Ah, the cozy scent of wood smoke. It conjures up so many beautiful memories of both campfire chatter and hot chocolates around a fireplace. It’s quite rare for houses in urban areas to have wood-burning fireplaces these days though. But if you’re fortunate enough to own one with a granite or marble surround, you probably know very well just how hard it is to keep it spick-and-span. Nonetheless, no matter how hard it is, it’s got to be done.
Wood smoke is actually slightly acidic because it contains particulates of partially burned fuel. These particulates accumulate on the porous surfaces of granite and marble and risk etching them – especially marble. This is why the fireplace and its surround must be cared for regularly if you want to keep them in their original polished splendour.
And it really doesn’t have to be that difficult. Here’s a good maintenance schedule to get you started:
Every week or every month (depending on usage)
If you only use your fireplace occasionally, you can afford to do this once a month; if you use it regularly though, definitely make this a weekly habit.
Gently wipe away the soot and grime on the fireplace surround surface with a damp cloth soaked in warm soapy water. Use a mild, non-acidic dish detergent for the soap. Rinse away the soap with clean, warm water and a different damp cloth. With a dry sponge, carefully mop up all the liquid and remaining damp spots so that there won’t be any streaks left after the surface dries. If there are grout lines, take care to clean them the same way, too. This is done to minimise the build-up of soot on the fireplace surround. It’ll make your job a lot easier when it comes to deep-cleaning time.
The above should usually do the trick if you’ve been following that schedule religiously. If ever there are any tough soot spots you can’t get out, dilute some hydrogen peroxide in 4 times as much water. Pour a little bit of the solution on the soot spot, preferably along the edge to test if it works well first. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles to scrub it out. Because soot grime is different from the usual countertop stains in the kitchen, unconventional cleaning methods are called for. If all that somehow still doesn’t work, call your countertop fabricator for help. Whatever you do though, never use ammonia-based or bleach cleaning solutions.
Every 3 months
Look over every inch of the fireplace to make sure there aren’t any chips, cracks or damages to its structure. This is important because the slightest structural damage to the fireplace is a potential fire hazard should you continue using it unawares. Call in an expert to sweep the chimney of any soot and obstructions all the way up to the chimney cap. Right after you’ve done the usual weekly or monthly maintenance, thoroughly clean the surround surface with the proper granite or marble cleaning solution. When everything is clean and dry, seal the granite or marble surface with their respective sealants. Keeping this up regularly on schedule will give you peace of mind that the fireplace is structurally sound and sealed even when you decide to burn a few logs just for the heck of it.
Once you have a schedule and a system set up, all you have to do is stick to it. The hard part’s already done! You just have to make this a habit. If you ever find yourself wavering though, try following this handy flowchart guide on how to change a habit. Keep it up and your reward will be enjoying many cozy nights curled up by the fireplace.