense. The wood treated with and rat cancer experiments were done with coal creosote, not wood, so there must be a difference... but I hear ya.

I wonder how some fungi would find it, though. I saw Paul Stamets was treating simulated - I think it was oil spills - with fungi and they ate it up and turned it into a healthy pile of organic goodness.

So punky wood does create more creosote? I would have thought maybe if seasoned wood makes less then maybe punky wood makes the least? Great ideas for how to use the punky stuff! Of course in my PNW area there is NO shortage of decaying wood around 😁

Oh yeah and btw the chimney was cleaned immediately after the picture was taken!
master pollinator
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Location: Ashhurst New Zealand
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If you had a RMH you could feed chunks of creosote into the fire once it was up to operating temps.
She still doesn't approve of my superhero lifestyle. Or this shameless plug:
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