It’s nearly time to start thinking about making your home warm and cosy for the winter. Start laying out your rugs and blankets, as the temperatures are about to take a tumble. But if you’re lucky enough to have a real fireplace, now is the time to prepare it for the colder months of the year.
To ensure your fireplace is clean, safe and effective, follow these seven important steps.
If you’ve been using your fireplace recently, the first thing you should do is check that it is cold. Before you start scrubbing, scraping and dusting, gather together the safety equipment you need, including gloves, a face mask and a set of protective goggles. Also, it’s always a good idea to refer to any cleaning guidelines that came with your fire.
2. Cover the area
Cleaning a fireplace is usually a very mucky business, so it’s important to protect carpets, hardwood flooring and any furniture in the vicinity with dust sheets. It’s also a good idea to remove clocks, ornaments and anything else that usually sits on your hearth or mantel.
3. Preparatory cleaning
Start the cleaning process by removing the grate or andirons. If you haven’t cleaned your fireplace for a while, there’s a good chance that these items will be very dirty, so take them outside. Use a hard nylon brush to remove soot and dirt. Once you’ve cleared the grate or andirons, you should be able to sweep up any ashes and soot from the hearth with ease.
TIP: Sprinkle the hearth with damp coffee grounds first, as this will help to stop soot from flying up into the air and around your home.
4. Clean the surround and mantel
Remove surface dust and soot from the surround and mantel of your fireplace with a dampened, micro-fibre cloth. Or if you’d prefer, use an appropriate attachment on your vacuum cleaner. If you are cleaning marble, use a slightly dampened cloth with a mild solution of water and dishwashing detergent. However, immediately wipe the marble dry, as it can absorb water — something that can lead to permanent staining.
5. Adjust your approach when dealing with metal fireplaces
If you have an old, metal fireplace, it can rust if it comes into contact with water — or even moisture in the air. If you notice rust, use wire wool and lots of elbow grease to remove it. To ensure that your cast or wrought iron is restored to its former grandeur, apply a dedicated grate polish liberally with a chamois leather. To add some sparkle to your metal fireplace, treat it with WD-40 or something similar.
6. Treat wooden fireplaces appropriately
If you’re cleaning a wooden fireplace, you can pretty much clean it in the same way you’d clean wooden furniture. The usual wooden furniture polishes and some hot, soapy water should suffice — as long as the fireplace has been sealed. However, you’ll probably need a lot more polish in order to make up for the loss of moisture in the wood due to a constant barrage of heat from the fire.
7. Get the flue cleaned
Cleaning the flue is the dirtiest, most time-consuming aspect of cleaning a fireplace. However, failing to do the job properly can cause a fire hazard in your home, as well as an increase in airborne contaminants and carbon dioxide. This tricky, technical job is definitely best left to the experts. However, you can keep your flue reasonably clean and clear by having a chimney flue lining fitted.
Your fireplace should keep you warm and provide an interesting focal feature for your home — but only if it is in tip-top condition at all times.