Cleaning the fireplace in your home is an extremely necessary maintenance project. This should be done at least once a year and should be considered mandatory on your fall chore list. This project is a matter of family safety and will ensure that the centerpiece of your family gatherings offers problem-free enjoyment for years to come.
Soot, ash and left over burned wood make a fireplace both unsightly and potentially dangerous. Some of this cleaning can be done easily, while the rest takes some elbow grease and an open slot of time (preferable on your day off). What follows is a tried and true method for wrestling this task, and will work on fireplaces of all ages.
Keep in mind; this is a narrative about cleaning the fireplace, not the chimney. Cleaning a chimney is a much more extensive task. It is one that you may want to have a professional handle unless you have the proper tools for the job, not to mention a healthy love of heights.
Let us start with the items needed to complete this task. Go to your favorite hardware store or home improvement warehouse and get: eye protection, rubber gloves (not plastic), floor protection (such as a paper drop-cloth or layers of newspaper, do not use plastic), a plastic bucket (the larger the better to prevent splashing), a quality nylon scrub brush, a pair of knee pads, a paper mask or ventilation device, trash bags, chlorine bleach and a chemical known as tri-sodium phosphate (TSP).
One would hope that if one is tackling this task that one knows that the gloves go on your hands, the pads on your knees, the goggles on your eyes, the mask on your face, and the tools in your hands. Wear old clothes or coveralls. Also start by placing the garbage bags (in a can if you like) close to the fireplace and the drop cloth at the opening to protect the immediate exterior.
Making sure that no smoldering wood or coals remain, begin this project by scooping out all the ash from the floor of the fireplace and placing it in the bags. Sweep the fireplace out with either a broom or a workshop style vacuum. Once this is complete, line the inside of the fireplace with more drop-cloth so that the rest of the soot you knock loose will be easy to clean up. Proceed to scrape and brush the loose soot and ash off the inside walls of the fireplace and, as it builds upon the drop-cloth, remove it to the trash.
Now let us move on to the larger task, the wet cleaning. Mix 1 gallon of warm water with 1 cup of bleach and approximately 6 tbsp of tri-sodium phosphate. Get this mixture as close to the fireplace as possible. It is vital to note that tri-sodium phosphate is very caustic. It will burn skin and eyes and must be kept off carpeted and enameled surfaces. Please read all instructions carefully!
Proceed to use the brush, dipped in the cleaning solution, and scrub the walls of the fireplace. Start at the highest point and work your way down. The grime will accumulate on the drop-cloth and be made easy to remove from the job site and into the trash. Once you are done with the walls, work on the floor of the fireplace.
Remember, stubborn stains may require a second or third treatment. This is a fireplace, after all. Some stains may not be able to be removed. When finished, clean the entire area with fresh water and dirt-free towels. Allow the area to dry. Dispose of the remaining solution as advised on the tri-sodium phosphate container. Enjoy your newly cleaned fireplace.