Cracklin’ Clear: How to Clean Fireplace Glass

By | July 21, 2022

Whether you use products in your home or brand cleaners, cleaning your fireplace glass is an easy way to give your space a subliminal upgrade while preventing unhealthy particles from building up.

Watching a roaring fire through dirty fireplace glass is kind of like watching a fireworks display on a cloudy night – womp, womp. The best way to bring cozy back is to clean that fireplace glass asap.

However, each type of glass contains slightly different materials, so cleaning each type of glass is going to be slightly different.

The glass doors on your fireplace are likely either ceramic glass or tempered glass. These types of glass can take both the heat and more than a few dollars out of your pocket. So instead of replacing them, give these cleaning methods a try.

cleaning tile surface
Juan Moyano/Stocksy United

Cleaning the glass on a gas fireplace

A lot of people don’t realize it, but that white haze on your gas fireplace glass isn’t a charming faux holiday scene for window shoppers. It’s a buildup of combustion by-products. And you can clean that gunk right off.

Make sure to let your fireplace glass cool down completely before cleaning it. Sounds like a no-brainer but, hey, most coffee still comes with a “warning: hot” label. Once it’s cool to the touch, you’re good to go.

Step 1: Remove the fireplace glass

Cleaning your fireplace glass might be messy AF, so remove the glass if you can. This gives you much better angles for cleaning and lowers the chance you’ll create a messy scene on your floor. Most gas fireplaces have glass that can be taken out relatively easily. 

  1. Turn off your gas. A clumsy misstep could knock open a gas line, so don’t take any risks.
  2. Lay down a towel that is larger than the glass. This protects both the glass and your floor.
  3. You’ll be using some cleaning products, so crack open a window for some ventilation. Consider wearing rubber cleaning gloves to protect your precious digits.
  4. Find the owner’s manual for your fireplace. It will most likely show you how to remove the glass. 
  5. If you can’t find it, no worries. Your fireplace glass probably has decorative grates that can be removed. Go ahead and take them out carefully.
  6. Once the grates are out, look for simple screws to unfasten the glass or spring loaded fasteners that can pop open.
  7. Remove the glass carefully. Be sure not to bump those fake logs! They’re positioned for safety reasons.
  8. Gently place the glass on the towel, dirty side up obvi.

Step 2: Wax on, wax off

There are a lot of options for cleaning products made specially for fireplace glass. The simplest option for gas fireplace glass is a conditioning glass cleaner. Not really wax, but it looks a bit like car wax. The specific instructions may change from brand to brand, but generally, you’ll want to:

  1. Squirt some of that cleaner onto a microfiber cloth. (Some brands suggest using a paper towel, but paper towels can sometimes leave streaks.)
  2. Use circular motions to wipe down the fireplace glass.
  3. Reload with more glass cleaner as needed.
  4. Wipe down the glass cleaner residue with a clean microfiber.

Once the glass is fully dried, reinstall it, turn your gas back on and… voila! A crystal clear view of the cozy fire.

Again, each cleaner will have its own specific instructions. Make sure to take a minute to read them.

P.S. Avoid any abrasive cleaners or scrubbing pads. Those will leave your fireplace glass looking worse than when you started. 

Cleaning the glass on a wood burning fireplace

Cleaning the glass on a wood burning fireplace door is a slightly different deal. For starters, the grime on wood burning fireplace glass is probably a lot… grimier. Caked on soot and ash might require a little more elbow grease. 

Also, you probably can’t remove the glass doors. All good. Just lay down some towels or a drop cloth. Why? The cleaning options for wood burning fireplace glass tend to be more on the runny side. As you clean it, the glass will start to look like someone sobbing while wearing non-waterproof mascara, so protect your floor from this runny river of gross!

Here are a few options for tackling that ashy buildup on wood burning fireplace glass.

1. Use ash to fight ash

One of the best ways to clean ash is to use ash. Yep, that pile of ash that’s sitting in the fireplace is a shockingly good cleaner.

Ash is an ingredient in lye, the cleaning stuff your high school shop teacher taught you all about. When you mix ash with a little water, it creates a very mild abrasive that’s as effective as it is cheap. 

So grab a wet cloth or newspaper (if you somehow haven’t digitized all your news sources) then:

  1. Dab the wet cloth or arcane newspaper in the pile of ash.
  2. Scrub the glass in a circular motion.
  3. Repeat til you’re done and/or exhausted.

Don’t forget, burning wood creates particles that are harmful to your health, including the ash you’re using as a cleaner. Your best bet is to wear an N95 mask while cleaning so that you can filter out those nasty little particles.

2. Use a vinegar solution

Another cheap option for cleaning soot from fireplace glass is vinegar. White distilled vinegar is best. You can use it on its own or mix it with some warm water. There isn’t any set recipe for this concoction, but one cup of vinegar to three cups of water should work.

The easiest way to apply the vinegar solution is to use a clean (preferably new) spray bottle. Make sure to keep the vinegar away from your eyes and skin. Ouch. And never mix vinegar with other household chemicals. They do NOT play nicely together. 

If you decide on the vinegar solution, here’s what to do to clean the glass:

  1. Mix one cup of white distilled vinegar with three cups of warm water.
  2. (optional) Add an additional ingredient (cornstarch or alcohol) for more cleaning oomph.
  3. Do NOT add any other chemicals.
  4. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle.
  5. Spray on to the fireplace glass. Let it sit for about 30 seconds.
  6. Wipe with a microfiber cloth.
  7. Repeat until you’re satisfied and/or exhausted.

Pro tips for using vinegar as a cleaner

Add one of the following to this solution for an even stronger cleaner:

  • one tablespoon of cornstarch 
  • a quarter-cup of rubbing alcohol 

For getting at those super tough, caked on stains, do NOT use a razor. These blades can scrape off some of the protective coating of certain types of fireplace glass.

Instead, create a paste by adding your vinegar solution to some of that ash. Apply the paste liberally and let it sit for a bit before scrubbing clean with a microfiber.

P.S. This vinegar solution you created like a chem teacher is also great for cleaning other places in your home, like your toilet, sink or shower. It can augment or even replace most store bought cleaners

3. Use commercial cleaner options

For those of you who aren’t into the DIY cleaner mixology, there is always the pre-mixed commercial stuff. 

There are specific fireplace cleaners as well as oven cleaners that are effective at removing soot from other surfaces like your grill. When cleaning glass for a wood burning fireplace, make sure to opt for a cleaner that specializes in ash and soot.

Once you’ve picked your product:

  1. Spray the cleaner on the glass.
  2. Let it sit for at least 30 seconds.
  3. Use a damp sponge, microfiber cloth or rag to clean off the excess.

Don’t skip any brand-specific instructions on the cleaner packaging. Also, it’s probably a good idea to wear dish gloves or rubber work gloves while handling these commercial cleaners. Some of them can be harsh on your skin. 

What about Windex?

The O.G. version of Windex contains ammonia which is a no no for tempered glass. It can mark up the surface like an Etch-a-Sketch. Windex offers ammonia-free products, but nothing specifically for cleaning fireplace glass.

Health reasons for cleaning your fireplace glass regularly

Cleaning your fireplace glass is first and foremost an aesthetic perk. A charming fire glowing behind crystal clear glass is more vibrant than those 8 hour yule logs on YouTube.

But there are some health concerns at play here, too. The particles that are released into your home from wood burning fireplaces – the ones that eventually settle down as ash – are carcinogenic. The EPA points out that inhaling these pollutants can cause a bunch of health risks such as:

  • increased risk of heart attack
  • irregular heartbeat
  • heart failure or stroke
  • asthma or other lung diseases

If you have an old wood burning stove, it might be time to ditch it in favor of a gas stove or an EPA certified pellet stove which burns renewable pellets. You could try making your own DIY faux fireplace.

As far as how often to clean fireplace glass, you really only need to do it once or twice a year. The more often you do, though, the more buildup you’re preventing. That means less work time dedicated to your spring cleaning list.

To keep fireplace grime from building up on your glass:

  • Try using a magic eraser on the glass once a month.
  • Clean the glass with a vinegar solution regularly.
  • Make sure the gas lines on your gas fireplace are clear and in good working order.
  • If you have a wood burner, don’t let ashes sit for too long once they’ve cooled. Clean them out ASAP.

Bottom line

Whether you have a gas fireplace, a wood burning fireplace, a fireplace insert or a pellet stove, cleaning your fireplace glass is an important part in keeping your cozy home a healthy one, too.

For your gas fireplace, remove the glass (if you can) and lay it on a large towel. Then use a conditioning glass cleaner with a microfiber cloth to clean off that haze. 

To tackle the ash and soot on wood burning fireplace glass, you can opt for a vinegar solution or the old school ash-and-water mix. In both cases, always protect not only your floor while cleaning, but your eyes, skin and lungs, too.

If you don’t want to play chem teacher, you can pick from a wide range of glass cleaning products that are designed specifically for fireplace glass. Read those labels, though. Some of them are designed for the residue from a gas fireplace, while other products are for a wood burner’s ash and soot.

Like cleaning your glasses or your car windshield, you might not realize how dirty it is until you see the results with crackling clarity.

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