Fireplace DIY

Keeping a Cement Fireplace Hearth Clean

inset fireplace

Fireplaces provide awesome moments with family and friends.  A little extra warmth on a chilly evening, beautiful flames, and the sounds and smells of wood burning create a special atmosphere.  A dirty fireplace takes away from that atmosphere.  Painting your firebox and keeping the fireplace clean are great ways to keep your fireplace looking fresh.

The hearth, however, is often forgotten.  Many fireplace hearths are cement so they take a little extra effort to clean.  SFGate provides great directions on how to clean your hearth and how to keep it that way!

Preparation

First things first, you have to prepare.  SFGate recommends spreading old coffee grounds over the ash and soot to keep the dust down.  Cover the walls around the fireplace by taping up old newspapers or another lightweight material.  Cover the floor with a tarp or even newspapers.  If you’re going to put newspaper on the floor, secure them in place so they won’t blow away!

Open and close the damper a few times to release creosote and ash.  Sweep up all loose soil and seal it off.  You can use a metal ash can or a trash bag if you tie it off well and immediately throw it out.

Cleaning Methods and Supplies

Depending on how dirty your cement is, you can use one of three methods: oxygen bleach, trisodium phosphate, or muriatic acid.  In this article, I’ll give you an overview of each chemical and the supplies you’ll need to clean with it, head over to SFGate’s article How to Clean a Cement Fireplace Hearth for detailed cleaning instructions.

how to clean your fireplace hearth

Oxygen Bleach: General Maintenance

For general maintenance, oxygen bleach will work very well.  Oxygen bleach is a powdered bleach found in laundry detergents like OxiClean.  Don’t let its familiarity fool you.  Make sure you’re taking proper safety precautions like wearing gloves and eye protection.

 

To clean with oxygen bleach, you’ll need:

  • about 1 cup oxygen bleach
  • two large buckets
  • a mixing stick
  • a stiff bristled brush
  • a sponge

Trisodium Phosphate: Tougher Stains

Trisodium phosphate, a white powder used for cleaning and as a food additive, is great for removing tough stains.  If oxygen bleach is general maintenance, trisodium phosphate is a deep clean.  Again, make sure you’re being careful to protect yourself and the non-cement surfaces in your home.

To clean with trisodium phosphate, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup chlorine bleach
  • 6 tablespoons trisodium phosphate
  • two large buckets
  • a mixing stick
  • a stiff bristled brush
  • a sponge

Muriatic Acid: Burnt-In Stains

Muriatic acid, a less pure version of hydrochloric acid, is very powerful, and not just for cement cleaning.  Even brief contact can burn skin, and breathing in the fumes can burn the lining of the nose and lungs.  Only use  muriatic acid as a last resort.  If you are going to use it, I strongly recommend reading through Bob Villa’s muriatic acid safety article.

To clean with muriatic acid, you’ll need:

  • safety supplies including acid-resistant gloves, thick clothing to cover all exposed skin, eye and face protection, and a respirator
  • about 1 cup muriatic acid
  • two buckets
  • a sponge
  • a wooden bristle brush with a long handle
  • a broom
  • proper disposal methods as listed on the container of acid

Conclusion

This article may be more intimidating than inspiring.  Cleaning cement is no easy task.  You’ll have to locate supplies, buy chemicals, and take protective measures.  Then the whole time you’re cleaning, you’ll be worrying about possibly ruining your walls or carpet or furniture.  If you take it one step at a time, the process doesn’t have to be terrible.

Don’t stress yourself by trying to complete the whole process all at once.  Take your time gathering the proper supplies and protective equipment.  Read up on different safety measures and methods for cleaning.  Most important, don’t start the cleaning process on a day where you have lots of things to do!  Pick a fairly free day so you won’t be rushed.  Take your time preparing the room so that nothing is in danger of getting dirty.  Tarps are especially nice for covering carpets and furniture; if water spills onto them, they won’t leech it onto the furniture they’re covering.

Before you start cleaning, have a plan.  Some of these processes are time sensitive.  If you want to have a break at some point, schedule it during a non time-sensitive part of the process.  Once you’re done, you may want to invest in a cement sealant to help prevent future stains.

Keep a positive spirit and ask us questions if you have any!  Happy cleaning!

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