If you have a fireplace in your home, then you will certainly have ash and soot inside. You will need to take care of them periodically in order to keep your fireplace looking clean. However, you need to make sure you handle them right.
To get rid of ash, you should consider investing in a specialized ash vacuum. It will make it very easy for you to get your all of the ash out of your fireplace. However, you would need to be prepared to pay quite a bit of money for this specialized appliance.
A much cheaper solution would be to use a metal container with a lid. You can purchase one of these from your local big box store.
When removing ashes from your fireplace, it is important for you to allow them to cool down beforehand. The ashes can be quite hot without you even realizing it. You definitely do not want to put in any hot ashes inside the vacuum bag because it will cause damage to the appliance or potentially fire. This is why we suggest a metal container. If you put the lid on the metal container this will starve any hot embers of oxygen, causing them to go out. Once they are in the bucket for a couple days, and the container is cool, you can transfer them to a trash bag. be sure to wear a dust mask so you are not breathing in the ash.
One of the easiest ways to deal with ashes is to burn dry firewood. The EPA suggests burning only hard wood with a moisture content of 20% or less. this will reduce the amount of ash due to more complete combustion of the wood.
When it comes to dealing with soot, it is best to buy a commercial cleaner. You certainly will not be able to wipe it off with just a cloth. You can also make homemade solutions to get rid of soot. A combination of bleach, hot water, and detergent will get the job done. A combination of vinegar and warm water should work too.
To keep your fireplace looking and smelling clean, you will need to call a CSIA certified chimney professional such as Smalling Masonry once a year to do a complete system inspection and sweep. This is recommended by The National Fire Protection Agency, and the Chimney Safety Institute of America. It is the standard of care for your system and an annual inspection could save you on costly chimney repair in the future