Tidy Tuesday – Just Call Me Cinderella

No, not because I’m a princess (though I will take the opportunity to brag about my Prince Charming), but because I have come to intimately know the cinder soot of a fireplace. A fireplace built in 1946 that likely hasn’t been cleaned since.

Our house had been staged when it was on the market, so a lot of the unseemly features of an older home had either been covered with paint or thrown in the garage. It was convincing for a half-ass effort.

For example – the gold trimmed, glass plated fireplace cover was removed. The house has a beautiful mantle and a nice, brick fireplace and the cover really did nothing for the living room’s aesthetic. It was a great choice that we actually stuck with. It makes the fireplace a focal point, and since you can’t burn wood in Sacramento County very often anyway, we didn’t need the cover. High five on our first design choice!

However, now that the fireplace was our focal point, so was the square rim of black soot on the outside brick that the ugly cover, well, covered. Le sigh. In comparison to the bathroom remodel, the floor refinishing, the built-in bar removal (yeah, it was a frat house in here), and the extensive painting, soot seemed to be an awfully low priority.

And low priority it stayed. Until all of those other things were finished and we decided to have a housewarming party. We can’t showcase our Home & Garden worthy (yeah right) living room with soot from the last 77 years caked on to half of our brick!

Enter, Tidy Tuesday fodder.

I rolled up my sleeves, googled how to clean soot stains, and got to work with every home remedy I could find.

So, as instructed by google results, I went down this list of cleansing tools:

1. Bucket of warm water and a sponge – self explanatory

2. White vinegar and a scrub brush – dip the brush, scrub onto stain, let sit, rinse and repeat

3. Mix dish soap with salt to form a paste – apply with scrub brush, let sit, rinse and repeat.

This is the best "before" picture we have.

This is the best “before” picture we have.

At the end of all the scrubbing and repeating and switching to a toothbrush for the grout, I realized that the most effective method was the original sponge and water. All of the google results made it seem like the soot would be really difficult to scrub off and even suggested rubber gloves, but honestly, it came off the brick faces pretty easily. The real pain was trying to get the soap off without it foaming up all over the place and the brick did shred the sponge pretty quickly. The grout, despite all of my toothbrush scrubbing and voodoo cleaning mixtures, stayed pretty black. But I’m choosing to think that it gives the fireplace an age appropriate look, rather than the overall gross, sooty look it had before. It’ll never look like a brand new fireplace, but at least a decently well kept one.

Ta da!

Ta da!

I was sort of hoping that I would stumble upon a great cleaning recipe, but I’m pretty okay with having a bit of advice for anyone else tackling such a task.

1. Use a sturdy sponge or have multiple at hand. Brick and fluffy sponges don’t get along

2. You will go through a lot of warm water. I dumped and re-filled the bucket at least 7 times. Soot is not a joke.

3. Save the rubber gloves for the bleach.

4. Play it up. Put soot on your face, ruin a pair of cleaning clothes, sing a song with forest creatures. Let your inner Cinderella shine and show that fireplace who’s boss!

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