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CleaningMatters logo sm November/December 2010

Fireplace Cleanup

Solutions for Removing Soot and Stains

In the midst of a cold, damp winter, nothing says “cozy” better than a cheerful fire in the fireplace. But along with the lovely ambiance of a wood-burning fireplace comes two less desirable companions: soot and ash. Nancy Bock, Vice President of Consumer Education at the American Cleaning Institute®, has some solutions for banishing them from your hearth.

Soot Stains on the Carpet
When soot gets on the carpet, our first instinct is to brush it away. But doing that will simply imbed the stain deeper into the fibers. Instead, vacuum the spot, using a canister vacuum and a crevice tool. Avoid the upright type of vacuum with a rotating brush as the brush will spread the stain. Gently work from the outer edge of the stain to the center. If this doesn’t remove most of the stain, stop the do-it-yourself process and call a carpet cleaning professional.

However, if vacuuming removes most of the stain, the next step (assuming it is safe according to the carpet manufacturer) is to apply rubbing alcohol to a clean white cloth and blot gently until the spot is removed. Do not saturate the carpet as the alcohol can harm the backing if it has a latex bond. If the spot still remains, mix ¼ teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent with one quart of water. Blot gently with a clean white paper towel. Continue until the spot is removed. To rinse, mist, using tap water and a spray bottle; blot to remove the moisture. Spray lightly; apply a pad (about ½" thick) of paper towels weighted down with a brick. Let the carpet thoroughly dry.

A Screen That’s Clean
Glass fireplace screens are a magnet for baked-on ash buildup. Before cleanup begins, line the floor with newspapers to catch the debris.

If the ash build-up is heavy, the first step is to scrape most of it off. To avoid scratching the glass, use a flat razor blade. Hold it so it’s almost flat against the screen. Start at one corner and work your way across and then down the screen.

To remove softer ash build-up – or the residue that’s left after scraping – use a spray glass cleaner to remove any greasy build-up. Apply with a soft cloth or spray; wipe clean with cloth or paper towels.

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