Q: I have a fireplace that is in great repair except for the smoke and latex paint stains on the brick. How can I restore the condition of the brick without using harmful chemicals? – William, Leonia, New Jersey

A: Steve Thomas replies: Assuming the paint affects only small areas, I'd use a local application of a nontoxic paint stripper and a small wire brush. Once the paint is removed, wash the entire surface with a nontoxic cleaner and vacuum it off with a wet/dry vac.
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