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I’ll admit it – I love a good fireplace.

I particularly love MY fireplace, and I try to use it any chance I get.

Life in Southern California provides few opportunities to use a fireplace, so I really love this time of year, when the weather has cooled off and I can throw in a few logs and watch the flames dancing beneath the mantle while I sip on my coffee. With the curtains drawn, it almost feels like Christmas back east, where I grew up, and it is everything I want this season to be.

We have lived in our house for a couple of years now, and as I went to stow some wood beside the fireplace I noticed a bit of wear. Dark shadows from smoke stain the fireback, and it even looks as though small amounts have leaked out enough to color the frame around the firebox (note to self: get the flue checked out!). The stone making up our fireplace has lost a lot of its luster, even with infrequent use, and I’m confident that I’m not the only person with this problem – so it was time to get to work.

Soot and Grime- What To Use

Now, smoke stains behave a lot like grease, so my first step was to apply a degreaser. At Santa Barbara Stone Masters, I often use commercial grade S-Tech Stone & Masonry Cleaner for this kind of work, but today I went with a phosphate-free TSP substitute, which is available at most hardware stores and is a great, easy-to-find alternative. Substitutes for TSP (trisodium phosphate) are heavy duty alternatives to TSP proper, which can be harmful to health and the environment.

Whatever you choose,  please use latex or nitrile gloves to protect your hands! Both come in a powder which you can dilute with water to the consistency you require – for me, I wanted the consistency of a paste, so that I could apply the solution without it running down the wall.

Time to Clean

Once I was happy with the consistency, it was time to begin scrubbing. The face of our fireplace uses tile, so I was content to use a sponge – for a more porous stone or brick, I would probably have used a stiff, nylon brush to really make sure the solution gets in the nooks and crannies. I applied the degreaser solution and the smoke stains came off like a charm. I then ran back over it with a clean, damp sponge, and voila! No more smoke stains.

Tackling the firebox was much the same. Once I dusted down the inside of old ash, the degreaser solution did most of the heavy lifting for me, and by the end of the task my fireplace was looking as good as new.

With Christmas just a couple of weeks away, I’m sure your fireplace will also be getting a lot of love.  And as well it should, because what is Christmas without the fire crackling in the hearth and “O Holy Night” playing softly on the radio while the children eagerly open gifts – oh! Don’t forget that Santa comes in through the fireplace!

I hope you find this solution helpful. If you are in the Santa Barbara area and have a fireplace that needs some professional TLC, please give us a call – we would love to help.

Skip Jankoski

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