It’s Time to Say So Long to Soot!
If your fireplace is sending smoke signals that it needs a scrub, here’s the quickest way to get it done — without putting a damper on your day
By Carolyn Forte
Biggest Fireplace-Cleaning Challenges
1. A pile of old ashes in the firebox
2. Black soot on the glass
3. Smoky stains on the surrounding brick, marble, or tile
Fastest Fireplace-Cleaning Fixes
1. Trash the ash. A wet/dry vacuum with a disposable bag will handle the job, once the pile has cooled for at least four days. But if you don’t have one of those heavy-duty suckers — or just don’t feel like hauling it out — do this instead: After the ash is completely cold, sprinkle it with damp tea leaves or coffee grounds to cover the stale smell and keep down dust (so you don’t inhale it). Then scoop the pile with a fireplace shovel (don’t worry if you can’t get it all — leaving an inch or two behind is fine), and dump it into a metal can, bucket, or even an old stockpot or clay flowerpot. Discard the mess outside, ideally in a metal trash container, but definitely away from your house.
2. Clear things up. To remove light soot or a cloudy film from glass doors, mix a solution of equal parts white vinegar and warm water and pour into a spray bottle. Spritz a bit on a paper towel and dip it into the fireplace ashes to use as a gentle abrasive (smart, right?). To finish, spray glass and wipe clean with a microfiber cloth. If soldered-on gunk won’t budge (and if you really care), scrape it away with a razor blade.
3. Brush it off. If you have smoke stains on your fireplace facing, begin by squirting them with water — it’ll keep the cleaning solution from soaking in too fast (this is particularly important with brick). Then dip a brush in a solution of 1/4 cup all-purpose cleaner to 1 gallon water; give spots a quick scrub; rinse with a clean sponge; let dry. For marble or other stones, squirt with water, then go over with a soft cloth dipped in mild dishwashing liquid and water. Rinse and wipe dry. One exception: If brick facing is more than 50 years old, it may crumble if you scrub with a cleaner. Just vacuum the surface with your soft-brush attachment.
Chimney Cleanup Made Easy
• Pick up the tools. Buy a dust mask, a metal bucket with a lid to contain ashes, and a commercial cleaner designed to remove soot and smoke stains from brick, stone, and glass (all products available at AES AES Heath and Patio or local hardware stores or home centers).
• Also consider this: Schedule an annual chimney checkup with a professional sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (csia.org).