Soot Removal Secrets

By Sharon Naylor

December 20, 2012 5 min read

Your fireplace and hearth is a warm, comfortable place to gather with friends and family. With a roaring fire crackling and cozy heat emanating, is creates a wonderful atmosphere of winter bliss. When all eyes are on your fireplace, make sure the effect isn't ruined by unsightly, dark soot and ash stains on your glass fireplace doors. Over time, glass doors can become darkened by burning wood and from the chemicals in faux log. These ugly smudges take away from the magic of your fireplace scene. After all, glass doors are often slid closed over an actively burning fire, and they are kept closed when the fire is not lit for child safety, preventing drafts up or down the flue and for d?cor aesthetic.

No matter how much soot your fireplace doors have accumulated, they can be cleaned easily using your choice of several suggested methods. Before you begin, be sure to read your fireplace owner's manual to ensure your cleaning methods don't invalidate your warranty. Some companies specify which types of cleaning procedures may be used, on both new and older models.

Cleaning icon Heloise, from the Hints from Heloise column and her book, "Handy Household Hints from Heloise: Hundreds of Great Ideas at Your Fingertips" ( simplifies the process with her advice to "wash with a solution of one tablespoon of sudsy ammonia to each cup of water, or a cleaner designed for this purpose." However, some cleaners already have ammonia in them so keep an eye out. Then, "apply, let sit for a couple of minutes, and then wipe off with a paper towel. You may have to repeat to get it all off."

For corners of the fireplace doors, effective tools include Q-tips or eye-makeup sponge applicators. Pour a small amount of cleaner into a bowl and use these small, pointy tools to perfect the cleaning of corners or edges.

Always use soft cloths or paper towels to scrub the soot and buildup, since abrasive plastic scrubbers or wire brushes can easily scratch your fireplace doors, leading to unattractive marring. They can even cause greater soot issues in the future when ash gets into the fissures created in the glass. An exception to the "no sharp objects" rule is if you have excessive amounts of black soot and debris on your doors. In this case, spray the area well and use a plastic, rather than metal, paint scraper tool to grade off the buildup. You don't want to slip and cut yourself, or again, create cuts in the fireplace door glass.

If, while you're wiping soot away with absorbent paper towels, you notice that you're still not getting all of the soot off, use a secret of fireplace shop owners: take a section of wet newspaper and sprinkle a little bit of ash from the bottom of your fireplace on it. Then use this to scrub your fireplace doors in a circular motion. The ash provides enough friction to remove stubborn soot particles that your cleaner might not remove. Then, just spray and wipe again for further cleaning success.

Allow the doors to dry completely even after all of the soot appears to be gone. Then give your doors another, fresh spray of ammonia and water cleaning solution on the front and on the back of each door and wipe fully dry with a microfiber cloth or with newspaper (paper towels can leave lint.) This process can prevent window fogging the next time you light a fire.

Still saddled with stubborn stains in the corners and on the glass? Heloise says that in extremely sooty situations, without first applying ammonia sprays, remove the doors, take them outside to a well-ventilated area on a warm afternoon, spray both sides with a thick layer of oven cleaner, lay them on newspaper and let them sit outside in the sun for a few hours. Rinse with a garden hose, dry and rehang the doors.

One extra warning from fireplace shop owners: don't attempt to clean doors while a fire is dying down or while the glass is hot. Cool cleaning solutions on hot glass can cause the glass to shatter. And never spray flammable cleaning solutions on the outsides of glass doors while a fire is lit inside. That too is flammable.

Fireplace stores are the best sources for special fireplace door cleaning solutions, so keep them in mind no matter the level of dirt on your glass fireplace doors.

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