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Ask Martha: Cleaning Soot from a Fireplace

I’m done using my fireplace for the season. How should I clean out the soot?
—Abbey Theban, Tulsa, Okla.

A quick going-over at the end of the season will keep your fireplace spotless until next winter. Start by shielding surrounding surfaces with a protective covering, like newspaper, to prevent soot from spreading. Then follow these steps from Scott Santel, store manager of the Home Depot in Maryville, Tennessee.

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Remove andirons and grate. Add water to trisodium phosphate (TSP) powder to create a paste. Apply to andirons and grate and scrub with a nylon brush. Rinse completely with water; wipe dry.

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Scoop out any leftover piles of ash and debris with a fireplace shovel and discard.

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Scrub fireplace walls from top down with TSP paste and dirt-removal sponge, such as the Dry Cleaning Soot sponge ($33 for 12, homedepot.com).

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