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How to clean a fireplace

Cleaning your fireplace or wood heater is a necessary (and occasionally tedious) chore to ensure the safety of you and your family. While you should ideally clean the ashes out of your fireplace or wood heater regularly - depending on how much use it gets - you should schedule a full, serious clean of your fireplace once a year to rid it of any excess soot, ash or creosote build-up from previous years.

Wood heaters don't all need cleaning as fireplaces do, and come in a variety of specific types that need different sorts of attention. Check with the manufacturer for further advice on cleaning your wood heater.

How to clean a fireplace
Remove the grate and clean it separately.

Basic preparation

First and foremost, it's important to note that cleaning your fireplace is a separate task to cleaning your chimney. Before cleaning you also need to make sure that there are no burning coals or embers left.

What you'll need:

  • Old clothes to wear
  • Thick rubber gloves
  • Eye protection (glasses)
  • A vacuum cleaner
  • A steel brush
  • A large bucket
  • A tarp or plastic sheet
  • Some newspaper
  • A box of tri-sodium phosphate (or a phosphate-free alternative)
  • A bottle of bleach
  • A garbage bin

How to clean your fireplace

The first steps towards a clean fireplace is simple. Shovel any ash you can from the fireplace into a metal bucket, then remove the metal grate and andirons (if you have them). Take these outside and give them a good clean with the wire brush and some water so as to remove all the soot. Leave them to dry in the sun.

Next, use the vacuum to get rid of the remaining fine ash in the fireplace. Once that's out of the way, lay some plastic sheeting on the floor in front of the fireplace, and line the bottom of the fireplace with newspapers.

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For the next stage of cleaning, working with powerful chemicals is required, so proper ventilation is important. If you don’t ventilate, the chemicals can build up and may cause illness or death. Once you've made sure that the area you're working in is well ventilated, put on the gloves and safety glasses, and form a mixture of 3 litres of water, 5 tablespoons of tri-sodium phosphate and a cup of bleach in the bucket. Make sure you read the safety labels on the TSP and the bleach and follow any further precautions listed there.

Put the bucket in the fireplace on the newspaper you've laid down. Dip the wire brush in the mixture, and use it to scrub the ash and soot from the walls of the fireplace, starting from the top and working down. Stubborn stains may need more than one application of the mixture.

Once the walls of the fireplace are clean, wipe them down with clean water. Put your bucket on the plastic tarp or sheeting, and remove the newspaper from the bottom of the fireplace and dispose of it in an outside bin.

The next step is to clean the fireplace floor. Using the same mixture, use the wire brush to give the floor of the fireplace a good scrub, and once you're done wipe it down with a clean wet sponge. Clean up the excess moisture in the bottom of the fireplace using paper towels or a cloth, and throw it in the bin afterwards.

Allow the fireplace to dry, and then replace the andirons and the grill and enjoy your new-looking fireplace!

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