It’s Definitely Time To Clean Your Fireplace. Here’s How
Possibly one of the most (read: only) exciting things about the weather cooling down is the image of revving up the fireplace after it’s been dormant for several months, curling up in a blanket, and just basking in its warmth.
However, since your fireplace has likely gone unused since the switching of the seasons from winter to spring, it is probably in need of a good cleaning in addition to your annual safety inspection.
In the not-so-good ‘ol days, cleaning your chimney meant sending a small child as young as 4-years-old to shimmy up an 18-inch wide chute and knock the overhead soot loose with a brush–soot that would then fall on them and cause all sorts of health problems. Luckily nowadays, this is a job that can be done by a professional or pretty easily by the homeowner him/herself. Here’s everything you need to know about cleaning your fireplace.
Why You Need to Clean Your Fireplace
Yes, brick fireplaces are a gorgeous addition to a home. They add warmth not only figuratively but also literally and help to reduce your energy costs. But fireplaces can only function at peak efficiency when they’re properly maintained, meaning they’re thoroughly cleaned at least once a year with regular ash removals in between uses. Otherwise, creosote (a by-product of fires) builds up in the chimney, causing corrosion and deterioration. What’s worse is that this could force dangerous fumes from a fire back into the home and cause a chimney fire, as creosote is highly flammable.
What You Should Use to Clean Your Fireplace
Just like any home improvement projects, there’s a DIY cleaning option and there are countless commercially-made cleaners that essentially do the same thing. If you prefer a greener cleaner, here are the steps you should take to clean your fireplace:
Step #1: Prep your space
Cleaning a fireplace is a messy job so preparation is key in controlling the amount and whereabouts of the dust that will inevitably arise as you clean your fireplace.
- Protect yourself by wearing rubber gloves, a dust mask, and clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
- Put down drop cloths on the floor throughout the room and cover nearby furniture.
- Keeping them inside the fireplace, place the fireplace grate and fireplace irons in a plastic garbage bag. You’ll want to take those outside to clean later and this keeps them from dropping ash everywhere.
Step #2: Remove ash and dust
Sprinkle the ashes in your fireplace with coffee grounds as this will help to keep the dust down then use either your fireplace shovel or a dustpan and broom to remove the ashes and place them in a bucket.
Step #3: Scrub the floors and interior of the fireplace
Use a wire brush and scraper to remove the soot from the walls of the firebox (the interior of the fireplace). Combine baking soda and water to make a thick paste, apply it to the scrub brush, and scrub the walls to remove any stains.
If your fireplace has glass doors, clean both sides with glass cleaner.
Step #4: Inspect your fireplace
This next step is crucial; it’s less important that you do it in this order, just that you do it: closely inspect the walls and chimney.
Shine a flashlight on the walls of the firebox and chimney. Here’s what you’re looking for:
- Cracks or damage to the bricks inside and outside of the firebox.
- Open and close the flue damper to make sure it’s working properly.
- Damage to the glass or screen.
- Creosote buildup (this will look like shiny brown or black deposits or dry, cracking flakes), debris, and animal nests. You should install a chimney cap if you don’t already have one to avoid pests from coming in and making your chimney their home.
Step #5: Clean the fireplace grate and irons
With the fireplace grate and irons still in their garbage bag, take them outside and hose them down. Apply a bit of liquid detergent then scrub them with a wire brush. Dry them thoroughly with a paper towel and place them back in the fireplace.
Allow the bricks in the fireplace to dry as well. This should take a few hours and once everything is dry and the area around the fireplace is swept free of ash or soot, you can enjoy your fireplace again. Good work!
If you’re looking to give your fireplace a makeover, make sure to check out our guide on cost-effective ways to transform your fireplace.