Cleaning Brick Fireplaces
Where there’s fire, there’s smoke.
Maybe that sounds backwards, but it’s still true—isn’t it? Even a clean fireplace can get dirty quick. Smoke and soot accumulate naturally, and the nasty black stains and ashy residue can be especially hard to remove.
Cleaning brick fireplaces properly requires more care than you might think. If you’re not careful, you could damage or discolor fireplace brick. The following guidelines will help clean fireplace brick and transform you're dirty old hearth into a clean fireplace easily and safely.
If you need to clean fireplace soot, you may need a different approach. For small areas, press light-colored children's molding dough onto the brick and lift the soot stain away. It sounds crazy, but it works. Just be careful--you don't want to pull off any surface material. Alternately, you could dip a scrub brush into a pan of full-strength white household vinegar. Scrub a small section at a time, working up. It may take a lot of elbow grease and several applications to remove all of the soot, so be prepared for a workout.
Bucket and Brush Hand Cleaning
This is probably the most popular but most misunderstood of all the methods used for cleaning brick masonry. Its popularity is due to the simplicity of execution and the ready availability of proprietary cleaning compounds.
To select the proper cleaning solution (proprietary compounds, detergents or acid solutions) follow the steps outlined below:
1. For proprietary compounds, make sure that the one selected is suitable for the cleaning bricks and follow the cleaning compound manufacturer's recommended dilution instructions. Brick-Anew fireplace cleaner is specially formulating for just this purpose, unlike many commercial cleansers. Although these other cleaning solutions generally perform in a satisfactory manner, you should test each product being considered in an inconspicuous spot.
2. Detergent or soap solutions may be used to remove mud, dirt and soil accumulated during construction. A suggested solution is 1/2 cup dry measure (0.14 L) of trisodium phosphate and 1/2 cup dry measure (0.14 L) of laundry detergent dissolved in one gallon (3.9 L) of clean water.
3. For acid solutions, mix a 10% solution of muriatic acid (9 parts clean water to 1 part acid) in a non-metallic container. Pour acid into water. Do not permit metal tools to contact the acid solution. There is the temptation to mix acid solutions stronger than recommended in order to clean stubborn stains. The indiscriminate use of any acid solution may tend to cause further stains.
Improper or overzealous cleaning may damage even new brick. If your fireplace is old and crumbling, cleaning fireplace brick may cause damage. Test any cleaning material in an inconspicuous spot. To remove soot from brick that is not in good condition, mix a 50/50 solution of laundry bleach and water, pour into a spray bottle, spritz the bricks, then scrub with a soft-bristled brush. Rinse with water.
Painting Stained Brick
Remember, not all brick cleaners are created equally, and sometimes the only option is cover the ugly stained brick. Cleaning fireplace brick that is permanently stained, discolored, or damaged may not be worth the time and effort. Another option is painting the fireplace brick. Although many people are opposed to painting brick “on principle,” in reality this may be your best option for unsightly or ugly bricks.
- To tackle the toughest fireplace stains, try Brick-Anew fireplace cleaner.
- To cover up what can’t be cleaned—and give your ugly old fireplace a much-needed makeover in the process!—try an all-in-one fireplace paint kit.
Click here to take a look at our Brick Fireplace Cleaner.
Click here to take a look at our brick fireplace paint kit.