Using your fireplace is a great way to keep warm during the winter. Here's how to clean your fireplace so that it continues to look great and be safe to use.
Snuggling up to a warm fire in your wood burning fireplace can be something you and your family look forward to on a cold winter day. But using your fireplace also comes with the responsibility of keeping it and your chimney clean.
Cleaning your fireplace is something you should do at least once a year. Keeping the fireplace clean will preserve its appearance by preventing dark stains from accumulating and setting in.
A dirty fireplace is also a safety hazard as creosote (a flammable tar-like residue that forms when wood is burned) can accumulate on chimney walls. Too much creosote can cause fires to burn out of control and present a significant fire hazard for homeowners.
Cleaning your fireplace will take some time and work, but doing this work is well worth the effort.
Here are steps you can take to clean your fireplace and chimney so that you can continue to enjoy it and use it safely in the coming year:
Equipment Needed for Cleaning Your Fireplace
Before you begin, gather all the tools and materials you will need. To prepare for fireplace cleaning, obtain the following items:
- Drop cloth (cotton or plastic) to protect the floor around the fireplace from getting dirty from fireplace debris
- Breathing mask
- Metal ash bucket with shovel - You can purchase some fancy ash bucket and shovel kits, but a simple metal bucket and metal scoop will work.
- Hard bristle brush
- Fireplace cleaner or an alternative cleaning solution
- Flashlight with batteries
- Glass cleaner if you have glass doors around your fireplace
- Cleaning cloth
- Vacuum cleaner (optional)
For cleaning solutions, you can purchase a bottle of fireplace cleaner at your local hardware store. This cleaner can come in an easy-to-use spray bottle or it may be sold in gel form.
Also, if you have really serious smoke stains, you can use TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) with a hard bristle brush to scrub out the stains.
If you want to use a homemade or environmentally friendly cleaning solution, you can mix equal parts of water with vinegar. You can also just use soapy water with some baking soda.
How to Clean a Fireplace: Step by Step
Be sure to wait at least 12 hours after your last fire to clean your fireplace. You don't want to dislodge hot embers and accidentally burn yourself.
You will also want to wear some old clothes that you won't mind getting dirty. Be sure to also wear a breathing mask to prevent inhalation of dust and dirt when cleaning your fireplace.
If you have any furniture around the fireplace, be sure to move it away during the cleaning so that it doesn't get dirty.
1. Lay down a drop cloth to catch debris and keep your floors clean. You can get a plastic or cotton drop cloth from your local hardware store.
2. Start by scooping loose ashes into a bucket. After you scoop up most of the ashes, use a hard bristle brush to sweep up other loose debris.
3. You can place some old newspaper on the floor of your fireplace when cleaning the grate and walls.
4. Scrape the grate with a hard bristle brush. Spray the grate with fireplace cleaner if necessary to remove sticky residue.
5. Use your hard bristle brush to scrape the sides of the chimney to remove dirt and debris. Dip the brush in soapy water (or spray some fireplace cleaner on the chimney walls) and wash the sides of the chimney. Move the brush around in a round circular motion to scrub the chimney walls clean.
6. Use a flashlight to make sure there isn't any soap residue left on the chimney walls. If so, remove this residue before you light your next fire.
Also be sure to use your flashlight to inspect the chimney walls and look for holes or cracks in the masonry. If you find any holes, you can get some fireplace caulk or sealants to fill the holes. Be sure to fix these holes and cracks or have them professionally repaired before you light your next fire as they are a fire hazard.
7. If you have glass doors on your fireplace, use glass cleaner and a cloth to clean the glass.
8. Use a mirror and your flashlight to look up your chimney. If there are any animal or bird nests in your chimney, remove them. If there are any living animals in your chimney, call a professional. Install a chimney cap with a built-in screen to prevent animals from nesting in your chimney.
How to Clean a Chimney
When cleaning your fireplace, also be sure to do a good chimney sweep. The chimney is harder to clean and requires getting up on the roof, so many people will hire a professional to clean it.
You can get a chimney brush and chimney brush extensions rods (if needed) by shopping online or at your local hardware store.
Start by placing a plastic bag at the bottom of your chimney to catch any falling debris.
Get on your roof and remove your chimney cap. Use the brush and scrape the sides of the chimney to remove any dirt and debris.
Keep Your Home Safe by Making Sure Your Fireplace is Clean
Cleaning your fireplace and chimney once a year will not only keep it in great physical condition, but also prevent it from becoming a fire and health hazard. Follow the simple steps above and you will be enjoying a clean fireplace in no time.