What Not to Burn in a Fireplace

With winter fast approaching, nothing is as warm and cosy as a crackling fire. While an open fire is a great way to stay toasty, it can also be a source of danger to your health and your home, particularly if the wrong things are thrown in. Whether your fireplace is your main source of heat or you just want to roast a few marshmallows, it’s important to remember that not every piece of timber makes good fuel and there are many other things you should never burn in your fireplace. Bittern Garden Supplies is the trusted supplier of quality redgum firewood to Merricks and the whole Mornington Peninsula. Here’s our handy guide to things you should never burn in your open fire.

Treated Wood

Treated, stained, painted or manufactured wood release toxic chemicals into the air when burned. Wood treated to withstand rot or insects such as treated pine can contain copper, chromium and arsenic, while plywood contains adhesives applied during manufacturing which will also release toxic fumes when burned. Never burn treated timber in fireplaces, barbecues, wood stoves or any wood fire.

Green Wood

When a living tree is cut down, the timber needs to age or “season” for a minimum of six to nine months before burning. Freshly cut wood (green wood) is loaded with sap and needs to dry out first. It’s hard to light and once you get it going, it burns very efficiently and smokes horribly. If you’re unsure if the wood is green, ask the supplier when it was cut. You can also check the bark – firmly attached bark that’s still sticky with sap is a bad sign.


Driftwood emits lavender-blue flames and while these may look great, those colourful flames are produced by metal salts that the wood absorbed while it was adrift, and, unfortunately, the fumes from those flames are toxic. Don’t burn any wood that you’ve gathered on the beach in your fireplace.

Evergreen Wood

Evergreen trees, such as pine and cedar (including old Christmas trees), contain resins that burn quickly and produce a hot flame. While this might sound good, these trees burn so fast that the fire will fizzle out quickly, and their high resin content can leave heavy creosote deposits in your chimney, which can over time lead to chimney fires and produce embers that can rise up through the chimney onto the roof.


Many people use small recyclables to start a roaring fire because they ignite quickly, however think twice about using cardboard (including pizza boxes and cereal boxes), as they are often treated with chemicals. Instead, try to use approved fire starters or small splinters of wood, chipped with an axe from your stock of seasoned redgum firewood. 

Magazines and Coloured Paper

The coloured ink used to print magazines, newspaper inserts, and wrapping paper contain chemical pigments that release toxic fumes when they are burned. If your fire needs a helping hand to get started, use a couple of sheets of plain black-and-white newspaper, rolled tightly and placed beneath small bits of wood kindling, but don’t toss magazines, gift wrap, or catalogues into the fireplace.


It’s common practice to toss an empty plastic cup or a used disposable plate on an open fire but this is a habit that should stop immediately. Most consumer plastics releases a category of toxins known as dioxins when burned. Inhaling dioxins increases the risk of respiratory ailments, headaches, internal organ damage, and even cancer.


Never use accelerants to start your fire. Lighter fluid, kerosene, and petrol are all designed for very specific uses and should not be used to fuel an indoor fire for several reasons. They often contain methanol and petroleum-based chemicals that produce toxic fumes and they are highly flammable and can produce large, unexpected flare-ups that spread the fire into your home and potentially on you.

Clothing and Material

Finally, don’t burn cloth or clothing in your fireplace or wood burner. Not only will it smell bad, but clothing produces an excess amount of smoke and soot that will end up adding to the creosote in the chimney lining.

So now you know what not to burn, here’s what you should burn – seasoned firewood from a reputable and sustainable source. At Bittern Garden Supplies, we harvest all our own red gum firewood from locations in northern Victoria and Southern NSW. If you need red gum firewood this winter, we deliver to Merricks, Mornington, Hastings, Rosebud, Red Hill and the entire Mornington Peninsula. Give us a call today on 5983 9779 or contact us online now.