We love our fireplace — a native Texas limestone with a big mantel — but we don’t get to use it as much as we’d like. Still, it needs a good sprucing up now and then.
First order of business: I move everything in and around the base out of the way and put down several old sheets or plastic shower curtains to protect the surrounding carpet. Once that’s covered, I remove the fireplace grate to clean it separately by wiping it with a damp towel and letting it dry.
Then, using a shop vacuum (not a regular vacuum, because the fine ashes can clog the filter), I suck up as much debris and ash as possible — inside, on the bottom and walls, and around the outside base. For the fine layer of soot that remains, I use several damp paper towels to wipe it away.
Next, with a handled scrub brush and a bucket of warm water with detergent (a squirt or two per gallon of water), I scrub the inside floor, followed by the sides — doing one small spot at a time and rinsing before moving on.
Last, I rinse it all with water on a sponge or a terry cloth and wipe dry with an old towel.
A final safety hint for folks who may use their fireplaces frequently: Have your chimney inspected by a pro each year.