How to clean a stone hearth

As winter approaches, it's time to prepare the fireplace. Here are our best tips for how to clean a fireplace surround and hearth.

Updated

Fireplace with piled wood and a clean slate hearth

Key steps

If you want to know how to clean a stone hearth:

  1. Vacuum or brush away loose dirt.
  2. Use mildly soapy water to clean a slate or granite hearth, then rinse.
  3. Clean marble hearths with warm distilled water and a microfibre cloth.
  4. Always dry the hearth afterwards.

It’s always a good idea to clean your hearth in preparation for cosy evenings around the fireplace before the winter months roll in. Here’s how to clean a fireplace surround and hearth in a quick and simple way.

For obvious reasons, don’t use any of these methods while the fire is lit! The hearth should be completely cold before you attempt any cleaning. Lay down plastic sheeting to protect nearby floors and furniture (if you forget this step, we do have an article on how to clean soot from brick and carpet).

Some hearths are more susceptible to cleaning damage than others. Before trying any new cleaning method, test it on an inconspicuous corner of your hearth.

The first thing to know about cleaning marble is to never use vinegar. You may occasionally see recommendations to use white vinegar when you’re looking up how to clean a stone hearth, but marble is a delicate stone that’s easily damaged by even mild acids.

How to clean granite hearth (or slate)

Often, all your hearth needs is a quick vacuuming or a going-over with a dustpan and soft brush. For a more serious clean, though, here’s how to clean a slate hearth, or one made of granite:

  1. Vacuum or sweep the hearth as clean as you can get it. There’s not much point in trying to scrub away dirt that’s already loose. If you’re sweeping, use a soft brush to avoid scratches.
  2. Dip a soft sponge or cloth into some slightly soapy water: warm water mixed with a tiny amount of washing-up liquid. Squeeze the excess water out, then gently rub the hearth clean with circular motions.
  3. Rinse the hearth with a clean sponge dipped in water.
  4. When you’ve finished, dry the hearth with a cloth or towel, or you’ll be searching for tips on how to remove stains from slate hearth again earlier than you planned; water can easily sink into a slate hearth and stain it.

For more detail on how to clean a stone hearth, our article on how to clean a stone fireplace may be of use.

How to polish a slate hearth

You can buy commercial slate oil to polish your hearth up, but there are a few possible alternatives you could try after cleaning slate hearth. Baby oil, teak oil, olive oil: these are things you might have around the house already. Again, you’ll want to test them on a hidden corner before you go wild, but they might save you some money compared to a specialised slate polish. Apply the oil to a rag, rub it onto the hearth in small circles, then buff it with a clean cloth.

How to clean a marble hearth

Marble is easily stained and damaged, so here’s a gentler method for how to clean a marble hearth:

  1. Vacuum the hearth to remove loose dirt. If you want to sweep it instead, use a very soft brush; marble is easily scratched.
  2. Gently clean the marble with a microfibre cloth dipped in warm distilled water. Even the impurities in regular tap water can stain marble. Squeeze excess water out of the cloth before you start; you want it to be damp, not dripping wet.
  3. As soon as you’ve finished, dry the hearth with a second microfibre cloth. Again, leaving water on a stone hearth can cause water stains.

If you’d like, you can finish with a polish designed specifically for marble. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

For more detail, we have a specific article on how to clean a marble fireplace.

How to clean a fireplace surround made of ceramic tiles

You might as well work on the surround while you’re cleaning the hearth. Mix warm water with a little washing-up liquid; if you’re cleaning a slate or granite hearth with soapy water, you can use the same solution. Dip a soft scrubbing brush in the mixture, then start cleaning the tiles. Try it on a corner first to make sure it won’t cause damage, though, especially if the tiles are very old. Rinse and dry afterwards.

For more advice on fireplace cleaning, check out our article on how to clean a cast-iron fireplace.

Originally published