Tips for Cleaning a Fireplace

A wood-burning fireplace can give your condo a cozy atmosphere on a cold winter night. For many homeowners, the fireplace is a focal point of the room, drawing attention to this source of warmth and comfort. But the soot and smoke from a fireplace can build up over time, discoloring the brick or stone and staining the carpets or walls around the fireplace. To keep this important feature of your home clean, use a few preventive measures to keep soot away from the surrounding areas, and clean the brick or stone with a cleanser that will not harm these surfaces.

Cleaning a chimney can be a dirty and hazardous job. To ensure that your chimney is thoroughly cleaned of soot, creosote tar, animals or birds and debris, use money from your grocery fund savings or other source to hire a professional chimney sweep to clean and inspect your chimney or vent once a year. A professional inspection will help keep your chimney and fireplace clean and keep your household safe from hazards like smoke, chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Protecting Your Home from Soot

Whether you have carpet, wood or tile floors in your condominium, the floor around the hearth can get dirty and dingy by the end of the winter. Fine soot residue and smoke can stain carpets and even affect the walls or furniture surrounding the fireplace. An attractive fireplace screen can protect the area around the fireplace by blocking smoke, soot and sparks. Single or double panel screens are available in a variety of styles and finishes, from traditional grilles to contemporary glass panels. Fireplace screens must be cleaned at least once a year to keep them tidy.

Cleaning a fireplace can be a messy process. If you have a lot of ashes built up in the fireplace, prepare the area by covering the surrounding carpets with a layer of plastic or a drop cloth. Ashes and soot can be removed from a carpet by sprinkling the area with baking soda or cornstarch and letting the powder sit to absorb the soot. After an hour or so, vacuum the powder away to remove the fine residue. After vacuuming the area, use a moist cloth and fine fabric cleanser to clean the carpet. Vacuum or mop the hearth once a week to prevent soot stains.

Cleaning Brick or Stone

Before cleaning the fireplace, use a vacuum cleaner with a nozzle attachment to remove layers of ash and soot from the hearth and interior walls. Soot, ashes and creosote tar can leave an unsightly discoloration in a brick or stone fireplace. For lighter cleaning jobs, you can remove soot residue using a simple preparation of salt, soap and water. Combine these ingredients to make a paste, then apply the paste to discolored brick or stone and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes before scrubbing it away with a bristle brush.

If the fireplace is very dirty, a stronger cleanser like trisodium phosphate (TSP) may be a more effective option. TSP is an abrasive product, so you should wear gloves, long sleeves and a protective eye shield when using this product. Enzymatic cleansers are also available which remove soot and creosote by breaking down these organic materials.

When you schedule your annual chimney inspection, ask your chimney sweep for helpful tips for cleaning a fireplace. Regular maintenance is the key to preventing heavy soot and creosote buildup and keeping the fireplace safe. Vacuum the fireplace weekly if you use your wood-burning fireplace on a regular basis. After you've used the fireplace and the embers have had a chance to cool, use a soft brush and dustpan to quickly sweep the hearth.

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