As someone who loves his wood stove, I have learned a few things over the years about how to help it work better, safer and longer. There are several things you should never burn in a fireplace or wood stove. You should avoid burning these things for both your own health, and that of those around you, and also to avoid damage to your wood stove or fireplace.
Things Not To Burn In A Wood Stove Or Fireplace
You should never burn colored paper such as wrapping paper, paper towels, plates, cups, etc, in a fireplace. Paper can contain literally hundreds of dangerous chemicals, many of which are know cancer causing agents. Paper from China and other third world countries is rarely inspected by U.S. Customs since it is not a food product. For this reason paper from China can contain dangerous amounts of lead and other chemicals not allowed in the United States and other western countries.
You should never burn treated lumber. See the related InfoNugget here: Never Burn Treated Lumber In Your Fireplace. Treated lumber can contain dangerous amounts of arsenic, copper and other chemicals used to prevent rot such as high potency termite poisons. One good reason never to burn old lumber in your fireplace is because of lead paint and years of termite killing chemicals that may have been applied to the wood. You should not burn old pallets in the fireplace either, since you don’t know what chemicals might have spilled them. Some palates are used for years transporting drums of “what-not” , traded, rented, and may have a chemical cocktail accumulated in the wood.
Never burn any wood know to be from a poisonous plant. One example is Oleander. Never burn oleander wood in a fireplace. If you are in doubt about what kind of wood you are supposed to use you your area, ask a local chimney sweep, they will know.
Never burn plastics of any kind. Aside from being illegal in most places, it’s a dumb thing to do.
Finally, keep your chimney clean by burning seasoned hardwoods. Hardwood such as oak, mesquite, pecan, etc, are some of the best woods to burn in a fireplace. Just remember to keep the fire modest to prevent damage to your wood stove or fireplace, and to have a chimney sweep clean and inspect your chimney each year. For more frequent chimney or flue cleanings, and to save money, consider a do-it-yourself chimney cleaning kit such as the one below.