How do you clean a fireplace and how often?

27th March 2019


wood burning fireplace

A wood burning fireplace is both magical and functional. We all love how a fireplace is the central place for families and friends to meet and gather on cold winter nights. There is something very therapeutic about sitting a few feet away from a fire and staring into those burning embers.

But if you have, or if you have had a fireplace at anytime in your life, you may not be surprised to know that the failure to properly and effectively clean chimneys is a major contributor to house fires. Fireplace maintenance, or the lack of it, is a major safety concern, especially over winter.

You may want to get in there and clean your own chimney. As admirable as that is, you may be a little unaware of what you’re letting yourself in for? Cleaning a chimney is a pretty messy job. You need some very specific equipment and you may not be prepared for what you might find. And because it is such an important job given the safety concerns associated with fireplaces, it might be a job that you should leave to a qualified fireplace installer.

Having said all that, if you’ve decided that you are going it alone instead of engaging some fireplace installation services, then here are some of the pitfalls you might want to be on the lookout for. You should also know that it’s not a job that you do once and never do again. Fireplace maintenance on your wood burning fireplace is an ongoing job.

As a general rule, you should clean your chimney when there’s a 1.5 centimetre deposit in the chimney. If it’s a relatively new fireplace or stove then you should give it a good inspection after first use and inspect its performance during the first use. For instance, the room might be gathering too much smoke which suggests that the flu isn’t working effectively.

The first place to start is to sweep out and clean the front of your fireplace using the drop cloth to protect your floor. A good thing to remember is that ashes and creosote dust (the combustible material in the venting portion of the chimney) are great for garden beds because they’re filled with calcium and other nutrients.

But while creosote might be good for your garden beds it weakens masonry and metal chimneys and if it builds up it can lead to incomplete combustion and catch fire. If creosote catches fire and you are unaware, that can be extremely dangerous.

Cleaning your fireplace insert or fire grate can be a messy job. Start with a wet cloth to your grate. Moisture prevents the spreading of excessive amounts of ash and dust. After wiping down your fire grate it’s time to use your wet-dry vacuum to clean the base and walls of your fireplace. After that, clean the vacuumed areas with a wet cloth to clean away any remaining dust particles. For a final clean it’s good to use warm soapy water on the walls and the floors. Don’t forget to clean your fireplace screen and fire tools while you’re cleaning around your fireplace.

With your light, make sure there are no animals nestled in there and if there are, you will need to have them removed, probably professionally.

A proper fireplace sweep should include the fireplace and the firebox, liners, smoke chamber and flue, chimney exterior and inspecting the appliance for proper clearances. You should also clean the damper with a strong wire brush and then put it aside so you can clean the other parts of the fireplace. Clean the ledge of the damper before you replace the damper because creosote dust builds up there too. When you return the damper, check that it’s positioned correctly in the interests of conserving heat and ensuring safety.

Fireside fireplaces in Sydney is the Hills District’s premier retail outlet for Lopi, the world’s finest freestanding and inbuilt slow combustion wood and gas fireplaces. Fireside are happy to answer any of your questions about cleaning your fireplace. A good clean every season should suffice but it’s best to check up on the build up of creosote dust – at about six millimetres it should be cleaned away. Of course, a freestanding wood or gas fireplace would remove the need to clean a fireplace. If you call into Fireside fireplaces in Castle Hill they can take you through a range of fireplaces to suit the aesthetic and heating requirements of your home.