How to Clean a Fireplace

Having a wood-burning fireplace in your home can be a huge luxury, especially during the colder months of the year. Being able to throw a few logs into your fireplace and cozy up on a frigid night can make those long winters more bearable. Using your fireplace can also help reduce your heating costs—and of course, a fireplace can be a wonderful selling point if you ever decide to list your home down the road.

Of course, wood-burning fireplaces also come with some important care and maintenance responsibilities. Most importantly, you’ll need to make sure that you’re keeping your fireplace clean year-round. By understanding the importance of keeping a clean fireplace and how to go about cleaning the accessible areas of your wood-burning fireplace, you can complete this task with confidence.

The Importance of Cleaning Your Fireplace

Keeping a clean fireplace is about more than looks; wood-burning fireplaces generate creosote every time they’re used. Unfortunately, creosote is an extremely flammable by-product of wood fires. Over time, creosote build-up can become a serious fire hazard in your home. By keeping your fireplace clean of soot and other debris, you can keep your home safer.

From a health standpoint, maintaining a clean fireplace can also help you avoid ingestion of soot, dust, and other debris generated when you use your fireplace. This is especially important for households where asthma or allergies are a problem.

And of course, a clean fireplace simply keeps your home looking its best. Soot stains and ash from a fire can detract from the look and feel of your home—and could even make your home more difficult to sell if it’s on the market.

How Often Should You Clean Your Fireplace?

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, you should have your chimney and fireplace professionally cleaned and inspected at least once a year. In between professional cleanings, however, you should be taking the time to sweep and clean out your fireplace after each time you use it.

Of course, the frequency of cleaning your fireplace will also depend on some variable factors, such as how often you use your fireplace. During times of regular use, you may find yourself needing to clean it more often or more thoroughly. During the warmer months of the year, you most likely won’t need to use or clean it at all. Still, it’s always a good idea to clean it out before the first time you use it during the fall or winter.

Another way to tell whether your fireplace needs to be cleaned is to check for soot build-up. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends cleaning your fireplace anytime there is 1/8″ or more of buildup. Your fireplace may also be due for a cleaning if there is a foul smell coming from your fireplace, even during the summer months. Most often, this odor is caused by creosote build-up.

How to Clean Your Fireplace

So, you’ve established that your wood-burning fireplace is in need of a cleaning. Where do you begin? Start by making sure you have some essential supplies on-hand, including:

  • a dust mask and rubber gloves for safety
  • knee pads for comfort
  • a drop cloth to protect your floors
  • scrub brushes with nylon bristles
  • a broom and dustpan
  • plenty of clean rags
  • a vacuum or hand vacuum with a nozzle attachment
  • dish detergent
  • paper towels or disposable rags

Removing Dust and Soot

Before you start cleaning, always make sure you’ve waited at least 12 hours from the time of your last fire to prevent the risk of burns. You’ll also want to lay down a drop cloth around your work area to protect your floors and furniture before you begin. Protect yourself by wearing gloves and a dust mask—and don’t forget to change into some old clothes that you don’t mind potentially ruining.

Begin cleaning by using a hand broom and dustpan to remove leftover ashes and debris from the fireplace itself. Then, remove any grating/andirons from your fireplace and clean them using a scrub brush and a solution of warm water and dish detergent. You may want to do this outside to avoid making a mess.

Finally, remove any remaining soot or dust using a vacuum. A hand vacuum can make this job a lot easier, especially if you have one with a nozzle attachment that will allow you to remove debris from grooves and small crevices. When vacuuming, don’t forget about the walls of your fireplace as well.

Cleaning Brick or Stone

If the brick or stone inside your fireplace has seen better days, you may also want to spruce it up. You can create a homemade cleaning paste by combining two tablespoons cream of tartar with a small amount of water. From there, you can spread the paste over unpainted areas of brick or stone to remove stains. Simply allow the paste to sit on the surface for about 10 minutes before rinsing with water to reveal a clean surface.

For cleaning larger areas of stone or brick, you can create a different paste using three tablespoons of dish soap and half a cup of baking soda. Simply dip a sponge or scrub brush into the paste and then apply it to the reachable walls of your fireplace. Scrub in circular motions as you work, allowing the paste to sit for about five minuted before rinsing it away with water.

Don’t Forget About the Chimney

There’s only so much of your fireplace that you can reach for cleaning without special tools—so you’ll still need to hire a professional to tackle the annual cleaning and inspection of your chimney. Even if you’ve successfully removed all the soot and creosote from the fireplace itself, there’s likely a lot more built-up within your chimney that could pose a serious fire risk if left untouched. A professional chimney sweep will have the tools and expertise needed to thoroughly clean out and inspect your chimney for added peace of mind.

Time to Call a Cleaning Professional?

By following these tips, you can enjoy a clean fireplace in your home. However, if you’ve found that your attempts to clean your own fireplace have resulted in soot and ash being kicked up throughout your home, it may be time to call a cleaning professional. Maid Sailors offers a wide range of cleaning services to suit your needs, including routine house-cleaning and deep-cleaning options as well. Contact our team to find out more about how we can make your life easier, or schedule your first appointment with us in as little as 60 seconds on our website.

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