Have you been here? You’re enjoying a cup of cocoa in front of your wood fire. You normally enjoy watching the flickering dance of the flames. But tonight you’re having a hard time following them. They seem to disappear and reappear, and you realize why. They’re disappearing behind the dark smudges of your fireplace’s glass window. Not for the first time, you think, “Maybe I ought to clean that glass.”
How to Keep Fireplace Glass Clean
Wood smoke is dirty, and not all of the soot goes up the chimney. Soot and creosote build up on your fireplace glass. They can be difficult to remove. One of the best ways to deal with this build-up is not to let it happen in the first place.
Be careful about the type of firewood you use. Properly seasoned hardwoods are best. Softwoods, wood with a lot of sap, and greenwood tend to produce “dirty” smoke. That smoke adheres to your glass in the form of soot and creosote deposits.
Also, be aware of how high a fire you burn. Modern fireplaces let you burn at relatively low temperatures all night long, and those gentle, long-lasting fires are among the most enjoyable. Unfortunately, they’re also the fires most likely to generate a lot of soot. Hot, high fires burn a lot cleaner.
Finally, there’s a limit to how dirty glass can get if you clean it on a regular basis. Some people like to do a two or three minutes touch-up every morning after they’ve enjoyed a fire. A few minutes frequently will reduce the need for a major, difficult cleaning job.
When it comes to cleaning your fireplace glass, there are commercial products, more environmentally friendly commercial products and homegrown approaches. Let’s look at examples of each.
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All-Natural Fireplace Glass Cleaner
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Who needs more chemicals in their home? We sure don’t. Yes, heavy duty cleaners have their place, but we avoid them in the home as much as possible and that includes for cleaning the glass fireplace. All you need is a great glass cleaner and our favorite all-natural glass cleaner is by HAUS Naturals with its lovely scent and powerful cleaning chops.
Commercial Fireplace Door Cleaners
Commercial products work great, but they have their hazards. Whether you’re doing a daily touch-up or an all-out scouring, it’s important to follow a few precautions. Read the instruction and heed warnings. Wear rubber gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, opening a window if necessary. Most manufactures provide no more than a partial list of ingredients (they guard the full list as a trade secret) so it’s hard to know precisely what you’re using.
Standard Chemical Cleaner
Just about everybody’s “best of” list includes Rutland Stove Grill & Hearth Glass Cleaner. A lot of customers find this to be the “go-to” cleaner when others have not been up to the task. It’s formulated not only to clean but to leave an invisible silicon coat that makes subsequent cleanups easier. Rutland products can be used for either a regular routine cleaning or a one-time heavy-duty job.
Here’s a recipe for frequent light cleaning. You can do this the next day every time you burn a fire or try it if the soot buildup isn’t too severe.
Always wear rubber gloves. Give the bottle a good vigorous shake before you start. It’s best to work with strong paper towels such as shop towels. You can use a cloth or old t-shirt, but if you consider how filthy the paper towel gets, even when the glass looks clean at the beginning, you may prefer the towels. You can simply throw them away when you’re done. For this level of cleaning, there’s no advantage to using a microfiber cloth or any kind of brush.
If you want, you can remove the fireplace glass and lay it on the floor atop some newspaper. If the glass is especially dirty, you should. But if you’ve been cleaning on a regular basis, and you can reach the inside, you can do this with the glass in place.
Never attempt this when the glass is hot. If you let the fire go all night, you might have to wait a few hours in the morning.
Pour a little of the solution onto the towel and work it into the glass. The type of motion (up and down, back and forth, circular) isn’t as important as fully wiping the entire surface.
If there are two sides to your glass doors, do one at a time. That’s because you don’t want to let the solution dry on the glass. Take a second towel and wipe off all traces of the cleaner.
Notice the soot on your towel. Even if your glass looked clear, there’s more dirt there than you might have guessed.
If the glass still looks dirty, you can try the process again. But if the stain is particularly difficult and it feels like you need something abrasive to deal with it, try a heavier duty product such as Rutland #84 Stove Grill & Hearth Conditioning Glass Cleaner.
In this case, remove the doors and lay them flat, on top of newspapers or some other protector. Wear those gloves and make sure there’s plenty of ventilation. It’s a good idea to open a window. Test the product on a small area. Pour some cleaner on a shop towel and rub vigorously. Usually, a towel will be enough as the cleaning formula has micro scrubbers built into it. However, you can also try a bristle brush or a scrub sponge. Again, don’t let the solution dry but wipe it off before it does.
Environmentally Friendly Cleaner
Most cleaners are harsh, and you won’t find a plant-based product, but Quick & Brite Fireplace Glass Cleaner is eco-friendly with no caustics, ammonia, or noxious fumes. It’s non-abrasive, and unlike other cleaners for wood fireplaces, you can use it on gas stoves as well. The manufacturer claims that it kills 99 percent of surface germs in its cleaning process.
Best results have been realized by letting the product sit for 15 or 20 minutes. This is a cleaner that has produced mixed results. For some customers, it’s been as good as anything out there, but for others, it didn’t do the job, in some cases leaving a haze on the glass. There’s a good chance it will give you acceptable results with increased safety and a gentler environmental footprint.
Gloves may not be entirely necessary but they’re still a good idea. This product takes a little more elbow grease. It comes as a spray or a paste, and it requires a little more elbow grease. You’ll need to have a spray bottle of water handy.
Apply the paste or liquid with a wet scrub sponge or a wet stiff brush. Work it in slowly with a circular motion. Then spray it with water to rinse and wipe it off with a towel or cloth. As with the other products, repeat the process if it’s not clean enough the first time. The second time around, you might try leaving the cleaner on for 15 to 20 minutes before rinsing.
Heavy Duty Cleaner
It would be nice to have a product you could just spray on and forget, but, unfortunately, nothing is quite that easy. However, if you have a particularly nasty job, you might tackle it with Meeco’s Red Devil Wood Stove Glass Cleaner.
It has the word “devil” in its name, and it works hard but is fiendishly harsh. A little goes a long way with this industrial-strength cleaner. If you don’t mind some handling precautions, this may be the one to use for the filthiest jobs. Nasty stains come off with little or no scrubbing.
This contains lye and is caustic, dangerous to your hands, and not good to breathe. Use gloves, open a window, and consider wearing a mask. Lay the door flat and beware of drips. Cover metals, gaskets, and seals; this stuff can damage them.
Spray the glass with the Meeco. For most jobs, you can just let it sit a few minutes and wipe it off. If there are heavy deposits it might take more than one try, and you may have to scour with a kitchen scrub sponge or a stiff brush.
DIY Fireplace Door Cleaning
If you don’t like the ideas of using chemicals, or if you just don’t want another bottle of cleaner crowding your shelves, here are a couple of home-grown solutions that could do the trick for you. They may not work on the most stubborn stains, but for routine cleaning or light cleanings, they’re generally adequate.
Make Your Own Cleaning Solution
Here’s an easy-to-blend concoction that’s good not only for fireplace glass but for bathtubs, grout, and other dirty jobs around the house. Mix one cup of vinegar, three cups of water and a tablespoon of ammonia and pour some into a spray bottle. Spray it onto the glass and leave it there about 30 seconds. Use a cotton cloth or t-shirt and scrub in circles until the soot comes loose. Then wipe it off. You may have to repeat this two or three times.
If there’s caked-up gunk that doesn’t yield, and you still won’t want to use a commercial product, you can try scraping with a razor blade at a 45-degree angle. Or sometimes a spackle knife will work.
Cleaning with Ash
One of the most interesting cleaning products is already right there in your fireplace. It’s the ash. Just make sure it’s completely cool before you try this. Coals can retain heat for up to 48 hours. If you can’t stick your hand in it, don’t use it.
You’ll need paper towels, a bowl or pan of tap water, a spray bottle of water, and some newspaper. Black and white newspaper is best; save the Sunday funnies to read when you’re done.
Dip the newspaper in the water and then in the ash. You don’t need much of either. Dampen the newspaper and pick up just a little ash.
Rub it in with a circular motion. As the glass becomes less black your newspaper will become more black. Throw out that piece of newspaper and moisten some more. Keep going until there glass is just about clean. Then spray it with the water bottle and wipe it with a paper towel. Do that until you don’t see any residue on the towel. The last step is the wipe the surface dry with a new towel.
Fireplace Cleaning Tools
As you’ve seen, there aren’t any specialized fire glass cleaning tools. The most important one is a good pair of rubber gloves. If you’re using a particularly caustic cleaning solution, you might add a mask.
Most messes come off with some kind of towel or cloth. Shop towels work fine for most applications. If you use cloth, cotton is best, and an old cotton t-shirt works just fine. In most cases, there’s no advantage to microfiber, and you’re just going to make a sooty mess of your nice cloth. You’ll make a sooty mess of your cotton, too, which is a good argument for using paper towels.
It may be tempting to try a squeegee, but it’s not a great choice. With a cloth or towel, you’ll have much better control over where your cleaner or water goes.
It’s okay to use a scrubbing device such as a bristle brush, stiff brush, or kitchen scrub sponge. If there’s caked-on gunk that doesn’t want to budge, you can go after it with a razor or a putty knife held at a 45-degree angle.
Whether you pick up a commercial cleaner or make your own, you probably already have all the tools you need around the house.