As Ned Stark would say, winter is coming. The nights are getting longer and those fuzzy blankets are starting to make a reappearance. You know what that means: It’s nearly time to fire up your fireplace! Before you stack the logs and strike a match, there are tips, tricks and safety measures to keep in mind.

For starters, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) states that chimneys, fireplaces and vents should be inspected and maintained at least once a year. If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your chimney, you’re probably overdue. And while you may think that cleaning your chimney and hearth is a daunting task reserved solely for professionals, doing the job yourself will prevent someone from sweeping your wallet clean.

How to Clean Wood-burning Fireplaces

1. Avoid Messes
Cover nearby furniture and carpet with old sheets. Wear old clothes and gloves and keep a trashcan lined with two bags nearby to dispose of the waste. You don’t want to have to a ton of laundry, mopping and sweeping to do once the chimney cleaning is done.

2. Clear Debris
If you don’t use your fireplace frequently, remember this: Birds may build nests in the flue, making the chimney unsafe. If you want to know how to clean a fireplace, the first thing to do is remove bird nests from your flue as they can leave unsanitary, mite- and parasite-infested material into your home. Experts recommend going up on the roof or using a broom stick to remove the nests. To keep animals or birds out of your chimney, secure a top-sealing chimney damper to the chimney flue.

3. Clean the Firebox
The firebox is the area where the logs in your fireplace burn. During the cold months when you do actually use your fireplace, the firebox should be cleaned out around once a week. Remove the andirons and grate and take them outdoors to be scrubbed and set aside. Remove loose ashes with a fireplace shovel and place in the trash can. Sweep up the loose dust and line the fireplace with newspapers to catch the brick and flue debris.

4. Clean the Bricks
Use a wire brush and scraper to loosen soot. Clean off soot-stained bricks with a mixture of warm water and baking soda. Use a stiff bristled brush and gently scrub stains with the solution.

5. Clear Out Creosote
Creosote deposits are a natural byproduct of wood burning in your fireplace. If not thoroughly cleaned, a strong odor can emit from your fireplace come springtime when the humidity is higher and the air conditioner is turned on. To clean mild creosote buildup in your chimney, use a paste made from baking soda and warm water. Dishwashing liquid can also be very effective when tackling stubborn substances.

How to Clean Gas Fireplaces

While it’s true that gas fireplaces burn cleaner, that doesn’t mean you can skip giving them an annual scrub. Here are things to remember when you clean your gas burner:

1. Turn Off the Valve
First and foremost, make sure the gas is off. It’s an obvious step, but worth the double-check.

2. Vacuum Debris
For the ultimate burn, you’ll want to make sure there isn’t debris inside your fireplace or close to the vents. Simply vacuum around the area to suck up dust bunnies and dirt. While you’re at it, inspect around the area. Chips in the glass or corroded fake logs can cause bigger problems down the road. After inspection, give the logs a brush down with a cloth or paintbrush, and you’re good to go!

A clean fireplace isn’t just a beautiful thing, it’s also a healthier thing, too. The less grime and old ash, the better for your health. On top of that, you can’t beat the peace of mind of a good, solid clean. For a helping hand for a top-to-bottom shine throughout the house, remember that you can always turn to The MAIDS for housekeeping. Give us a call at 1-800-THE-MAIDS today for a tip-top shine.

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