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How to Clean a Fireplace

by Jan Mh on February 22, 2015

How to Clean a Fireplace

A crackling fire is a domestic delight, not only a cheery sight on cool evenings but a reliable source of alternative heat. However, soot deposits eventually condense into creosote, a tarry, toxic, and potentially lethal substance that can actually set your chimney on fire. Cleaning a masonry fireplace and chimney is a messy job but, with the correct equipment, not especially complex or time-consuming. The peace of mind and self-confidence in creating a safe space for your fire is well worth this relatively small investment.


  1. Clean a Fireplace Step 1.jpg
    Protect against the mess. Wait at least until the next morning after your last fire. Dress in old clothes and put on a pair of gloves, since you’re going to be touching moderately toxic substances. Sturdy leather will do but rubber household cleaning gloves are best.
    • Put some sheets of newspaper on the fireplace floor, arranging them so they go up the fireplace walls by several inches (centimeters); they will catch the soot you dislodge.
    • Protect your furniture, carpet, and floors with a cheap plastic drop cloth. A large trash can lined with at least two plastic bags will also prove helpful.
  2. Clean a Fireplace Step 2.jpg
    Hold your hand over the ashes to check for residual warmth. If the fire was a large one, probe through the ashes with a poker or fireplace shovel. Pick up the fireplace grate or andirons and take them outside for later cleaning. Slowly shovel the ashes into a metal bucket or use a shop vacuum.
  3. Clean a Fireplace Step 3.jpg
    Inspect the chimney. Grab a flashlight, get on your knees, and look up into the chimney all the way to the flue, which usually looks like a small metal door near the chimney top. The flue is often controlled by a metal pull; give that a yank and if the little door moves you know you’re looking at the flue. You want that open until you’ve finished cleaning. You will almost certainly see soot, brown or black powdery residue. That’s easily disposed of. If your flashlight beam picks out material that is dry and crackling to the touch in thick and flaky layers or shiny, hardened black deposits, you’ve got creosote, and the time to get rid of it is right now.
  4. Clean a Fireplace Step 4.jpg