Before you curl up in front of the fire, remove any ashes, stains, or creosote build-up.
Curling up in front of a fire is one of the most enjoyable aspects of fall and winter. However, flames may be untidy, and ignoring a fireplace results in black stains not just in the wood burner but also surrounding the hearth and mantle.
Aside from aesthetics, cleaning the fireplace is a concern of safety: The National Fire Protection Association recommended that your chimney and fireplace be examined for structural integrity and cleaned on a yearly basis, since creosote (an oily wood-tar byproduct found on chimney walls) buildup can cause flames to flare out of control.
Here’s how to clean a fireplace and avoid possible fire dangers throughout the season.
This post may contain affiliate links. Full disclosure here.
How To Clean a Fireplace
Allow It To Cool
Allow at least 12 hours after your last fire before attempting to clean a fireplace to allow it to completely cool down. Clear a work area and use drop cloths or plastic sheeting to protect the area around the fireplace and adjacent furnishings (not newspaper—the ink might transfer into carpets or upholstery). Don’t scrimp on the protection, as this is going to be a smoky endeavour.
Wear old clothes that will undoubtedly become soiled, as well as rubber gloves. Wear a dust mask to protect yourself from possibly harmful dust. To minimize uncomfortable pressure, work on a thick folded towel if you don’t have kneepads.
Clean Out Ash
Remove all of the ashes and dust from the fireplace, collecting it on a dustpan with a small shovel or hand broom. Put the mess in a large paper bag or rubbish bin. Sweep dust and ashes from the andirons or grate before taking them outdoors to clean.
To remove soot from the grate/andirons, pour a couple tablespoons of dish detergent to a wet scrubbing brush, moisten the grate/andiron, scrub until sudsy, and rinse well. Dry the grate/andiron with a clean rag and set it away until you’re ready to clean the fireplace.
Start at the top of each wall and sweep down to remove ashes and creosote with a dry bristle brush or hand broom. Rep as many times as needed. Sweep out the ashes and rubbish and throw them in a paper bag or a trash can. For good measure, vacuum the area to remove any residual dust.
In a bucket, combine 3 teaspoons TSP (a neutralised mixture of phosphoric acid and sodium hydroxides), 12 cup bleach, and a quart of hot (not boiling) water. Fill a spray bottle halfway with this cleaning solution and liberally spray the walls and flooring of the fireplace. Allow it to rest for five minutes before spraying again for scrubbing.
To clean the fireplace, immerse the bristle brush in the remaining solution and scrub the walls from top to bottom. Spray with cleaning solution on occasion, both as a rinse and as a cleaning assist. After scrubbing, wipe with old rags, spray, and repeat the scrubbing procedure if necessary. Scrub the fireplace floor, wiping off any excess cleaning solution with cloths.
If your fireplace has glass doors, make a 50-50 solution of white vinegar and water in a new spray container (approximately a cup). Spray the vinegar solution over glass doors and folded paper towels, then sprinkle some ashes on the towelling to act as a mild, natural abrasive. Scrub the doors gently, then continue with fresh paper towels.
DO NOT SCOUR BRICK
If your brick fireplace front or face is more than 50 years old, vacuum it to remove soot and dust. Do not scrub it, since this may cause the old brick to disintegrate.
In a new bucket, combine 14 cup liquid dish detergent and a gallon of water for all other facings. Fill a spray bottle halfway with clean, fresh water and spray down the face. The water spray will keep the cleaner from sinking in too deeply and too quickly on wood and brick. Spraying will act as a presoak for marble and tile.
Scrub the facing surface lightly with your brush after dipping it in the pail of detergent water. Accept that some stains will stay; excessive washing might cause more harm than good. Spray plain water over the facing front and wipe dry with clean, dry cloths or paper towels.
Replace the grate and/or the andirons. Use liquid dish detergent and water to clean your brush and broom. Begin by gathering your drop cloth or plastic sheeting in a ball and throwing it out from the perimeter.
Deal With Ashes
Consider spreading the ashes over your garden before tossing them: Ashes (rather than creosote) are an excellent supply of calcium, potassium, and other minerals for plants that prefer low-acidity, high-pH soil. In addition, if you have slugs, snails, or other soft-bodied pests, scatter ashes around plant bases as a deterrent. Keep ashes in a dry, airtight container so you can replenish them after rain, which washes away the ash salt that repels intruders.
- Once a week, sweep and shovel around your wood-burning fireplace. Leave approximately one inch of ash behind. It insulates the embers, allowing them to burn hotter.
- Once a week, dust and clean the glass of gas and electric fireplaces.
- The National Fire Protection Association recommends cleaning and inspecting chimneys, fireplaces, vents, and flues at least once a year. It’s a good idea to do it when the weather becomes chilly.
- Consider hiring a professional to check and clean your chimney. This will clear the chimney of your wood-burning stove or fireplace of very dangerous creosote accumulation. Mechanical or structural problems can arise in chimneys, dampers, and flues.
- If you have a stainless steel chimney liner, the CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) suggests cleaning it once it has accumulated roughly 1/8-inch of soot or creosote.
- Hire a plumber to examine your gas fireplace line once a year to verify it is operating properly and the logs are appropriately positioned.
- Purchase a carbon monoxide detector and ensure that it is operational.
- Consider utilising a chimney cleaner, chimney soot remover, or fireplace cleaning log on a regular basis in a wood-burning fireplace. It might help to minimise the development of tar and creosote in your chimney walls.
- In high humidity months, creosote may emit an odour. Consider using a chimney deodorant or filling a container with cat litter and baking soda and placing it in the fireplace.
- To keep smouldering embers from burning the hearth or flooring, use a metal fireplace screen.
- Install a chimney cap to keep birds, leaves, and animals out of the chimney.
- Always keep an eye on a fire. Maintain the safety of your children and pets.
How To Clean a Fireplace Bottom Line
It is not difficult to learn how to clean a fireplace. You may clean your wood-burning or electric fireplace in an afternoon using simple supplies. Always begin by draping a drop cloth or plastic tarp over your work area. Any furniture and carpets should be moved. Keep a garbage bag or bucket handy. Wear cleaning gloves, eye protection, and a face mask if you’re using harsh cleansers.