Nothing beats a warm inviting fire on a cold night. But in the light of day, the fireplace that looked so beautiful the night before can be an eyesore in the middle of your family room. Soot built up on the walls of your fireplace not only looks bad, it can become a fire hazard. Plus, it can retain unwanted odors.
Equipment You'll Need
Cleaning a fireplace only seems like a difficult job. While it can get messy, if you take your time and gather the right equipment, you should get through the work in no time and with hardly any mess.
Here are the items you'll need: a stiff wire scrub brush, scraper, thick rubber gloves, dust pan and whiskbroom, a sturdy plastic drop cloth, ash vacuum (optional), newspapers, safety goggles, TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) or a phosphate-free TSP substitute, a bucket, and a trash can. Be sure you have several plastic bags on hand. Also, wear old clothes.
Before you start, make sure there are no hot coals at all inside the fireplace. Open the damper too. The TSP is caustic and you'll want as much ventilation as possible. Don't scrub the brick too hard as it can be damaged, and be careful if you choose to use an acid solution such as muriatic acid (9 parts clean water to 1 part acid).
The first step is to lay down your plastic sheeting outside the fireplace. Be sure to secure it as close as possible to the opening of your fireplace to minimize mess. The plastic should spread out several feet on either side and behind you to protect your floor.
Remove the andirons and grate. It's best to clean these outside by scrubbing them with the stiff wire brush. This may take some time. If you clean them inside, be sure to clean up the soot before you clean the inside of the fireplace so you don't spread it around. Take this opportunity to polish your andirons and grate as much as possible.
Clean Out the Ash
Next, clean out all the ash from inside the fireplace. If you have an ash vacuum, use it. Otherwise, sweep it out with a whiskbroom and dustpan, placing the ash in the trashcan.
Once all the ash is cleared out, line the bottom of your fireplace with newspapers. Get the edge of the newspapers as close to the wall as possible. With your wire brush and scraper, loosen the soot from the walls of the fireplace. Start at the top. As the soot accumulates on the newspapers, bundle the newspapers and soot and place them in the trashcan. Reline the bottom of the fireplace with more newspaper.
Once all the soot's removed, it's time to scrub. Place more newspapers on the fireplace floor. Don your rubber gloves and mix 6 teaspoons of TSP and 1 cup of chlorine bleach with a gallon of warm water. Put the bucket inside the fireplace, dip the brush into the solution, and start scrubbing the walls. As you’re scrubbing, change out the newspapers. Scrub until the walls are as clean as possible. Some black stains may remain on old fireplaces no matter how much you scrub. When done with the walls, scrub the fireplace floor. Then, wipe everything down with clean water and rags. Dry the walls and floor as much as possible. Return your andirons and grate to their original places.