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How To Clean A Gas Fireplace

January 17, 2023

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Gas fireplaces are beautiful, but a dirty one can smell very bad and that's no good.

They require just a bit of maintenance to keep them running well. Here's how we cleaned ours out and got rid of that odor.

Stone fireplace lit and decorated for Christmas with a snowflake banner

No one will ever accuse me of loving winter. However. I'm not a total hater. There are a lot of things to enjoy about the season.

And one of my favorites is fire.

Candlelight and fireglow. They make the house look magical.

They light everything in just the right way.

Including my middle aged face. 😉

There's also nothing better than cuddling up in front of my large stone hearth on a chilly night.

Cottage Style Fall Living Room Mantel

Enjoying the view and the warmth.

Especially since ours is a gas fireplace.

We just turn it on and the flames appear. No wood to chop, buy or stack. No kindling to stoke, nothing to wait for if we need to leave the house or want to go to bed.

We simply turn it off and it's out.

No worries at all.

However. Several months ago, things weren't so lovely. Every time we turned on the gas there was a terrible smell. Enough to make me want to turn it off immediately and open a window.

I knew it wasn't the gas leaking, that smell is very specific.

No, this smell was different, very pungent and without being able to describe it in a better way, it felt heavy.

Concerned about the odor and about our safety, I hit Google and went down the rabbit hole of "gas fireplace smells bad".

Cleaning Out A Gas Fireplace text and supplies photo

What came up was a lot of information about how sometimes the logs smell a bit until their factory coating wore off.

But that wasn't my problem, our logs were more than 10 years old. The off gassing period was over long ago.

Then there were other articles about possible emissions issues, but again, our gas wasn't leaking.

Finally, I abandoned the computer and called the fireplace shop.

Sometimes, you really just need to consult the pros.

Why Does My Gas Fireplace Smell Bad?

Sounds like it's dirty. When's the last time you replaced the glowing embers, lava rocks and sand?


Ember Glow For Gas Logs

We would occasionally take the logs outside and use a broom to dust them off, but other than that, we only changed the batteries twice a season.

And we'd updated the mantel. Does that count? No?

Clearly we had some work to do.

Ok, so first things first. This is my screaming disclaimer.

My husband is a very experienced and very knowledgeable DIYer. He's worked on constructions sites, built houses, done plumbing, electrical and masonry.

This was not his first rodeo.

Otherwise we would've called a service tech to do this for us.

Replacement Lava Rocks For Gas Fireplaces

And I highly recommend that since you may have to turn the gas off, then back on and light the pilot for this project.

We were told it wasn't necessary to do that, so we didn't, but either way, that part alone qualifies it as a job for the pros.

It's a little more involved than your average DIY.

So rather than give you the full detailed tutorial, I'm just going to explain the steps we took, so you can get an idea of what's involved.

A Clean Fireplace Is Important, But So Is A Pretty One:

I also really wanted to share, because like I said, I searched for hours trying to find out what that smell was...when it was just dirty.

That's it.

What Caused That Terrible Smell?

That awful smell was a byproduct of the dirty, dusty, soot covered logs, embers, rocks and sand getting hot. Whatever was on them was burning off and emitting that terrible odor.

Once it was clean and fresh, the smell completely disappeared.

So How Do You Clean A Gas Fireplace?

First, we took a picture. The logs fit together like a puzzle and you can arrange them in several configurations. We liked what we had and we wanted to be able to replicate it.

Then we removed them.

Gas fireplace logs on a garbage bag on the floor

Next, we shoveled everything out, placed it in a bucket and vacuumed out the entire space.

Gas Fireplace Grate and Unit inside fireplace

And then we put it all back.

The new sand went down first. Then the lava rocks.

New Rocks and Sand For Gas Fireplace in a hearth

And finally a fresh batch of the glowing embers.

How Do You Clean Gas Fireplace Logs?

The last step in this process was to put the logs back, after we cleaned them off, of course. To do that we used a nylon, stiff bristle brush so we didn't damage the ceramic coating.

That's what the manual recommends, so we stuck to it.

A Clean Gas Stone Fireplace

Once we turned it back on, there wasn't a scent in the room.

Only a lovely warmth to snuggle by.

Candle Lit Fireplace In Winter in a cottage style living room

Until we clicked it off.

Now if I could just do the same with winter itself, I'd be set.

How does your fireplace smell?

Happy Cleaning, Friends!
Kim Signature

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  1. Hi Kim,
    We have a gas fireplace too. We had a similar problem this October when we went to turn it on. Jeremy asked our furnace guy ;-) and he gave us the advice of "when did you last clean your fireplace." Ha! Who knew.
    I am happy that we both are cozy now.
    xx oo

    1. That's crazy, Carla! I should've asked you!! I drove myself nuts googling what might be wrong before I got smart and asked. I'm also glad to hear that we weren't the only ones who were unaware that this needed to be done! xxoo

  2. Wow who knew you would get a bad smell from those things in your gas fireplace. Glad you could figure it out and cleaning and replacing the sand etc. worked like a charm. I miss having a fireplace especially in the winter. Enjoy the cozy warmth and glow of your beautiful fireplace. Hugs. Kris

    1. I'm so glad it was a quick fix, Kris. I was not in the mood for anymore huge projects after all our DIYs last year. This was simple, thank goodness!! The fireplace is nice, especially in the winter, but I'd be happy to trade it away for a year full of 80 degree days!! Hugs to you!

  3. I don't have a fireplace in this home, and we miss having one, or a wood stove, so much. You too are pros at figuring out problem issues in the home! Wow! It definitely is nice to be able to fix things yourselves, what a money saver! Winter has turned rainy, messy and icy here. I would much prefer snow, and therefore, I am ready for spring, ha! Enjoy your cozy space in front of the fireplace... spring really should be just around the corner! Blessings to you :)

    1. Spring sounds wonderful, Marilyn. I would still enjoy that fireplace in 50 or 60 degree weather! Winter is just too cold for me. I hope you get some more snow!! xo

  4. I don't use my fireplace at all, so I can't tell you how it smells...but years ago I took the fake logs outside and tried to rinse them off and they disintegrated. So. Outside firepits for me. (:

    1. Wow...they disintegrated? That's crazy. Luckily, ours are a ceramic log, and we've never wet them. Now I'd be afraid to try, but your firepit sounds lovely.

  5. I wish we had a fireplace! I never knew that they could start smelling bad though. Such a good idea to take photos of the logs. I've starting doing that with things when I'm cleaning. Otherwise, I'd never get them back the way I like them!

    1. Mari, that’s so funny you said that. We’ve been repainting the kitchen…ugh…more renovations. Anyway, tonight we went to hang things back on the wall, a wall that hasn’t changed in decades and we were stumped. Thankfully, I had pics on the blog, so I was able to pull them up, but your idea is smart!!

  6. Kim, I never realized that you could get a bad smell from the fireplace! I'm so glad that you and your husband found out how to get rid of the smell. I hope you enjoy your clean fireplace this winter.

    1. Thanks Julie! I’m so glad it was just a smell from a dirty fireplace and nothing scary. It was an easy fix and one I hope lasts a really, really long time!

  7. I never even thought to clean out my gas fireplace, Kim. I haven’t noticed any smell, but if I do, I’d call someone!! Your mugs really look real and you get a nice fire from them. I wouldn’t mind updating mine.

    1. We never thought about it either, Kitty, and I don't think we're alone!!

  8. We have a gas starter for a wood burning fireplace. I did not know that this was a thing! Our daughter has a gas fireplace, so I'll send her a link to this post. Thanks for this informative post!

    1. Huh...I've never heard of a gas starter for a wood fireplace. Now I need to go Google that to find out what it is and how it works!! It sounds fancy!!

  9. Mmmmmmmmm, now I know. We probably have 3 weeks of really cold weather here in South Africa, so our gas fireplace hardly ever gets used, but I do know that one day this is going to happen to us too and I'll be prepared and sound super intelligent when my hubby starts doing the twitchy nose, rabbit sniff thing. Thanks, Kim.

    1. Michelle, you always make me smile!! Enjoy all that warm weather...I'm pea green just thinking about it!!

  10. We have two gas fireplaces, one of which we've never used (it's in the basement). I can't remember the last time we used the one in the living room. I'm guessing it would be pretty stinky if we ever do turn it on, but at least I'd now know why. I think we'll just keep it off :)

    1. It kind of snuck up on us, Amy. We used to use that room all the time, but over the years, we used the fireplace less and less...and then boom. Icky. Now that we took all that time to clean it out, we're back in there again.

  11. Kim,
    I love your fire place but i do not envy the upkeep of it...It makes your home look so charming and cozy!!