How to Clean a Fireplace
Time Required: Under 2 hours
A fireplace is a cozy gathering spot in the fall and winter months. Fireplace styles that burn wood or prepackaged logs require cleaning to remove soot and ash. Electric fireplaces also need routine cleaning to look their best. Both regular and seasonal cleaning is essential to keeping any fireplace safe and attractive. Use this guide to learn more about how to clean a fireplace and what to use when cleaning a fireplace.
Tip: All the instructions on cleaning a fireplace may not apply to every fireplace. Always consult the manufacturer’s manual for specific direction.
Gas fireplaces give warmth without the smoke or ash of a wood fireplace. It’s a quicker, more energy efficient way to heat a room than a gas furnace is. However, a gas fireplace can get grimy over time. Burning gas can cause a fireplace’s glass door to turn white or foggy due to the manufacturing chemicals used in natural gas products. Here is a basic gas fireplace cleaning process:
- Turn off the gas valve. Let the burners cool completely before cleaning.
- Vacuum out any dust and debris from around the fireplace and/or its vents.
- Open the fireplace door or doors. Use a dry paint brush or cloth to dust off the ceramic gas logs and any decorative fireplace grate.
- Clean the glass doors with glass cleaner and paper towels. If there is a white film, consider using a special fireplace glass cleaner instead.
- Give the andirons and tools a thorough cleaning with dish soap and water. Follow up with metal polish if desired.
Tip: Soot can build up in a gas fireplace if the logs or ports aren’t working properly. Contact a plumber to make sure your gas fireplace is in good condition.
Dust, dirt, dander and soot can build-up over time. You may start to smell musty odors when turning on your gas fireplace. Or you may notice the glass is milky or fogged. Read on for how to clean a gas fireplace that hasn’t been cleaned in a while or has been used a lot.
- Turn off the gas valve. Let the burners cool completely before cleaning.
- Make a deep cleaning solution. Combine 1 cup of bleach, 1/4-cup of heavy-duty cleaner and 1 gallon of warm water in a large bucket.
- Carefully remove the ceramic logs and place them on a drop cloth or old towel. Use a dry paint brush or cloth to dust off the ceramic gas logs.
- Scoop out any stones and put them in a container. Fill it with the cleaning solution and swish the stones around. Rinse the stones and lay them out on an old towel to air dry.
- If your fireplace has glass wool, put it in a container for safe keeping before you vacuum.
- Use a hand vacuum, shop vacuum or vacuum hose to thoroughly remove dust and debris from around and under the gas grate and unit. Don’t forget to vacuum the flue liner if you have one.
- Remove the soot and grime from the walls and floor of your fireplace. Scrub with a stiff bristled brush dipped in the cleaning solution. Work from the top down. Repeat this process a few times if necessary. Avoid getting your gas unit and grate overly wet.
- Rinse your fireplace walls and floor with a clean cloth.
- Wipe the gas grate and unit down with a cloth sprayed lightly with the cleaning solution.
- Allow your fireplace walls and floor to dry.
- Return your logs, stones, andirons, wool glass or other components to the fireplace.
- If you have glass doors, clean them with glass cleaner and paper towels.
Tip: Take a picture of your fireplace before you remove any components. Refer to the photo as you put things back.
Since electric fireplaces use a heater to warm the air, they are cleaner than gas or wood fireplaces. However, like any part of a home, they do need cleaning. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions on how to open a wall mounted electric fireplace. Follow these steps to learn how to clean an electric fireplace.
- Turn off the unit.
- Remove or open glass doors.
- Dust your logs, stones, andirons or hearth with a clean cloth. Use metal polish to give your metal andirons extra shine.
- Vacuum vents with a hand vacuum or hose attachment.
- Use a duster or damp clean cloth to wipe down the inside and outside of your fireplace walls.
- Clean the glass doors that cover your fireplace. Use regular glass cleaner and a clean cloth or paper towels.
Many traditional fireplaces, especially in older homes, burn wood. Wood provides a traditional crackling, roaring fire. The more you use it, the more ash, soot and creosote builds up. There’s nothing inside a wood-burning fireplace except a metal grate. They will have a damper but may or may not have a built-in screen or glass doors.
Here’s how to clean a fireplace that burns wood.
- Extinguish any fire. Spread out the embers with a fireplace shovel. Cover embers with ash or a little baking soda. Wait 24 hours.
- Make a deep cleaning solution. Combine dish soap, 1/4-cup of heavy-duty cleaner and 1 gallon of warm water in a large bucket.
- Use your hands and a fireplace shovel to remove burnt wood.
- Remove the andirons and fireplace grate. Knock off as much ash and debris as possible back into the fireplace.
- Sweep up ash with a broom and dust pan. Use a hand vacuum, shop vacuum or vacuum hose to thoroughly remove residue.
- Scrub inside fireplace with a stiff bristled brush and cleaning solution. Work from the top down. Repeat this process a few times if necessary.
- Clean the bricks on a fireplace surround with a pumice stone dipped in dish soap. For particularly stubborn soot stains, try a trisodium phosphate cleaner.
- If you have glass doors, clean them with glass cleaner and paper towels. Or learn how to clean fireplace glass with wood ash. Dip a paper towel in warm water and then ash. Rub the glass until it is clean. Rinse and polish with a paper towel.
- Allow your fireplace walls and floor to dry thoroughly.
- Clean the andirons and tools with dish soap and water. Follow up with metal polish if desired.
- Sweep around and shovel your wood-burning fireplace once a week. Leave about an inch or so of ash. It insulates the embers and helps them burn hotter.
- Dust gas and electric fireplaces once a week and clean the glass.
- The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys, fireplaces, vents and flues are cleaned and inspected a minimum of once a year. A good rule of thumb is to do it when the weather turns cold.
- Opt for a professional chimney inspection and cleaning. This will rid your wood-burning stove or fireplace’s chimney of highly flammable creosote buildup. Chimneys, dampers and flues can also develop mechanical or structural issues.
- Gas and electric fireplace chimneys should also be professionally checked once a year. Animals and birds can build nests in them and this too can cause a hazard.
- If you have a stainless steel chimney liner, the CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) recommends cleaning the liner once it has about a 1/8-inch of soot or creosote buildup.
- Hire a plumber to inspect your gas fireplace line once a year to ensure it is working correctly and the logs are positioned properly.
- Invest in a carbon monoxide detector and make sure it works.
- Think about using a chimney cleaner, chimney soot remover or fireplace cleaning log in a wood-burning fireplace regularly. It can reduce tar and creosote buildup in your chimney walls.
- Creosote can have an odor in high humidity months. Consider using a chimney deodorant or try placing a container of kitty litter and baking soda in the fireplace.
- Use a metal fireplace screen to block popping embers from scorching the hearth or floors.
- Install a chimney cap to block birds, leaves and animals from entering the chimney.
- Always supervise a fire. Keep children and pets safe.
Knowing how to clean a fireplace isn’t difficult. With minimal materials, you can clean your wood-burning or electric fireplace in an afternoon. Always start by covering your work area with a drop cloth or plastic tarp. Move any furniture and rugs. Have a trash bag or bucket nearby. Wear cleaning gloves, eye protection and a face mask, especially if you are using any strong cleaners.
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