Tips to Keep Your Wood Burning Fireplace Clean and Safe Year Round

Wood burning fireplaces are great for creating a cozy, inviting space in your home for you, your friends, and your loved ones to enjoy. Ensuring your luxury fire feature remains in safe and pristine condition for years to come requires cleaning out any old soot or flammable debris regularly. This will prolong the lifespan of your unit, reduce the risk of any fire-related accidents, and keep your fireplace looking beautiful even when not in use.

Soot and creosote are telltale signs that your fireplace needs some cleaning–and fast! When you burn wood in a traditional-style fireplace, one of the byproducts is soot. This black, filmy substance can build up on the interior of the glass as well as the stone or brick inlay. 

In this guide, we cover how to clean your wood-burning fireplace properly and why it’s so important.

3 Tips to Cleaning Your Wood Burning Fireplace

A build-up of soot or any other byproduct of an active fireplace can make your unit look dirty, lower its heat output quality, as well as create a potential fire hazard. Here are four important tips for cleaning a wood-burning fireplace.

1. How to Prepare the Area

Cleaning a traditional fireplace can be a messy job, so prepping the area is essential. You will also want to wear clothes you don’t mind potentially getting dirty. Dust and soot may spread all over the workplace, so always remember to remove or cover any nearby furniture as well as the floor.

What you’ll need to clean a wood-burning fireplace:

  • Particle mask or face covering
  • Protective eyewear
  • Gloves
  • Flashlight 
  • Drop cloths, tarp, or newspaper
  • Trash bags
  • Towels
  • Wire scrubber
  • Vacuum with a hose attachment (or shop vac)
  • Chemical-free cleaning solution (DIY recipe below)

Always wait a minimum of 36 hours after a fire has been extinguished to start cleaning. This ensures there aren’t any hot embers and the ashes have had time to completely cool.

2. Clean From the Top to the Bottom

When cleaning your fireplace you always want to start at the top and work your way down so no ash or debris falls into areas you have already cleaned. Similarly, you don’t want to use any wet cleaning solutions before the entire unit is swept clear first. 

For routine upkeep, a quick sweep of your chimney will suffice, but make sure to check for any debris that could be stuck and require professional service. Always wear a protective mask, and eyewear while doing dry cleaning and remove leftover logs, ash, and other debris. Once larger particles are removed you can go in with a vacuum hose or shop vac to clean out the remaining dust.

3. Inspect for Possible Damage as Your Go

As you clean your chimney and firebox, make sure to keep an eye out for any signs of damage or excessive wear and tear. This is where a bright flashlight will come in handy. Examine the entirety of your unit for any possible cracks or other structural damage including any possible chips or cracks in your glass cover. You should also check for creosote build-up by observing dry flakes or shiny black or brown deposits.

4. Only Use Chemical-Free Cleaning Solutions

The brick or stone that surrounds your firebox will likely become stained from soot and smoke. What you use to clean your wood-burning fireplace is very important, as chemical cleaners can be a serious fire hazard if used improperly. 

DIY Fireplace Brick Cleaning Solutions

  • To clean the interior brick of your fireplace, use a solution of diluted white vinegar. Allow the vinegar to soak into the brick for 15 minutes, then scrub with a wire brush.
  • You can also make a safe, chemical-free paste by mixing baking soda and water together. Apply the paste and let it sit for 15 minutes before scrubbing. 
  • In cases where stains persist, a paste of tartar cream could be applied and cleaned off.

Once the brick is clean you can simply wipe off any cleaning product and rinse any remaining residue off with water. Then just let your fireplace air dry. 

How Often Should You Clean Your Wood Burning Fireplace?

The National Fire Protection Association suggests that you clean your fireplace at least once a year. In between cleaning, there are a number of things you can do to help maintain your fireplace properly. 

Burn Dry Firewood
Avoid burning wet or moist firewood. Wet firewood doesn’t burn on time or produce enough heat. Moisture in wood can also produce more soot that stains the fireplace brick and screen easily.

Never Use Water to Extinguish a Fire
Always allow the fire to burn out by itself. When you douse your fire with water, it mixes with ashes to form a thick sludge on the floor and wall of the fireplace. This can pose serious problems for the functionality and appearance of your fireplace. 

Keep Your Fireplace Window Clean
Consistent use of the fireplace can make the glass cover difficult to see through and appear even dirtier than it really is. Simply keeping the glass window clear of soot and grime at all times will help keep your fireplace looking pristine.

The Fireplace Experts at Creative Energy are Here to Help

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Cleaning your wood-burning fireplace annually is an essential part of prolonging the lifespan of your unit, practicing good fire safety, and maintaining its beautiful and inviting aesthetic. If you have any questions about how to keep your fire feature in tip-top shape, the experts at Creative Energy are here to help. 

Contact our team online with any questions about fireplace maintenance, or to request professional service from one of our technicians. We invite you to visit one of our Bay Area showrooms in San Rafael, San Mateo, or Concord to meet with a specialist in person.