The leaves are falling and temperatures are dropping, which means one thing: it’s time to use that fireplace! Before you break out the s’mores materials, follow these steps to make sure your fireplace is ready for action. That way, you won’t create a hazardous situation when you start your first fire of the season.
If you haven’t had your chimney professionally inspected in a while (or ever) now is the time! Chimney sweeps use special tools to inspect your chimney for potential fire hazards and to clean out any leftover residue. Heavy fireplace users (3+ fires a week) should have a professional chimney sweep inspect their chimney every year and clean it if necessary. If you use your fireplace infrequently, or you aren’t burning real wood, then you only need to do this every 2-5 years.
Regardless of the last time you had your chimney inspected, check your flue for obstruction such as leaves, animal nests (especially birds) and other debris that may have accumulated during spring and summer. The easiest way to do this is to shine a flashlight up the flue using a mirror. Contact a chimney sweep if you see anything that looks dubious.
If you gave your fireplace a thorough cleaning last spring, then this is all the cleaning you need to do – you’re ready to go. If your fireplace still has a lot of soot and ash left over from last year, you have a bit more work ahead of you.
Clear soot and dust buildup away from your hearth area using a vacuum cleaner or broom. Then remove your andirons and grate and take them outdoors. Use a wire brush and remove the excess soot. For a deeper clean, use oven cleaner.
Back inside, use your fireplace shovel to clear out the accumulated loose ashes. Sweep up any remaining loose dust.
Clean the walls of the fireplace with your wire brush and its scraper. Tip: Line the fireplace with newspaper to catch falling soot. Once the walls of the fireplace are clear, you can throw away the newspaper.
Mix a solution of warm water and mild dish soap. Scrub the interior walls and the floor of your fireplace with the solution until the caked-on soot is gone.