by Tom


by Tom


Cleaning a dirty fireplace

If you’re planning some decorations for your fireplace, or if you just want to get rid of the unsightly build-up of soot, you are probably wondering how to clean a fireplace without making a mess. Cleaning your fireplace may look like a forbidding job, but if you take it step-by-step you’ll neither swear nor sweat. This tested method has worked on fireplaces up to 100 years old.

Items You’ll Need from the Hardware Store for a Clean Fireplace:

Removing Soot for a Clean Fireplace

You can use latex doctor’s gloves to keep your hands clean, but be very careful when scrubbing that you don’t blister your hands, which will be moist and soft inside the gloves.

Put down a cheap plastic drop cloth to kneel on. It’s a good idea to have a large trash can, lined with 2 trash bags, standing by.

Remove your andirons and grate and take them outdoors. Remove the excess soot with your wire brush and set them aside. If your andirons are brass, you can polish them with a brass polish such Brasso, if you like. If the grate and/or the andirons are black, you can restore their look to new with a spray paint appropriate for high temperature use.

Making sure no hot coals remain, now remove the accumulated loose ashes with your fireplace shovel, placing them in an ash bucket, and sweep up the loose dust. An ash vacuum is ideal for this purpose. (Wondering what to do with those ashes?)

Line the fireplace with newspapers, overlapping the edge of your drop cloth. Arrange your newspapers so that they “climb” the fireplace walls by 3-4 inches, so that all the soot will land on the newspapers.

Use you wire brush and its scraper to loosen soot from the walls of the fireplace, starting at the top. As soot builds up, you can ‘package’ the soot in a couple layers of newspapers and put each package in the trash can.

Deep Cleaning the Fireplace Walls

Put down several layers of new newspaper.

Don your rubber gloves (not latex doctors’ gloves) and goggles. (Did I say put on old clothes? I should have!)

Some cautions: TSP and TSP Substitute are very caustic; either will burn skin or eyes; either will de-gloss enamel painted surfaces. Read and follow instructions on the label.

Mix 6 tbsp of TSP or TSP Substitute and 1 cup of chlorine bleach with one gallon of warm (NOT hot) water. Making this mixture in a gallon-sized bucket will help you avoid drips and splashes.

Set the bucket in the fireplace. Dip your wire brush and scrub the fireplace walls, starting at the top. Use plenty of TSP solution and scrub until the walls are clean. On older fireplaces, there will probably be areas that remain stained black even though they are clean. Gather up the wet newspapers and put them in the trash can.

Give the fireplace floor the same treatment. Wipe down the walls and floor with clean water and rags or paper towels.

The Paint N Peel Alternative

If elbow grease is not your thing, a paint-on then peel-off product at removes soot and stains from fireplace brick, stone and marble may be more your style.  Paint N Peel Fireplace Cleaner takes the scrubbing out of the fireplace cleaning task.

Before and after cleaning with Paint N Peel.

Before and after cleaning with Paint N Peel.

When the fireplace has dried, put back your andirons and grate, or give your fireplace a “make-over” with a fireplace candelabra.

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  1. […] the fireplace and the interior of the firebox.  If you are not adverse to elbow grease, click here for cleaning instructions.  If you would prefer a no-scrub method, we highly recommend Paint N […]

  2. Stephanie Smith May 14, 2015 at 8:29 AM - Reply

    This was helpful, I’ve been needing to clean my fireplace so my landlord with fix it. It’s the deal we have haha, so I’m looking for the most efficient way to go about it. This looks like it would be very cost effective, but I’m not sure I would feel comfortable handling bleach and TSP. I have extremely sensitive skin. I might go with some cleaning services for the convenience, but I’ll have to do some more research before I decide.

  3. Angela C. November 9, 2015 at 9:14 AM - Reply

    Very helpful post! It’s exactly what me and my husband need about our new place. We moved to an old Victorian style house and we have three fireplaces ( Yes – not one, or two – three fireplaces! What were we thinking?) that need to be cleaned. Well we decided to do it by ourselves and your article’s quite helpful. We are planning to finish before the first snow, but who knows. Thank you for sharing this useful information!

    • Tom February 9, 2016 at 4:38 PM - Reply

      What were you thinking? Easy! You were dreaming of the cheery fires in lovely Victorian fireplaces you would be enjoying on cold days.
      We’re delighted our post was helpful, and do hope you managed to get them clean before the first snow.
      By the way, old houses, unless they have been retro-fitted, do not always have chimneys that comply with modern codes. We’ve seen some where the mortar between the bricks included horse hair, for example. So, for safety’s sake, even though you cleaned the fireplaces yourself, you may want to have a chimney professional look at chimneys to be sure there are no carbon dioxide leaks or chimney fire potentials.

  4. Bethlehem Contractor July 9, 2021 at 10:08 AM - Reply

    If you have multiple fireplaces, or even just one, this is a great method of cleaning it out regularly and making sure it looks fabulous through its lifespan!

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