How To Clean Soot From A Fireplace Mantle

How To Clean Soot From A Fireplace Mantle

Molly Anderson
Feb 5, 2010

We have a fireplace in our basement that doesn't get much use. I don't think it has ever been cleaned and our house was built in 1940! It is inefficient and has become very dirty with soot over the years. Here's my attempt at cleaning up the facade.

What You Need

long cleaning gloves
dust mask
bristle scrub brush
wet coffee grounds
small scoop or fireplace shovel
paper grocery bags or trash can with lid for ashes
spray bottle with water water
Greased Lightning All Purpose Cleaner or cleaning solution of choice
2 buckets of water
rags or paper towels


1. This is what I am up against. A 60 year old brick fireplace with a wooden mantle and a lot of soot.

2. These are the materials. Not Pictured: Lots of rags/paper towels used to keep the mess to a minimum. Now it's time to suit up. Put on some clothes you don't care about and the gloves and dust mask.

3. I wanted to clean out the inside of the fireplace so all of the water and cleaner didn't turn it into ash soup. First I gave the inside of the fireplace a once over with the bristle brush to knock off any loose soot/ash.

4. I sprinkled the wet coffee grounds on top of the ash in the fireplace so it wouldn't go everywhere when I scooped it out into the waiting paper grocery bag. Place another bag on top to keep the ash from billowing back out of the bag. Later you can add the ash to your compost pile if you have one.

5. Because the bricks on my fireplace are very old and porous, I sprayed the exterior bricks down with water so that they won't soak up the chemical cleaner too quickly

6. Then I sprayed some Greased Lightning All Purpose Cleaner on the dirty bricks. There are many other cleaners available for cleaning you fireplace. I've heard that laundry soap mixed with water and laundry stain remover work well, or go for a more natural rout and use white vinegar.

7. Scrub scrub scrub. Dunk the bristle brush in water bucket #1 to get the gunk off, dunk the brush in water bucket #2 to get it even cleaner. Scrub scrub scrub. Note: This is where things get messy. Have some rags or paper towels nearby to trap water runoff.

8. When I sprayed the cleaner on the wooden mantle there was a satisfying reveal. The soot just rolled off.

9. This is the fireplace after the first go. I repeated the process and...

10. Hooray! The outside of my fireplace is so much cleaner!

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(Images: Molly Anderson)

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