Fireplace Cleaning Guide: Keep It Safe, Clean and Cozy

man cleans fireplace with spatula

A fireplace is a wonderful addition to any home and can be the cozy backdrop for romance, family time, or just kicking back and relaxing. But if you don't keep your fireplace clean, it can become a hazard. Learn how to clean a wood-burning or gas fireplace with ease by following a few simple steps.

Cleaning a Wood Burning Fireplace

Cleaning your wood-burning fireplace can be a messy job. But somebody has to do it, right? Not only does it look spectacular after cleaning, but it's also good for your asthma as well. Now that you know the benefits, it's time to get to it. Before you get stuck in cleaning mode, grab a few essentials.

  • Ash bucket
  • Little metal fireplace shovel
  • Tarp and newspaper
  • Shop vac
  • Bristle brush
  • Dust mask
  • Hand broom
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Distilled vinegar
  • Dawn dish soap
  • Baking soda
  • Clean rags and towels
  • Rubber gloves
  • Spray bottle
  • Flashlight

How to Clean a Fireplace Step-by-Step Guide: Wood Burning

Now that you've got all your tools ready and waiting like your little cleaning soldiers, it's time to get down to business. For your cleaning adventures, it's best to follow steps. These can keep you safe and making cleaning your fireplace less of a hassle.

Step 1: Protect Your Area

Cleaning a fireplace is a waiting game. Why? Because you have to let everything that's been burning cool off for at least 12 hours or so. This ensures you don't get burnt and cleaning goes off without a hitch. While you're waiting for those embers to extinguish, you can prep your area. Grab a few tarps and put them down in front of the fireplace, along with over any furniture near the fireplace. You could also move this out of the way.

Just like it's important to cover your flooring and furniture, you want to gear yourself up as well. In addition to a dust mask and gloves to protect you from soot, consider putting down a pillow or towel for your knees.

Step 2: Remove Ash From the Firebox

You've got to get that ash and soot out of the firebox. For this, you need your shovel, bucket, and shop vac. If you have a shop vac with a bag, make sure to use a new one.

A man cleans ashes from a fireplace
  1. Use the shovel and bucket to remove the large pieces of ash and debris.
  2. Once all the large pieces are gone, grab the hand broom and broom off all the walls as high up as you can reach.
  3. Use the shop vac to suck up the remaining debris.
  4. In a spray bottle, add 2 cups white vinegar and 2 cups water. (You can also use an all-purpose cleaner.)
  5. Sweep off andirons and grates, then remove them if you have them.
  6. Add newspapers to the bottom.
  7. Spray down all the walls.
  8. Allow them to sit for 5 minutes.

If you don't have a shop vac, you can also use a hand broom and dustpan to get all the remaining debris out.

Step 3: Check the Flue

Before you dive into your cleaning endeavors, it's important to check your flue. Not only can you get birds' nests and bats, but other things can make homes in your flue or cause damage. This is especially important if you're using the fireplace for the first time this season. Grab your flashlight and shine it up your chimney. If you see any build-up or anything weird, you need to clean your chimney. The Chimney Safety Institute of America also recommends annual chimney checks.

Step 4: Scrub the Firebox

It's time to get to cleaning the messy part. Grab your white vinegar mixture or all-purpose cleaner; it's time to scrub.

  1. After letting the mixture sit, spray down all the walls again.
  2. Add a bit of straight vinegar to your brush and start scrubbing.
  3. Use damp rags to wipe off the areas you've scrubbed.
  4. Continue to scrub and wipe until all the soot and creosote are gone.
  5. With old chimneys, there may be stains you can't remove.

If the white vinegar isn't cutting it, you can create a paste with baking soda and water to give you more scouring power.

Step 5: The Grates and Andirons

Not all wood-burning fireplaces are going to have grates and andirons. However, if you've got them, then clean them.

  1. Take the grates and andirons outside.
  2. Spray them down with a 1:1 water to white vinegar mixture or all-purpose cleaner.
  3. Allow them to sit for 5-20 minutes.
  4. Use the bristle brush to scrub them down.
  5. Rinse with water.
  6. Repeat as needed until all the calcium and stuck on ash are gone.

For extremely dirty grates, you can soak them in a mixture with 50/50 water to white vinegar mixture and a few squirts of Dawn.

Step 6: Clean Screens and Doors

Since you're already in cleaning mode, you'll want to clean the screens and doors to your fireplace.

  1. Use your vinegar mixture to spray down the screens and door glass.
  2. Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes.
  3. Use a clean cloth to wipe them down.
  4. For filthy door glass, you can add a few drops of Dawn into your vinegar mixture to give you a bit more bang for your buck.
  5. Use the nylon brush to scrub the screen.
  6. With a clean damp cloth, wipe down the glass and doors.
  7. Repeat until clean.
  8. Dry the screen and doors thoroughly.

Step 7: Dry Fireplace and Replace Parts

Now that your fireplace is sparkling, it's time to replace all the parts you took out. First, you'll need to give everything a good dry down. Then you can replace your grates, andirons, screens, etc. With your fireplace all clean, you might want to consider cleaning your fireplace bricks.

How Often to Clean Your Wood Burning Fireplace

Cleaning out your wood-burning fireplace once a week to remove ash and debris is important. You'll also want to make sure to give it a deep cleaning of the walls and flute as least once a season. Preferably, you'll do a deep cleaning before starting your season and when it ends.

How to Clean a Gas Fireplace

Everyone knows that you need to clean a wood fireplace regularly, but some think that gas fireplaces are maintenance-free. Well, this isn't true. It's important to give your gas fireplace a good cleaning before starting your fireplace for the season. For cleaning a gas fireplace, you need:

  • White vinegar
  • Spray bottle
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Shop-vac
  • Rubber gloves
  • Flashlight
  • Towel

Step-by-Step Instructions for Cleaning a Gas Fireplace

Cleaning gas fireplaces is a bit easier with less mess. However, it does still take a few different steps.

Step 1: Turn Off Gas

Before going anything with your gas fireplace, make sure to check that the gas is off. This is a vitally important step before cleaning.

Step 2: Check Over Logs and Stones

You'll want to check the logs and stones for any damage or debris. If you find any issues, consider replacing them. Additionally, you'll want to remove any dust or debris with the shop-vac.

  1. Take a picture of the logs and lava rocks.
  2. Pull out the lava rocks.
  3. Rinse them with water and allow them to dry.
  4. Wipe off the lava rocks.
  5. Set them aside.
  6. Vacuum out the burner box.

Step 3: Check the Chimney

Much like you do with your wood-burning fireplace, you'll want to shine a flashlight up the chimney to ensure you don't have any bird nests or blockages within the chimney.

Step 4: Vacuum the Burner and Combustion Chamber

Just like dust can build up on your rocks and logs, it can also build up in the burner. Therefore, giving this a nice vacuuming can ensure you don't have all those dust particles trying to ignite when you start the fire.

Step 5: Return Lava Rocks and Logs

Now that you've vacuumed everything out and cleaned it well, you can return the stones and logs. Using the image that you've taken can help position them correctly.

Step 5: Clean and Inspect Glass

Now that you've checked all the other areas of your fireplace, it's time to clean the glass. For this, you need white vinegar.

  1. Release the clips and pull out the glass.
  2. Lay it on a towel or soft surface
  3. In a spray bottle, mix 1:1 white vinegar and water or glass cleaner.
  4. Spray down the glass and wipe it down.
  5. Inspect the outer gasket.
  6. Put the glass back in.

Once everything is all clean and back in place, you can test out your fireplace.

How Often to Clean Your Gas-Buring Fireplace

Gas fireplaces do not have the creosote and ash buildup of a wood-burning fireplace. Therefore, you don't have to clean them as often. Consider cleaning your gas-burning fireplace when you are getting ready to start your heating season.

Getting Your Home Ready for Winter

No one wants to think about the winter months and cold. That is, unless you love cozy fires and snow. Whatever the case, it's important to have your fireplace ready for the heating season to avoid fires.

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Fireplace Cleaning Guide: Keep It Safe, Clean and Cozy