According to the guidelines of the Chimney Safety Institute of America, you should clean an open-masonry fireplace when you see 1/8 inch of soot built up on the surface. If you have a factory-built fireplace, clean the fireplace and chimney when you notice any appreciable quantity of soot and debris on them. Not cleaning a fireplace can result in damage or a chimney fire.
A simple scrubber may be your key tool for cleaning a fireplace and part of your chimney. Rinse off surface debris by spraying the fireplace with water. Let the water soak in and clean the surface with a natural bristle scrubber. Rinse the scrubber and the fireplace surface and then apply a fireplace cleaner. Scrub the surface again. You can repeat this cycle a few times to remove all stains. Wipe the surface dry with a rag.
Home repair expert Bob Vila’s guide to cleaning a fireplace chimney highlights the importance of a chimney brush. You use a chimney brush with stiff bristles to agitate the chimney surface and loosen debris from within the chimney. For a long chimney, you need a chimney brush that extends, or you can add extension canes to the brush.
The extensive soot and debris that chimney sweeping produces demands a shop vacuum for cleanup. The shop vacuum gathers debris from the smoke shelf as well as the base of the fireplace. The National Ag Safety Database warns that you should not use a household vacuum cleaner for this job because the fine dust in soot destroys the motor bearings. In addition, soot can makes its way through a standard vacuum’s filter and into your room.
Tools and Safety Equipment
Depending upon the amount of build-up, the height of your chimney and the level of cleaning required, you may need additional tools and safety equipment. The National Ag Safety Database suggests a ladder, flashlight, drop cloths, a mirror for looking up the flue, goggles, a dust mask, old clothes and gloves.