How to Clean Your Fireplace

Keep your fireplace tidy between uses with these tips for cleaning the firebox, glass doors and accessories.

November 19, 2020
How to Clean a Fireplace

How to Clean a Fireplace

Keep your fireplace tidy between uses by removing leftover wood and ashes, scrubbing the bricks with vinegar and warm water, and cleaning the screen, grate and fireplace tools.

Photo by: SHAIN RIEVLEY

SHAIN RIEVLEY

There’s nothing better than a cozy, crackling fire on a cold winter night. But if you don’t keep your fireplace clean, soot, ash and other debris may start making their way into your living spaces. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends scheduling an annual inspection and cleaning with a certified chimney sweep, but you should also tidy your fireplace up yourself periodically with these simple steps. Be sure to wait a full day after your last fire before cleaning the fireplace to allow it to cool completely. Consider wearing old clothes as well as safety glasses, gloves and a mask, as this project can get messy.

How to Clean a Fireplace 01:50

Get your fireplace ready for winter with these tips and tricks.

Clean the Firebox

Place a large tarp on the floor in front of the fireplace (Image 1). Discard any leftover wood and take out the grate (Image 2). Scoop out the leftover ashes with a fireplace shovel, then remove any excess with a small handheld broom and dustpan (Image 3). Keep a small bucket nearby for easy disposal. Use a shop vacuum with a bag to clean up the remaining dust (Image 4). Lay out newspaper on the bottom of the firebox to catch debris and spray the walls down with equal parts vinegar and warm water to clean the bricks (Image 5). Scrub with a brush and let air dry. Tip: Considering sprinkling the ashes on your flower beds, as they're a good source of calcium and other nutrients.

Clean Fireplace Doors

Mix 1/4 cup warm water, 1/4 cup white vinegar and 1/4 cup cornstarch in a bowl to make a paste (Image 1). Dip a microfiber cloth in the mixture and rub on glass doors (Image 2). Let it sit for 30 minutes. Buff the dried mixture off the doors with newspaper until they shine (Image 3). Tip: If you don’t have these items on hand, try dipping a damp rag into old ashes and rubbing on the doors. It takes some elbow grease, but it’s also an effective way to make glass doors clear again.

Clean Fireplace Tools and Accessories

Take the screen off your firebox (Image 1). Lay out a large tarp that will fit the screen, grate and fireplace tools. Spray everything down with equal parts white vinegar and warm water (Image 2). Use a nylon brush to scrub away the soot (Image 3). For stubborn spots, try steel wool. Be sure to clean both sides of the screen. Tip: Consider cleaning the tools and accessories outside to avoid making a mess inside the house.

Chimney Cleaning 101

When scheduling a chimney cleaning and inspection, look for a certified chimney sweep, one who has taken a test on the standards and codes and knows how chimneys are supposed to be built. He should also have insurance and workman's compensation in case of an accident.

The Chimney Safety Institute suggests cleaning the chimney when creosote — a tar-like byproduct of wood combustion — is 1/8 inch or thicker on the chimney walls. Schedule the cleaning at the end of the season, as acids in the creosote can damage fireplace mortar and when humidity combines with creosote, strong odors can result.

During a professional cleaning, the chimney sweep will lay down a drop cloth to protect the floor, plug in a vacuum system and have an array of tools and brushes at hand. With the vacuum running, a stiff brush is used to clean the interior walls of the chimney and the damper ledge.

During the same appointment, the chimney sweep should inspect your chimney to be sure there are no major cracks, no loose or missing bricks or mortar, that the damper is positioned and working correctly, that the chimney cap is in good condition, and that the chimney is structurally sound.

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