In your home or in your vacation cabin, a handsome stone hearth is often the gathering
place for comfy family evenings. But accumulations of dirt, soot and ash can make your
fireplace less efficient and ruin the lovely patina of natural stone.
You can help maintain its beauty and safety with this once-yearly facelift routine:
Clean the firebox. At least 12 hours after extinguishing the last fire, or preferably
before lighting the first fire of the year, lay drop cloths around the fireplace area to
protect against airborne particles. Put on gloves and a dust mask and use a small
shovel to scoop any remaining ash from the firebox. Place the ashes in a metal
container with a tight-fitting lid and store it outside, away from flammable materials,
until you’re ready to discard it. Run a small vacuum cleaner in and around the firebox
and surrounding area.
Scrub the stone. Dilute a quarter cup of dish soap with hot water in a bucket and
use a small scrub brush dipped in the solution to clean the stone surface from
top to bottom. You may be surprised at how much trapped dirt and grit you can scrub out.
Gauge the need for deeper cleaning. If the fireplace has not been used for a long
time, you may find that soapy water is not enough to remove old smoke stains. In that
case, dissolve a half-cup of TSP cleaning powder in three-quarts of hot water and try again
with a stiff brush. TSP is both a de-greaser and a heavy-duty cleaner, making it more
effective than soap alone for eliminating stubborn stains and creosote.
Rinse it down. Empty the soapy water and refill the bucket with cold water. Use a
clean rag to make one or two passes over the entire stone surface, wiping away any
soap suds and loosened dirt. Go over it again with a dry rag, then let the surface air-
dry before lighting a fire.