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Why Gas Fireplaces Need to be Cleaned (and How to Do It)

We have a gas fireplace in need of some cleaning, but we weren’t sure how to do it, or if even why it needed to be cleaned in the first place. After all, isn’t the gas that’s burning clean? There can’t be much residue left behind, right?

Gas fireplaces need to be cleaned periodically since various types of material such as bird nests, dead animals, and soot can accumulate in them over time. If they are not cleaned, they can become a safety hazard.

There’s a lot of information out there that can help you take care of your gas fireplace. The primary step is to understand how to clean and inspect it regularly. This guide will help you gain the knowledge that you need to do this effectively. Let’s jump in.

What Happens if You Don’t Clean Gas Fireplaces?

Many homeowners think that their gas fireplace is maintenance-free (we sure did). But this simply is not true. While it may not require as much attention as a wood-burning fireplace, it still needs to be cleaned. Here are some things that can happen if gas fireplaces don’t get cleaned at least yearly.

Components Could Break

If you don’t clean your gas fireplace, then a specific component such as the blower could be malfunctioning and potentially create more damage, leading to a larger repair cost.

This not only means that the fireplace stops working but a potentially hefty repair bill. Proper maintenance will help your gas fireplace last longer.

Burners Can Become Blocked With Debris

Your gas fireplace will not function correctly if the burners aren’t working. This can happen if there’s too much debris built up, such as dust or ash (if you have a gas fireplace that also burns wood).

When the burners fail, it may go beyond simply cleaning them out. If it’s bad enough, they might need to be replaced.

The Gas Can Start To Smell

Cleaning a gas fireplace involves more than just the chimney. The gas logs need to be rotated and replaced after several years. This will help with the smell and reducing the buildup of dust and soot.

If you notice your fireplace smells strange when you’re using it, it might not have been cleaned out in a while.

Air Could Build Up in the Gas Line

If you haven’t used or performed maintenance on your gas fireplace in some time, then you might have air build-up in the gas lines.

You can get this taken care of by bleeding out the air before using it. Until then, the gas likely won’t be able to make its way through the hose. 

How Often do Gas Fireplaces Need to be Cleaned?

Like wood-burning fireplaces, gas fireplaces should be inspected and cleaned at least once a year. Gas fireplaces can have a series of mechanical issues, along with a buildup of soot in the firebox or chimney. It’s usually a good idea to get your chimney inspected and cleaned during this time as well.

While the hard and fast rule is to always maintain something before it becomes problematic, there are some guidelines you can follow when it comes to your gas fireplace.

Yearly Cleanings Are Best

A good tip is to put it on your calendar now. Gas fireplaces should be cleaned at least once a year. This is especially true for chimneys, which should also be inspected at the same time. 

While there may not be any soot or creosote to worry about, you may discover some bird nests and other debris that needs to be removed. 

Regular Cleanings Allow Carbon Monoxide an Escape

Gas fireplaces emit carbon monoxide among other fumes. To provide an effective escape hatch for them, gas fireplaces need a clear chimney.

Since gas fireplaces have no built-in mechanism for letting you know that the chimney is clogged, make sure you keep it clean and open so the fumes don’t affect your household.

Preparing Your Gas Fireplace for an Annual Inspection and Cleaning

Other than having a professional come by and inspect and clean your gas fireplace, it would also be helpful to have a carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide detector installed for better peace of mind and preventive care.

How Much Does It Cost to Clean a Gas Fireplace?

a woman paying with cash

Cleaning a gas fireplace yourself normally won’t cost anything since you’ll likely have some cleaning materials already on hand. However, if you choose to have your gas fireplace professionally cleaned, it will cost an average of $100 and a typical maximum of $200. This is excluding any possible replacement parts.

The expense of cleaning a gas fireplace depends on several variables, with the type of fireplace making the most significant difference. The two most common types of gas fireplaces are gas insert fireplaces and direct vent gas fireplaces.

The Cost of Cleaning a Gas Insert Fireplace

Since this type of fireplaces only uses a simple gas line to work, it’s the easiest to clean. In many cases, you can do this on your own for free.

You can reference your fireplace’s manual to see the best way to clean and maintain it. If you no longer have the manual, you can contact the manufacturer and they can help direct you from there.

Just make sure everything is cleaned and put back into place before you start the fireplace back up.

Keep in mind, scheduling an annual inspection is also a good idea to make sure there are no leaks or cracks in the gas line itself. For this, you are looking at roughly $100 for each visit.

The Cost of Cleaning a Direct-Vent Fireplace

Since this type of gas fireplace depends on a vent to get the heat out of the house, this also has to be properly cleaned.

Again, you can do this yourself when the fireplace is not being used, and everything is cool.

You can also have a professional do it for you. This will also be about $100. Having a yearly reminder on your calendar is a good way to make sure your gas fireplace and its components stay working properly.

12 Steps to Clean a Gas Fireplace

If you have a gas fireplace and are looking to clean it yourself, there are some important guidelines to keep in mind before you begin.

1. Do Your Own Inspection First

To begin with the visual inspection, make sure all of the logs are in their proper place and that there’s no dust or debris present. Take a quick look at the glass and check that it’s not cracked or loose. 

Now, take a good look up the chimney and vent. Ensure that the bricks don’t have cracks and nothing is blocking the vent. Go ahead and start the fireplace now and make sure that it ignites and that the burner is working as it should.

2. Make Sure You Can Access the Controls

taking the panel off of a gas fireplace

Once your fireplace has cooled, check that you can access the controls of the fireplace so we can clean them. To do this, take down the screen in the front or open up the grate on the bottom of the fireplace itself. 

If there is a top grate, take it off to get access to the controls. Know that many gas fireplaces have a front screen or grate that is held together by a magnet. You just need to lift it up and then pull it out. 

3. Ensure the Gas is Turned Off

Accessing the controls and turning off the pilot light on a gas fireplace

Before you clean the fireplace, turn off the gas supply. If there is a pilot light, go ahead and switch that off now. Make sure that the gas valve is shut off at this time as well. 

4. Take Off the Glass

Taking the glass doors off of a gas fireplace

There will be two spring-loaded clips on the bottom of the glass. Release these and then do the same to the two clips on the top of the frame. Keep in mind that some frames may be held together with screws. 

Once you have released these clips, tip the glass slightly until it comes out. Have a clean and soft surface prepared nearby that you can place the glass on. Also, take a good look at the perimeter gasket and check that are no issues there. 

5. Go Ahead and Clean the Glass

Now that you have the glass placed on a soft surface, go ahead and give it a good cleaning. Make sure that you clean it on both sides. If you’d like, you can use a professional-grade glass cleaner to remove the gunk.

Use a soft cloth or a paper towel to do this job. If there are some carbon deposits on the glass that are difficult to remove, then use a glass cleaner specifically made for fireplaces. 

6. Take a Photo Before Continuing

This step might seem to be out of place, but it is an essential part of the cleaning process. You are now about to start taking things out of the fireplace, so it’s a good idea to have a visual reminder of how everything should look when you put it back together. 

Take out your smartphone and take a quick picture before you start to remove anything. It only takes one second and can save a lot of time down the road.

7. Take Out the Rocks and Clean Them

gas fireplace pipe with lava rocks

It is now time to take the lava rocks out of the fireplace so that you can give them a good cleaning. Have a container available that you can put the rocks into as you remove them. The ember fiber should be removed and placed in a separate container. 

Go ahead and transfer the lava rocks into a colander or strainer. Rinse them thoroughly with cold water. Put an old towel down on the kitchen counter and then spread the wet rocks out on it. Give them time to dry. 

One note here—dump the dirty water outside, don’t throw it down the kitchen sink or toilet. Putting a bowl or bucket under the colander or strainer as your work will keep the dirty water out of the drain and prevent clogging.

8. Remove the Logs

Removing the fireplace logs from a gas fireplace

Now, to give the logs a good cleaning, first take them out of the fireplace. Do this one by one. As you remove each one, place it on a towel or an old piece of cardboard. 

The logs might actually be attached to a plate in the fireplace. If so, remove the screws that are fastened between the mounting plate and firebox floor to remove the logs. 

Do not clean the logs with water. Instead, vacuum them. If you have a bottle of compressed air, then you can also use it to help clean the logs. 

9. Thoroughly Clean the Firebox

You can clean the firebox by using a vacuum cleaner. Get rid of any dirt, dust, or various types of debris that you see. Once done, you can use a microfiber towel or cloth to clean the walls of the firebox. Vinegar is a good natural cleaner here and will help remove the soot from the walls.

Cleaning it properly means not only will you have a much cleaner-looking burning gas fireplace, but it will also smell better.

10. Make Sure the Burner is Clean

To get to the burner, take down the shield or cover that protects the burner and the ignition. 

Make sure to remember how it comes apart because it will need to be put back together when it’s finished.

The burner is another part that you can use the vacuum to clean. Suck up any soot, dust, or other types of deposits. If any debris is stuck, consider using compressed air to dislodge it.

11. Re-assemble everything

Now comes the fun part. Put everything back together just like you found it when you started the process. Naturally, re-assemble everything in reverse order. Start with the burner cover and re-install that. Then, put the logs back in the fireplace one at a time. Consult the photo you took as a guide for their placements.

Be careful here, as it’s easy to chip or break the logs. Once you have the logs back in as they should be, you can then sprinkle the lava rocks around them. 

The ember fibers should then be placed behind the flame ports. Make sure you do not actually put it directly on the port. Now, install the glass and make sure that the clips are secure. The final part of the assembly process is to put the front screen or grate back on your gas fireplace.

12. Go Ahead and Start It Up for a Final Check

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. You have a clean gas fireplace that you’re ready to enjoy once again. To make sure everything is ready, light the fireplace and check that it’s working properly. 

The pilot flame should completely cover the thermocouple unit. Take a look at the flames. They should be emitting a tip that is a strong yellow color. The base of the flame should appear to be a combination of blue and white. 

Make sure that flames are not hitting the logs directly. Instead, they should be curving around them. If this is what you’re seeing, then you are good to go.

While every fireplace is a bit different, these twelve steps should provide a solid foundation to ensure that you can clean yours effectively.

Alternatively, you can call a professional to come out and do the cleaning for you. Whatever you decide in the end, it is important to have the fireplace cleaned and inspected on an annual basis.