How to Clean Your Plaster Fireplace Mantel Effectively

Blog |December 7th, 2016

Soot from a fireplace can leave ugly black smoke stains on your plaster mantel. And since soot is quite oily, it may be difficult to clean. In fact, it actually adheres to the surface and easily smears when touched. This can make it rather difficult to get off the surface. However, there are certain cleaning products and methods that clean your plaster fireplace mantel effectively.

Does the Mantel have a Seal?

The very first step in cleaning your mantel is to determine if it has been sealed or not. If there is a seal, then you need to classify the type of seal that was used. In truth, seals are made from a wide variety of materials such as paint and milk, a combination of alum and potassium oleate, wax and varnish.

Once you determine the sealant that was used, the rest is quite easy. In fact, since plaster is very porous it is simple to clean. On the other hand, unsealed plaster can be rather difficult to clean without damaging the mantel. A good way to determine if the plaster has been sealed is by the sealed plaster and the light sheen on its surface. Also, sealed plaster is less porous. But if you are ever unsure, consult with a professional before cleaning.

Cleaning Sealed Plaster

Before you begin cleaning, open the windows so that there is ventilation in the room. Vacuum or lightly dust the mantel to remove any dirt. Clean the surface with a swab or sponge that is lightly dampened with warm water or mineral spirits (also known as white spirit and mineral turpentine). If you are still in doubt, use only water. Use a toothbrush to get in between small crevices being careful not to apply to much pressure. Areas to be extra careful with are places that have a thin seal coating and where there is flaking plaster. Marks that are sticky can be cleaned by washing the surface with a slightly clean damp cloth.

Use a soft cloth or brush to remove excess dust. Just be careful with any metal rings on the brush for they can damage the surface. Avoid using abrasive cleaning products; they can certainly remove the surface layer. Also, minimize the amount of liquid since plaster is a porous element. The most difficult stains will be those that are deep within the plaster.

The best dry cleaning material options include a sponge, a Groom Stick and natural rubber products that are moisture free.

Cleaning Unsealed Plaster

The best methods for cleaning unsealed plaster are to use a soft sponge with a small amount of non-abrasive cleaner. Only slightly dampen the sponge. Also use gentle motions while scrubbing. Make sure to contact a professional if you are in doubt of what to use for a cleaning agent.

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