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How to Clean Fireplace Brick

If you’ve got soot stains on your fireplace’s hearth or brick facade, we’ll walk you through how to clean fireplace brick to get rid of unsightly black discoloration and the smell of smoke.

Author Icon By Stephanie Koncewicz Updated 12/27/2023

Although a fireplace can provide the perfect centerpiece to a living room, it can also be difficult to clean. No matter how well you maintain your brick fireplace, using it will inevitably lead to some accumulation of soot on the hearth and facade. Since bricks are porous—that is, their surface is covered with small holes—cleaning them isn’t a simple matter of wiping the soot away. However, there are a few tricks to this task that will make cleaning brick much easier.

If you need some cleaning help, you can always call in a professional company like The Cleaning Authority. Although specific services vary by location, these professional cleaners can help with the details of deep-cleaning your home. You can learn more by visiting the company’s website.

Now, read on for a step-by-step breakdown of how to clean soot off a brick fireplace.

1. Clear out the Fireplace

Make sure you start with a completely cold fireplace. When you’re ready to clean, take out the grate and any leftover ashes. Then use a vacuum with a brush attachment to manually remove as much soot and dust as you can.

2. Get the Bricks Wet

If there’s a secret to cleaning fireplace brick, it’s this: saturate the bricks with plain water before applying a cleanser and starting to scrub. Since you’re working inside your home, you’ll want to put a waterproof drop cloth down first, but don’t skip this step.

The porous brick will absorb the water so that when you apply your soap or other cleaning solution, it will stay toward the surface instead of sinking in. You can wet the bricks down with a masonry sponge, which should be available at most hardware stores, or a spray bottle.

3. Mix Your Cleaning Solution

At this step, you have several options for cleaning solutions. Which one you choose will depend on the age of the bricks and the extent of the staining.

How to Clean Bricks with Dishwashing Detergent

Generally, you should start with the mildest possible cleanser and see if that will remove the bulk of the soot. In this case, go with ¼ cup of a clear, grease-cutting dish soap diluted in four cups of water. This cleanser is gentle enough that it should be safe even on older bricks.

How to Clean Bricks with Vinegar

Distilled white vinegar is another option, though it is acidic enough that it might be damaging to bricks older than about 20 years, so use it carefully. Mix equal parts vinegar and warm water to form this cleaning solution. You can also add dishwashing detergent, though only a small amount—about two tablespoons to every gallon.

How to Clean a Brick Fireplace with Scrubbing Bubbles

Scrubbing Bubbles and other foaming bathroom cleaners were created to be used on nonporous ceramic surfaces, but some homeowners swear by them when it comes time to clean brick. You may have to leave these cleaners on for a while (15-20 minutes) before starting to scrub.

How to Clean Bricks with Stronger Cleaners

If you use the above cleaners but still have soot stains, you can consider moving on to stronger detergents. Keep in mind, however, that these might damage older or fragile bricks, and you may need to wear gloves and eye protection as well as ensure good ventilation. Here are some options for removing stubborn stains on brick:

  • Mix two tablespoons of borax with four cups of water and one tablespoon of dish soap
  • Mix ½ cup of ammonia with four cups of water and ¼ cup dish soap
  • Mix ⅛ cup trisodium phosphate (TSP) with one gallon of hot water

4. Scrub the Bricks

You can put gentler cleaners in a spray bottle and spritz them directly onto the fireplace bricks. If you don’t have a spray bottle, or if you’re using TSP, mix your cleaning solution in a bucket and use a sponge or paintbrush to apply it to the bricks. Make sure to work top to bottom so dirty water doesn’t drip down and cause streaks on areas you’ve already cleaned.

Working in small areas to keep the bricks from drying out, scrub the surface with a firm, plastic-bristled scrub brush in a circular motion. If the soot stains don’t appear to be coming out, lightly reapply the cleaning solution and give it a few minutes to work before beginning to scrub.

5. Rinse

Once you’ve scrubbed a small area, go ahead and rinse it before moving on. Use a sponge dipped in clean water to rinse each spot several times. If the rinsing bucket becomes dirty or soapy, change the water.

6. Spot-Clean Any Remaining Stains

After you’ve cleaned large areas with the solutions above, you may need to go back and spot-clean any particularly stubborn soot stains. To do this, create a paste of either baking soda or cream of tartar mixed with a small amount of water. Apply it to the remaining soot and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Then scrub with a firm toothbrush or small scrub brush and rinse.

7. Repeat

If a gentler cleaner didn’t work, you may need to repeat your efforts or move on to a more aggressive method. The more often you use your fireplace, the more often you’ll need to clean it.

If soot stains persist, don’t be afraid to call a professional service like The Cleaning Authority, a leading provider of cleaning services in 45 states. Visit the Cleaning Authority’s website to explore its offerings and get a free quote on its services.

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