Spring Cleaning Your Fireplace — Part Two: Removing Soot from Wood Mantels and Metal Trim

Nothing mars the beauty of your fireplace like unsightly soot, but using harsh chemical cleaners to remove the oily buildup isn’t the only option. In Part One of this short series, we covered how to clean soot from brick and glass. In this section, we’ll offer tips and tricks for spring cleaning the painted or stained wood mantle and metal trim pieces around your fireplace or gas insert.


The Mantel

Don’t despair if your painted or stained wood mantel gets sooty, and don’t drag out any stiff cleaning brushes or toxic chemicals that could damage the wood, either. Follow these simple steps and your wood mantel will look like it just came off the showroom floor:

  • Remove all decorative accessories so nothing is in your way.
  • Dust the mantel and wipe off all the soot you can with a plain damp rag. Never soak the wood with water.
  • Use a “magic eraser” or a square of melamine foam to scrub soot away. Rub the eraser in small circles until the soot is gone and move on to a new section. An alternative to buying costly cleaning erasers is to purchase a large sheet of melamine foam and cut it into smaller squares. Melamine foam is used for soundproofing and is typically available at stores specializing in musical equipment and home supply outlets.
  • If stubborn soot remains, clean it with a paste of 2 parts baking soda and 1 part water. Stir the ingredients together and adjust until you’ve got a paste approximately the same consistency as toothpaste. Clean one section of the mantel at a time, rubbing the paste onto the wood and wiping it off with a damp cloth. Remove any baking soda residue with a dry cloth.
  • Wash the entire mantel with a wood soap such as Murphy’s to return the wood’s glow after the soot’s been removed.

The Metal

Getting those small metal accents around a gas insert and on the protective glass shield can be a chore, but you might have the best cleaner for this job in your kitchen right now. Acidic foods such as ketchup, vinegar or Worchester sauce are suggested for shining up brass and other metals. The easiest method of all is to cut a lemon in half, run the sliced side along the metal to distribute a thin layer of juice, rub off soot and debris with the peel of the lemon, and then wipe it all down with a clean cloth. The nubby peel of the lemon works as a gentle scrubber and distributes natural oils to the metal trim that leave it shining.

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