It’s starting to get chilly outside again, and few things seem more appealing than cozying up by the fire with a good book and a mug of hot cocoa. But whether you have a wood- or gas-burning fireplace, it’s important to clear it of debris and buildup so that it functions efficiently and you and your loved ones stay safe this season. Read on for 5 fireplace-cleaning hacks*.

Cleaning a wood-burning fireplace

Whether it’s the strangely satisfying crackles and pops, the fragrance of fresh wood, or those cool-looking tools they come with, few people can deny the allure of a traditional wood-burning fireplace.

But with burning wood comes ash, soot, and creosote buildup that can quickly accumulate and affect the efficiency and safety of your fireplace. That’s why it’s a good idea to clean it up every fall so it’s ready to, er, fire up once winter hits.

(By the way, you’ll want to make sure you haven’t used your fireplace for at least 72 hours before cleaning it in order to reduce the risk of starting fires outside your fireplace.)

1. Prep for the scrub-down

Safety first! It’s wise to wear a dust mask, rubber gloves, and even clear goggles to avoid direct contact with any harmful materials.

Lay a plastic tarp around the hearth to protect any surrounding carpet and reduce the amount of after-work cleanup. You may also want a kneeling pad for your comfort. And remember to wear old clothes (or at least an apron) since this can get messy.

Pro tip: Save some used coffee grounds or tea leaves to sprinkle on top of the ash and debris. That way, you’ll avoid inhaling the dust when you’re ready to sweep everything up.

2. Remove any grates and take them outside

Using a nylon brush, scrub soot and debris off your fireplace’s grates. When you’re done, simply rinse them off with water and wipe them dry. If you’re aiming for extra shininess, you can use metal polish to get that trademark gleam.

3. Get rid of ash piles

To avoid breathing in ash and dust, sprinkle some used coffee grounds or tea leaves over the piles of debris in your fireplace. You can sweep everything up with a brush and dustpan and then place it in a metal bin or bucket outside and away from your home.

4. Start scrubbing

Next, scrub the fireplace walls with the same nylon brush you used on the grates. Work your way from the top of each wall to the bottom. It also helps to line the bottom of your fireplace with newspaper for easier cleanup.

5. Tidy up the hearth

You’re almost done! Carefully gather up the plastic tarp and soot-covered newspaper and dispose of them outside. Vacuum any remaining debris on and around the hearth and spray the sooty areas with water.

Then apply hearth cleaner and give those areas a good rub. (Spraying the areas with water first prevents the hearth cleaner from soaking in too quickly, which tends to be more of an issue with brick fireplaces.)

Rinse the cleaner off with a clean sponge and let it air-dry. Then put the grates you cleaned back inside. Voilà — you now have a clean fireplace!

But what if you have a gas-burning fireplace, you ask?

How to clean a gas fireplace

Luckily, gas-burning fireplaces are pretty low maintenance and not many steps are required to clean one out for this winter’s use.

It’s really simple: use your vacuum to clear out ash and debris in or around the vents of the fireplace. Then, make sure that gas logs are positioned properly, wipe down any glass doors with a non-ammonia-based cleaner, and give yourself a pat on the back — your fireplace is now ready to go.

What about the chimney?

Creosote, which is essentially wood tar, is extremely flammable and can accumulate along the flue walls of your chimney, presenting a major safety issue. In fact, it’s one of the main causes of chimney fires.

It’s generally recommended that you have a licensed chimney specialist come out once a year to inspect for dangerous buildup — especially if you use your fireplace frequently.

According to HomeAdvisor, most Americans spend between $123 and $314 for a chimney sweep to inspect and clean their chimney. That’s nothing compared to the thousands of dollars you could spend after a catastrophic chimney fire. If you’re a homeowner, make sure you have homeowners insurance, which can financially protect you from fire damage and so much more.

Find out how to get your home winter-ready, and keep it safe around the holidays.


*The tips included in this post are general suggestions only and may not be appropriate in all circumstances. For advice regarding your particular situation please consult an expert.

DIY hacks | Home and garden


about Megan

After beginning her Esurance career in 2012 as a sales agent in Phoenix, Megan made her way out to San Francisco to join the company’s editorial team and pursue her love of writing. She spends most of her free time baking fancy cookies and forcing her cats to snuggle with her.