Clean Soot From Your Fireplace in 7 Easy Steps

Lauren Murphy
Written by Lauren Murphy
Updated September 30, 2021
Cat and family by the fireplace
Alena Ozerova - stock.adobe.com

Cleaning stubborn black soot from your fireplace is simple if you have the right tools

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Whether they’re gas or wood-burning, fireplaces can make any home feel cozy. As the fire burns, it produces soot that sort of looks like black smoke but is actually a black powdery or flaky substance.

Soot builds up on fireplaces over time and becomes quite the eyesore. Some homeowners think cleaning it is too difficult, which allows it to build up further and stain the fireplace and hearth. But cleaning soot from your fireplace is simple with the right tools. Beyond keeping up appearances, having a clean fireplace has numerous health and safety benefits.

Project difficulty score: 2/5

Time needed to complete the project: 1-2 hours (active time)

Tools and materials needed:

  • Broom and dustpan

  • Vacuum

  • Spray bottle

  • Bucket

  • 2 sponges or rags

  • Scrub brush

  • Drop cloth

  • Dust mask

  • Water

  • Liquid dish soap

  • White vinegar

1. Allow Fireplace to Cool

Fireplace cooling down in modern home
Jodie Johnson - stock.adobe.com

Cleaning soot from your fireplace begins with allowing it to cool. Wait at least 12 hours after your last fire to allow your fireplace to fully cool down before you begin cleanup. If you vacuum up hot coals, they could destroy your vacuum and leave you with a literal hot mess. 

Cleaning a sooty fireplace gets messy. Use this time to protect the floor and furniture near your fireplace by placing a drop cloth or two over them. Wear old clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and put on a dust mask to avoid inhaling dust and soot, which can be serious health hazards.

2. Clear Debris and Vacuum Ashes

Once your fireplace is completely cold, remove the grate and andirons (the metal supports for firewood). Sweep up all of the ashes and debris in the firebox and toss it in the garbage can (again, make sure it’s cool to the touch). 

Then, use a shop vac or a good vacuum with a brush attachment to suck up as much soot and dust as possible from your hearth and fireplace.

3. Spray Stains With Water

Fill a spray bottle with regular, plain old water and wet your fireplace, saturating it before applying a cleaning solution. This prevents the cleaning solution from soaking into it. You can either spray the entire fireplace with water or focus on specific problem areas. To prevent it from drying out as you work on the next steps, you can work in small areas at a time.

4. Mix Cleaning Solution

In a bucket, combine 1 gallon of warm water and 2 tablespoons of grease-cutting dish soap. This will be a very mild cleaning solution. If you need something a little tougher, dilute white vinegar in water instead of dish soap. Keep in mind that high concentrations of vinegar can damage older bricks, so stick to a one-to-one ratio.

5. Scrub Fireplace

Dip a firm scrub brush into your cleaning solution and scrub your fireplace, making sure to work top to bottom to prevent dirty water from dripping down and leaving streaks on clean areas. You can wipe the area down with a wet sponge or rag to wipe away dirt or apply more cleaning solution as needed.

6. Rinse Off Solution

Take your water-filled spray bottle and spritz cleaned areas as you go. Use a clean sponge or rag to wipe down the surface to prevent drips.

7. Repeat as Needed

Keep scrubbing away if your fireplace is still stained with black soot, but don’t be too abrasive, as overzealous scrubbing can actually damage the surface. Mix fresh cleaning solution as needed and wipe it dry with a dry rag. Replace the grate and irons and your fireplace should look as good as new.

If any stubborn stains remain, call a professional fireplace cleaner in your area. And if you’re worried about soot or creosote buildup in your chimney, which can cause dangerous chimney fires, hire a chimney sweep for professional cleaning.

Cost to DIY Fireplace Cleaning vs. Hiring a Pro

If you have extra time on your hands, you can save money by cleaning soot from your fireplace yourself rather than hiring a professional to do it for you.

The materials needed to clean your fireplace, not including the chimney, will cost you under $100 at your local hardware store. The average cost of a professional fireplace cleaning ranges from $95 to $150, depending on whether or not the pro will need to clean your chimney as well. Contact a local fireplace cleaning professional for specific prices.

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