There’s nothing quite like the crackling warmth of a fire on a chilly evening. All that comforting coziness, however, eventually adds up to a pile of ashes and soot deposits in your fireplace that needs to be removed. Fires also cause soot and creosote to build up on the walls lining your chimney. Both soot and creosote are flammable and dangerous, and creosote buildup is the leading cause of chimney fires, so it is important to have your chimney periodically cleaned. If you use your fireplace regularly, chimney pros and The National Fire Protection Association suggest having your chimney inspected once per year.
Cleaning Your Fireplace
While cleaning your chimney is typically a job best left to the pros, here are some tips for cleaning your fireplace.
- Let it cool. Wait 24-48 hours after your last fire before attempting cleanup.
- Use a wet/dry vacuum to easily suck up the ashes. Don’t have a wet/dry vacuum? Try sprinkling cold ashes with used coffee grinds to keep down the dust before you gently scoop and sweep out the fireplace.
- To remove soot stains from bricks and stone there are a number of homemade cleaners, all which require a bit of time and scrubbing to work. You can also try a special hearth cleaner. If your fireplace bricks are more than 50 years old, skip the cleansers and just use water.
- If regular glass cleaner (or vinegar and water) won’t get heavy soot off fireplace glass, try a special hearth glass cleaner. Don’t mind using a bit more elbow grease? Scrub your fireplace glass with newspaper, water, and a little ash. If stubborn stains remain, you can use a razor blade to scrape the glass clean.
- To keep the build-up of creosote at a minimum, only burn well-seasoned (dried) firewood. Green wood is not only difficult to start and keep burning, it creates a smoky fire and increases soot and creosote build-up.
- Sprinkle your fireplace ash on your garden beds and rake into the soil lightly (skip the ash on acid-loving plants like rhododendrons and azaleas). You can also add ash to your compost pile.
- Schedule chimney cleaning in the spring and you’ll likely get faster (and maybe even cheaper) service.
Tired of the Hassle?
Love a good fire, but tired of the hassle of stacking firewood and cleaning ashes? Consider a gas fireplace insert. Flip a switch and presto! You have instant fire with no work and no smoke. Today’s gas inserts are an efficient, low-maintenance option to warm your house.
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