How To Safely Clean A Marble Fireplace

Have you got a stained marble mantel and don’t know how to clean it? Marble is a durable and classic material that can make the house look more elegant. You can find marble countertops in the kitchen or the bathroom, marble floors and fireplaces that make the place more attractive. A marble or stone fireplace in the living room can create a chic minimalist look. You can paint and properly decorate the fire surround and turn it into a unique place.

A huge black and white marble fireplace on a wooden flooring and a big bright kitchen on the background

However, beyond its beauty, a marble mantel is difficult to be cleaned, time-consuming and requires much effort to keep clean and in good condition. Fortunately, you don’t need complex marble cleaners. In fact, damp cloth and warm soapy water can work well. You should keep in mind, though, that marble is prone to stains, but there are simple techniques to remove every stain. If you want to know how to clean marble fireplaces safely, then keep reading!

Why is it important to clean your fireplace surround?

The majority of fireplace owners neglect to clean the fireplace surround. Marble is a porous natural stone and can be stained really easily, especially from acidic materials. Plus, it can absorb dust and debris. You should maintain a cleaning schedule for the proper function and look of the fireplace and the room in general.

How to clean a marble fireplace

Accidents can happen everywhere. A marble stain can be cleaned easily, mainly if you act as soon as the stain occurs. We might have said that warm water and dish soap is the perfect marble cleaning solution. However, depending on the stain, you might need something much stronger.

Here’s a list of the most everyday stains that someone might notice on a marble fireplace surround and how to clean each one.

1. Ink stains

Writing with pens close to the fireplace can lead to marks. If you own a light coloured marble mantel, you can use bleach or hydrogen peroxide, making sure you use a little at a time not to flake off colour. For a darker one, you can use acetone or lacquer thinner.

2. Rust Stains

One of the most stubborn and standard stains is rust, which can stain and dye the marble. Rust stains can be created by keeping flower pots on the marble or nails, screws, and fireside tools. The colour of the stain depends on the material that is corroded. If there is an iron and rust stain, you’ll know it because it’ll have an orangey-brown colour. If it’s a copper and bronze stain, it’ll have a green or muddy brown stain

Metal stains have to be removed using a poultice. It’s a liquid cleaner or a chemical mixed with a white absorbent material to form a paste. Apply it to the trouble area and let it sit for 24-48 hours to pull the stain. 

Note: If the metal stain is left for a long time, you probably won’t be able to remove it.

A woman wearing a rubber glove wipes down the marble fireplace preparing it for painting

3. Oil-based stains

Oil-based stains formed by grease, milk, wax, butter, and crayons can be soaked by the marble and create hard-to-remove stains. The stained area will look darker than the rest, and to clean it, you’ll have to use a powerful cleaner. 

You can clean it using a soft, liquid cleanser with bleach, household detergent, ammonia, mineral spirits or acetone. Just make sure you use it only if you own white marble or even light-coloured to avoid discolouration. 

4. Water stains

If you leave glasses on the marble surface or have spilt water, you’ll have noticed water spots and rings on the surface. To remove these irritating stains, you’ll have to scrub them with dry 0000 steel wool

5. Organic stains

All the stains caused by liquids (tea, coffee, juice), food and tobacco are called organic stains and can leave stains on the marble. They usually create a pinky-brown stain. It differs, though, according to what it was split. Those types of stains, you clean them using 12% hydrogen peroxide and a little ammonia

6. Paint

Suppose you renovated your living room recently and paint spills have covered your fireplace. In that case, you can clean it using a blade if it’s a small area covered with paint or for more extensive, you can use a commercial paint stripper containing lye or caustic soda. Just DON’T use acids or flames to get the colour off, as it can be rather dangerous. 

Extra tip: Oil-based paints will leave an oil stain that you can clean following the Oil-Based Stains instructions.

7. Fire & smoke damage

You can’t get away with fire and smoke damages, especially to the fire surrounding. Flames and smoke from the fire create black or dark grey burn stains on the marble. These types of stains can’t be removed using just soapy water. You need either a more powerful cleaning agent like a smoke remover or to let a professional deal with them.

A modern fireplace in the light with black marble hearth

8. Biological

You’ll probably be aware of other parts of the house that mould, mildew and fungi can create a powdery, green/brown stain. You can get rid of those types of stains on the marble using diluted ammonia, bleach or hydrogen peroxide (½ cup in 1l of water). 

IMPORTANT: DON’T mix a whiting agent and ammonia. Their combination will create a lethal toxic gas!

How to create your homemade poultice?

If you’d like to make your poultice to get rid of stains on marble, you’ll have to buy an absorbent base consisting of talc, chalk, kaolin and diatomaceous earth. 

Now you can make it according to the stain. 

For oil-based stains

To create poultice for oil-based stains, you need just baking soda and water. Or you can mix one of the absorbent materials (talc, chalk, etc.) with mineral spirits.

For copper stains

Copper stains are probably the most difficult stains. Thus, you need to make a rather effective cleaning product, and you’ll probably have to apply it several times until you achieve to remove it. You’ll have to mix one of the absorbent materials (chalk, talc, etc.) with ammonia for this type of poultice

Note: If you can’t remove copper stains with your DIY poultice, you should call for a professional to handle over. 

For organic stains

Organic stains are usually food, liquids and dirt. You can clean these types of stains with your homemade poultice made of powdered absorbent materials combined with a solvent

For rust stains

You can simply remove rust stains by mixing diatomaceous earth and a rust remover. However, rust is a very stubborn stain, and you might find it hard to get rid of it. Hence, you may need to call the profs to deal with it. 

A living room with a black marble fireplace and a beige armchair next to it

How to apply a poultice to stains?

Your DIY poultice should have a rough texture similar to peanut butter. Once you’ve prepared, follow these steps to apply it to the stain:

    • Moisten the stained area with clean water. For better results, use distilled water.
    • Apply the poultice evenly on the stain. It should be about ½ inch thick and make sure it’s extending around the sides. 
    • Put a plastic wrap over the mixture and secure it with tape. 
    • Let it dry for around 24-48 hours. Once 24 hours have passed, take the plastic wrap.
    • Wipe it down and clean the marble with water.
    • Buff with a soft cloth.
    • For stubborn stains, you’ll have to apply the procedure several times until it’s completely removed.

How to even the marble’s finish?

When you have cleaned the fireplace, you may notice that the marble isn’t as shiny as it used to be. Don’t worry, though! You can bring back its lost lustre by applying a polish designed for marble. In case the surface of the marble remains rough, then try the wet-sanding-polishing combo. 

Wet-sanding

  • If the marble’s surface is in a pretty good condition, scrub the marble with 220-grit wet-dry sandpaper, which you can find in hardware stores. And continue polishing progressively with a 320-grit. Or use a sander for quicker and better results.
  • If your marble is rough enough, then start with 120-grit sandpaper. 
  • If you own dark marble, you need to finish with a higher grade, like 600-grit

Note: Keep moisturising with water the marble while polishing and rinse with water to remove any particles. 

Buffing

Once you’ve finished scrubbing the surface with the wet-dry paper, buff it with a moistened pad, a buffing wheel and a powder, like tin or aluminium oxide.

Polishing

Get a good quality marble polish and apply it to the marble surface with a soft rug. Rub it to protect the marble and bring back its shine. 

What NOT do when cleaning your marble fireplace

Marble is a pretty delicate material and needs special attention when cleaning. You can’t use everything on the marble surface. 

  • Don’t use hot water
  • Don’t use white vinegar or any cleaning products designed to clean limescale. They contain acid, which can etch the marble surface.
  • Avoid using baking soda. It’s an abrasive agent and can damage the marble’s finish.
  • Don’t let the marble air dry, as it can cause water spots. 

Tips for cleaning a marble fireplace or surround

When buying a marble mantel, it would be best to know some tips for cleaning safety, the fireplace, and the surroundings.

    • Always use a soft cloth to wipe the surface from fust and dirt.
    • Use only lukewarm water.
    • When cleaning a stain, start by lightly rubbing it with a cloth and gradually increasing the pressure for stubborn stains.
    • Opt for distilled water if possible. Impurities found in the tap water can stain the marble. 
    • Dry the marble with a soft towel or cloth.
    • Always read carefully the instructions of the commercial products you use and test them first before applying them to the entire fireplace. 
    • You can also use marble wax to make your marble shine.

A spacious living room with a marble fireplace, floor and an open plan kitchen

When it comes to cleaning the marble fireplace, you should never forget that it’s different to cleaning any other type. Knowing the type of stain will help you determine the best way to clean it.  A dampening in warm water cloth can work most of the time correctly. Sometimes, though, certain stains need special attention and treatment.

Cleaning the marble fireplace might be a little time-consuming, but you’ll be rewarded with the results.

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