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How to Clean a Fireplace

How to Clean a Fireplace

Not many things in life are as better as a warm comforting fire on a cold winter night. But anything that involves fire needs to be handled with caution and maintained properly. 

The National Fire Protection Association says that soot that deposits in your fireplace eventually condense into creosote (a sticky, poisonous, oily wood-tar by-product found in chimney and fireplace) which can cause fires to flare out of control. And is a highly toxic substance too. Hence they recommend to evaluated and cleaning both fireplace and chimney frequently.

Depending upon how often you use the fireplace you need to clean it. If it is used on regular basis cleaning should be done once a week. If it is not frequently used cleaning should be done once or twice a month to avoid airborne contaminants which invite a health danger in your home.

Equipment Needed

  • Dropcloth or tarp
  • Dust sheets or newspaper
  • Dustpan
  • Bristle scrubbing brush
  • Metal bucket / Trash Can
  • Shovel or trowel
  • Plastic bucket
  • Spray bottle
  • Sponges
  • Rubber gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Face mask

Possible Method-specific Materials Needed

  • Detergent or dishwashing liquid and salt
  • Baking soda and dish soap
  • Vinegar 
  • Borax
  • Tartar
  • Detergent, ammonia, and pumice 
  • TSP (Trisodium phosphate)

Precaution to Be Taken 

  • Allow at least 12 hours to pass after your last fire before cleaning a fireplace to allow it to cool completely.
  • Make sure you have your gloves and safety wear on while dealing with ammonia. Since ammonia is a strong and potent gas its fumes are intense so ensure the room is well aired as well. 
  • TSP ( Trisodium phosphate) is extremely hazardous and should be handled with caution. It is strongly advised to use the full protective gear including rubber gloves, eye protection, a breathing mask, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants while dealing with TSP.

CAUTION: Ceramic tile, metal, fabrics, carpets, and painted and varnished surfaces are all susceptible to TSP. Also, avoid getting TSP solution in touch with your skin.

Tips for Better Cleaning 

  • Always start with the least abrasive method and work your way up when cleaning old bricks.
  • When cleaning fireplace bricks, use a firm bristle brush.
  • Only opt for TSP (trisodium phosphate) if there are some toughest stains and grease.
  • Before cleaning the fireplace, add a couple of teaspoons of salt to help remove soot and creosote.
  • Vinegar aids in the removal of soapy residue and the elimination of smoky odors.
  • Sometimes you may find rust spots on the metal fireplace after the soot and debris have been cleaned. To eliminate these stains, you should necessitate the usage of oxalic acid.
  • Fireplace fires should be allowed to burn out naturally. When you pour water into the fire it will transform into a paste that is difficult to clean. Water should only be used in an emergency.

How to Clean Fireplace 

Cleaning the fireplace is a messy job, ashes cling around easily, and dark stains on the wood burner and also around the hearth and mantel are sometimes hard to get rid of. Regardless they need to be cleaned properly. So for your convenience here we have break-down the simplest way possible to clean your fireplace. 

Initial Cleaning 

Prepare Yourself

prepare yourself

Cleaning your fireplace is not difficult, but it is certainly going to get messy. So prepare yourself and don’t scrimp on the protection. Grab your protection gear if available and if not put on some old clothes, and rubber gloves. Since the tiny dust particles are likely to move around while cleaning wear a dust mask to avoid inhaling the same. To avoid unpleasant pressure you can put on your knee pads too but this is optional. 

Protect the Surrounding Areas

The first cleaning step is to clear the work area remove if there are any types of furniture near, roll up rugs and use dust sheets, newspaper, or drop cloths to cover the area near the fireplace. Cover the furniture around as well, as the dust might stick onto them. Get the garbage bags or trashcan ready to dispose of the ash, soot, and debris.

Remove Andirons and Grate

Remove Andirons and Grate

Remove any andirons and grate that may be in your fireplace. Place them in a newspaper or drop cloth outside. If there is any accumulation or stuck-on carbon deposits, start eliminating them. After you’ve finished cleaning, spritz the cleanser over the surface and scrub with a medium bristle brush. Rinse well with water.

Clear the Ashes, Debris, and Soot

Clear the Ashes, Debris, and Soot

Now clear the space where the fire occurs. With the help of a shovel and dustpan clean all the loose ashes, debris, and soot. Don’t forget to clean the inside of the chimney and firebox with a small brush or fireplace brush. Remove the loose dust and ash with a broom. Get as much dust as you can out, it will be easier to do the final cleaning later once all the dust is out. You can use the soot and debris to enhance garden soil or safely dispose of them in a trash can.

Clean the Creosote With a Bristle Scrubbing Brush

Clean the Creosote With a Bristle Scrubbing Bruh

Cleaning creosote might be a little hard as it is sticky. Remove ashes and creosote with a dry bristle brush or hand broom. For removing the sticky part, make a mixture of salt, detergent, and water and spray it all over the creosote area. Let it remain in the stained area for 10-15 minutes. Then scrub it with the brush. Repeat as many times as necessary. Don’t worry about the leftover it will be cleaned in the next stage. 

Vacuum the Bricks With a Soft Brush Attachment

Attach a gentle brush attachment to your vacuum. Use your vacuum’s brush attachment to go over all of your bricks. Remove as much soot and dust as possible by vacuuming the fireplace surround and hearth. Clean as much dust as you can this will make your final stage of cleaning easier. 

Final Cleaning With Household Product

Cleaning With Baking Soda and Dish Soap 

  1. To make a cleaning solution add 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda, 2 tablespoons or 30 to 40 ml dish soap, and 12 cups of water. Stir it well.
  2. Dip a scrub brush in the solution and apply it to the bricks
  3. Allow 5-10 minutes for the paste to rest on the bricks.
  4. Then start scrubbing the brick in a circular motion
  5. Scrubbing the bricks should be done from the bottom up to avoid streaks.
  6. Using warm water, rinse it off.

Cleaning fireplace with Vinegar

CAUTION: If the bricks in your fireplace are old don’t use vinegar. The acidic substance may not suit the best old bricks.

  1. Fill a spray bottle with equal parts of water and vinegar.
  2. First, spray the solution in the internal bricks of the fireplace then spray outside. 
  3. Let the solution remain for 2-3 minutes
  4. With the help of a bristle brush start scrubbing in a circular motion. 
  5. Clean the bricks by rinsing and wiping them down.
  6. In a spray bottle, add a few tablespoons of baking soda and water to neutralize the acidity of the vinegar.
  7. Spray it in the brick and rinse with water
  8. Allow it to dry completely.

Ammonia Pumice and Detergent

CAUTION: Since ammonia is a harsh chemical always wear rubber gloves and safety goggles while dealing with it. 

  1. Add 120 ml ammonia, 59 ml dishwashing detergent, and 950 ml hot water to a bowl and stir it well.
  2. Spray this solution on the fireplace
  3.  Sprinkle fine-ground powdered pumice (available at hardware stores or online) on the scrub brush.
  4. Scrape off all the remaining soot and creosote with the help scrubbing brush. 
  5. To get the clean fireplace to repeat the process 2-3 times 
  6. To remove the cleaning solution wipe them off with a moist cloth or rinse with water.

Making Tartar and Water Paste 

  1. Combine 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar with a tiny amount of water to make a paste.
  2.  Apply a layer of the thin paste to a sooty patch of brick with an old toothbrush and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Gently scrub the brick with a scrubbing brush
  4. Rinse the paste with warm water to remove the paste and dirt away.

Cleaning With Tsp (Trisodium Phosphate) Solution

CAUTION: Full safety gear is a must while dealing with TSP. TSP is a highly toxic substance and can harm plants. So it is advised to contact your local municipality for proper disposal after cleaning. 

  1. In a bucket, combine 3 teaspoons TSP (a neutralized mixture of phosphoric acid and sodium hydroxides), 12 cups bleach, and a quart of warm water
  2. Fill a spray bottle halfway with this cleaning solution 
  3. Spray the walls and floors of the fireplace. 
  4. Wipe away the cleaning solution, soot, and discoloration with a moist, clean sponge.
  5. Repeat the instructions if the soot has not been cleared. If necessary, use up to one cup of TSP per bucket of boiling water.
  6. Once you have finished cleaning thoroughly clean the fireplace with clean water. 

Cleaning your fireplace should be a part of your daily chore if you use it on daily basis. You don’t have to do the elbow grease and deal with hazardous chemicals later while cleaning if you do it on regular basis.