How to Clean and Maintain Soapstone Fireplaces

What You'll Need
Household detergent
Paint stripper
Paper towels/Cotton towels
Old rag
Stone sealer application kit
Used toothbrush
Rubbing alcohol
Mineral oil

Among household fireplaces, soapstone fireplaces are regarded as a dependable, aesthetic option. Soapstone or steatite is a dark-colored stone that has been used in the residential and commercial building niche for many decades. It is a non-porous stone that is commonly used for laying fireplace surrounds and kitchen countertops. It has the best of features found in natural stones including resistance to high temperatures and chemical corrosion. Soapstone is best recommended for fireplaces in homes wherein a rustic, cozy ambience is needed. However, soapstone fireplaces need a basic degree of caring. This includes periodic cleaning and some basic maintenance.

Step 1—Getting Started with Regular, Basic Cleaning

Prepare a cleaning solution with lukewarm water and any kind of household cleaner that doesn’t contain bleach. Mix the solution well to form some suds. Dip a sponge in this solution and use it to clean the soapstone fireplace surround surface. You can also use an old toothbrush for mildly scraping the stains. However, you shouldn’t use abrasive cleaning aids like steel wool pads that can scratch the soapstone surface. After soaping and rubbing the soapstone, rinse it with plain water. Dry the surface with a cotton cloth.

Step 2—Cleaning Oily Grime

For removing the grime common to fireplace surfaces, start with the basic cleaning regimen explained above. Now, dab some rubbing alcohol on to a piece of dry cloth. Use this for cleaning the oily stains. The other alternative is to use branded, fine-grade sandpaper for rubbing-off the stain.

Step 3—Thorough Cleaning for Tougher Stains

Most fireplace surrounds develop marks sustained from smoke and debris formed in the fireplace. To remove such tough stains, the basic cleaning methods are not sufficient. After cleaning the surface with the soapy solution, proceed by dabbing the stains with a paint-stripper. Apply the most minimal amount of the stripper, using a paintbrush. Allow it to work on the stain for about three minutes. Continue by wiping off the stripper with a dry cloth. If some remnants of the stain are still visible, rub them with the old toothbrush and rinse the soapstone repeatedly.

Step 4—Basic Maintenance: Oiling Soapstone

Oiling the soapstone is necessary to ensure that the surface maintains its natural color. Timely oiling ensures that the soapstone doesn’t develop uneven color patterns that are induced due to extreme heat exuded from the fireplace. Regular oiling helps to camouflage many of the burn marks that are often induced on fireplace surfaces and other scratches.

Mineral oil is the most recommended agent for oiling soapstone. You can also use pure bee’s wax but this can be rather messy since the wax needs repeated rinsing to be washed-off. You need to oil the soapstone fireplace surround at least once, every month.

Just pour a few drops of mineral oil on a dry, clean rag. Use this rag for rubbing the soapstone surface. Wipe-off any excess oil using paper towels. Buff the surface with dry cotton cloth.

Step 5—Basic Maintenance: Sealing Repairs

Fireplace surrounds are sealed at the time of installation and have minimal edges that need re-sealing. However, the older fireplaces are prone to a bit of cracking around the sealed edges. It is advised to check the sealed edges and re-seal them if there is any indication of the sealant being eroded. Natural stone sealants are available in the form easy-to-use, self-application kits.