There's nothing quite like the coziness that comes alongside sitting next to a roaring fireplace in the dead of winter. However, that roaring fire can leave behind quite the mess, as leftover soot and ash coat the chimney interior and build up over time.
So it's no surprise that when it comes time to clean the very-dirty fireplace, you hardly know where to start. Thankfully, we can help. Keep reading to find out how to clean your fireplace, how often you'll need to do it, and how to keep it clean longer.
How Often Should You Clean Your Fireplace?
The task of cleaning a fireplace probably doesn't seem like an enjoyable one. However, it is a necessary task that needs to happen annually. The purpose of fireplace cleaning is far more than just aesthetics—it's safety too, as excess soot and ash are fire hazards.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, your fireplace should be cleaned annually, preferably before or after fireplace season. Keeping your fireplace clean not only keeps it looking great, it also keeps it functional and safe.
Things You'll Need
- Plastic sheeting
- Garbage cans and bags
- Work clothes and gloves
- Dish detergent
- Warm water
- Clean towels and rags (note: these will get very dirty and stained)
- Hand broom and dustpan
- Stiff-bristled brushes
- Vacuum (optional)
- Spray bottle
- Windex (optional)
How To Clean Your Fireplace
Step 1: Prepare Your Space
Thanks to the nature of fireplaces, cleaning them can get messy, fast. So, before you begin scrubbing and scouring, make sure you take out any small items that are extra susceptible to damage from dust and dirt. If there are any pieces of furniture that sit near the fireplace, move them at least 10 feet away. If furniture can't be moved, cover it with plastic sheeting.
Place a few lined garbage cans near the fireplace for easy disposal of ash, soot, and clean-up. And as for you: make sure you wear clothes and shoes that can get dirty and gloves that can handle some soot stains.
Step 2: Remove and Clean Grates
Now that your room is prepped, it's time to get started. Before you can start cleaning the inside of the fireplace, you'll need to take out the grate or andirons (the metal structure that holds the logs) and bring them outside to be cleaned.
To clean your fireplace grate, brush off any excess soot or ash. A handheld vacuum attachment can be helpful here. Then, mix a few drops of dish detergent with some water, and scrub the mixture onto the grate using a scrub brush. Finally, rinse the grate off and wipe dry. Set aside until the fireplace has been cleaned.
Step 3: Sweep Away Ashes
Using a small broom and dustpan, or a hardy duster, sweep away excess ashes that have gathered on the bottom of the fireplace. You don't need to sweep away everything, just the excess dirt that will get in the way of cleaning later.
Get rid of ash faster with a handheld vacuum attachment. Just be sure to clean out the vacuum canister when you're finished.
Step 4: Get Scrubbing
Using a dry nylon scrub brush or a similar stiff-bristled brush, begin scrubbing at the top of the inside of the fireplace. Work your way downward as you go, and soot and creosote (the residue left behind when you burn carbon-based materials) will fall to the bottom. This step requires some elbow grease, but it's important.
After the interior has been scrubbed, sweep or vacuum out the bottom of the fireplace again, and place the dirt in the trash.
Step 5: Create Your Cleaning Solution
Now that the interior of the fireplace has been scrubbed free of surface-level dirt, it's time to dig a bit deeper. You'll be creating a cleaning solution that will be applied to the surface of the fireplace and rid it of older, more penetrative stains.
To make the mixture, combine equal parts vinegar and warm water, along with a few tablespoons of dish soap, in a large bucket. Fill an empty spray bottle with the mixture.
Step 6: Spray and Scour
Next, spray the cleaning solution all over the floor and walls of the fireplace and let it sit for a few minutes. Once the solution has thoroughly soaked the brick, break out another dry stiff-bristled brush and wet it with the cleaning solution.
Begin vigorously scrubbing the fireplace with the brush, once again working top-to-bottom. Use the spray bottle to re-wet any dry areas and rinse off still-soiled areas. Once you've finished scouring an area, wipe up the excess liquid and dirt with some clean towels.
Once the entire fireplace has been scoured and scrubbed, wipe up any extra cleaning solution that has gathered at the bottom of the fireplace.
Step 7: Clean Doors and Facing
If your fireplace has doors, now is the time to clean them. You may be able to wipe them down with Windex or another glass-cleaning solution, but if the grime is really stuck on there, wipe them down with a solution of one part water and one part white vinegar.
Your fireplace facing (the brickwork that surrounds the fireplace) probably also needs a good scrub-down too. You can use that same cleaning solution on your brick fireplace facing if it's in good condition. If it's at risk of crumbling, just brush and vacuum dirt away. If your facing is not brick, use a mixture of warm water and few pumps of dish soap.
Once everything has been cleaned and dried, you can add your grate back in and prepare to use your extra-clean fireplace. After all this hard work, you deserve it.
How To Keep Your Fireplace Clean Longer
- Burn clean wood. Preventing an excess buildup of soot, ash, and creosote can make cleaning your fireplace a lot easier. And a good way to prevent this excess buildup is by using wood that burns 'clean,' like hardwoods that burn hotter and longer. Though they are more expensive than softwoods, they leave less residue behind.
- Sweep away ashes. Sweep away leftover ashes every week to month, depending on how often you use your fireplace. Doing this prevents them from piling up or being blown out during a fire.
- Get your chimney inspected. If not maintained regularly and used correctly, fireplaces and chimneys can cause a lot of damage to both you and your home. Because of this, consider getting an annual chimney inspection, which looks at the state of your chimney and prevents problems before they get worse.