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:
- Plastic goggles for eye protection
- A stiff nylon scrub brush
- Sturdy rubber gloves
- A cheap plastic drop cloth
- A small carton of TSP (Tri-Sodium Phosphate) or phosphate-free TSP Substitute
- A plastic bucket
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.
When the fireplace has dried, put back your andirons and grate, or give your fireplace a “make-over” with a fireplace candelabra.