Marble, a durable, attractive material favoured by builders for millennia, is frequently used to decorate and protect fireplace openings. A vapour cleaner, sometimes called a steam mop, can be used as part of the maintenance strategy for marble fireplace surrounds, mantels and hearth extensions. An important consideration in such a strategy is the condition of the marble. If the marble is in good condition, your vapour cleaner may well be all you need.
Marble is a relatively soft stone composed of sediment rich in the remnants of ancient coral and hard shelled sea life. Over time, compressed sediment becomes limestone, which, under tremendous pressure and heat, is transformed into marble.
Because of its high calcium content, marble is porous and subject to damage when exposed to acidic materials. It is typically polished and sealed before installation in areas subject to such damage. Even when sealed, marble is subject to etching unless acidic spills are cleaned up quickly. Long-term exposure to smoke and soot can discolour a sealed marble surface.
A vapour cleaner is ideal for maintaining marble around your fireplace since nothing but hot water and a soft microfibre cloth come in contact with the surface. Dust and dirt are easily removed from the hearth extension, while light smoke residue is quickly cleaned from the surround and mantel.
Regular use of your vapour cleaner will prevent the build-up of residue that could damage the marble's surface over time. This in turn eliminates the need to use harsh chemicals and abrasive cleaners that can mar a polished marble surface.
In situations where the marble surface is already heavily soiled, stained or damaged, careful restoration can often return it to "good as new" condition. The most common problems are heavy soot build-up and surfaces that have been scratched or etched by abrasive or acidic cleansers.
You may be able to remove light smoke stains with repeated use of hydrogen peroxide applied with a soft brush and rinsed with clear water. A heavy soot build-up requires the use of potentially harmful chemicals such as trisodium phosphate or the application of a commercial poultice. Get professional help as appropriate.
Scratched or etched marble can be restored by polishing the surface. Minor defects can often be polished out by hand using tin dioxide or a commercial marble polish. More serious damage is best corrected by a professional.
Avoid damage by cleaning up spills immediately. Vent fires so that all smoke and soot escape up the flue, not into the room. After you have restored the marble around your fireplace to its original lustre, use your vapour cleaner regularly to keep it looking beautiful. After vapour cleaning, dry with a clean cloth and buff lightly with a clean, dry chamois.