How to Clean Bricks on a Fireplace

You love your fireplace. But this time of year, your brick fireplace probably needs a cleaning. The brick needs soot removal, the fireplace accessories need some cleaning, and you want to tend to those smoke stains.

Cleaning fireplace brick is often not as daunting as it looks. If your wood fireplace has smoke and soot stains, the brick can often go through a cleaning with household products. This article will begin with the easiest cleaning, using household products. If the brick of your fireplace is badly stained, we will discuss stronger means to cleaning the brick. And, of course, there are products you can buy specifically for cleaning the brick.

Things You'll Need

  • Depending on the option you use to clean your fireplace brick, you may need:
  • gloves
  • goggles
  • mask
  • stiff nylon brush
  • bucket
  • spray bottle
  • drop cloth


    • 1

      Not all fireplace brick is the same. Some have different shadings and some are more porous than others. The same with the stains on them. What will clean one type stain on one type of brick may not be good at cleaning another.

    • 2

      Generally there are 4 types of cleaning needed on fireplace brick. The first (and easiest) is mud/dirt and ash. It may need soot removal or be stained by smoke. There may be small areas of creosote, especially if your fireplace has glass fireplace doors.

    • 3

      These steps to cleaning fireplace brick are not necessarily progressive. Try the one you want or the one for which you have the cleaning products on hand. Try cleaning a small spot on the brick. If it does not work, move on to another step. The only caution here is not to go directly to step 11 unless all else fails, or unless you are experienced.

    • 4

      The first steps to the cleaning are to be sure the fireplace is cool and there are no hot cools, remove the grate (in a wood fireplace) and move your fireplace accessories aside. Now remove all of the loose stuff. Take your ash shovel and bucket and remove all ash ( or put it down the ash door if you have one). Brush down the inside of the fireplace and vacuum the fireplace stones. If the interior is lined with fireplace stones, do not brush as they can crumble.

    • 5

      Mud/soil and ash on the exterior brick can be brushed and vacuumed up. If it is into the porous bricks, spray with water to float it to the top, lightly brush to loosen and clean. Vacuum or soak up with absorbent towels (avoiding rubbing the dirt back in). With the loose stuff out of the way, you are now ready to clean the fireplace brick.

    • 6

      SMOKE: If most of your cleaning will be smoke, try using a scouring powder with bleach and a stiff nylon brush on the brick. Another cleaning choice is an alkali detergent (such as some powder laundry detergents) mixed with water and sprayed on. Allow to soak a few minutes, then use the nylon brush to loosen and remove. This mix also works in most stem cleaners (read instructions).

    • 7

      SOOT: For cleaning small and light areas of soot from the fireplace, try household white vinegar straight or bleach diluted in water. Dip your brush into it and do not let it soak. This may require several applications, so it is not preferable for large areas. Another method to clean the brick uses a foaming tub cleaner. Spray the brick and scrub with a brush dipped in ivory liquid soap and water.

    • 8

      There are two techniques for cleaning soot and smoke from the brick that mix a cleaner with an abrasive. The first is to combine powder detergent (again laundry detergent with an alkali base is preferred) with 1 ounce of table salt and enough water to make a paste. Rub it on with a cloth and let dry at least 10 minutes. Remove with a dry brush, and rinse with a damp towel if needed.

    • 9

      The second one is to mix an alkali powder detergent, ounce of ammonia and loose pumice (from the hardware store). Again mix with hot water and brush this on. Clean off with a clean wet brush.

    • 10
      Buildup on Glass Fireplace Doors

      CREOSOTE can build up on the glass fireplace doors or other fireplace insert. Creosote in these locations and on the exterior brick may be cleaned with a spray on oven cleaner. Do not worry about preheating the fireplace, but otherwise follow the directions.

    • 11

      If you have tried all of the above and your fireplace brick is still not clean, you can consider the following. However, this should only be used with red fireplace brick. Be sure to have heavy gloves, a face mask, goggles. very good ventilation, a durable drop cloth. TSP: Trisodum Phosphate (available in your hardware start). Mix 1/2 cup in a gallon of hot water. Use a stiff brush to scrub brick, and rinse with plenty of water. Be sure you are wearing think gloves.

    • 12

      The last I mention only as a do not do it! Muriatic acid, commonly called hydrochloric acid, is highly corrosive and can easily damage the brick mortar. It is very harmful to the environment and should never be used indoors. If you get to this step - hire a professional!

    • 13
      Giving faded brick a facelift

      If your brick is faded, before or after cleaning, you can give it a face lift. Mix 50% boiled linseed oil with 50% mineral spirits. Apply with an old rag, let it soak 5 minutes, and wipe off the excess with a clean towel.

    • 14

      Now your fireplace is looking nice and new. Give those fireplace accessories a cleaning too!

Tips & Warnings

  • You can purchase a variety of products specifically made to clean fireplace bricks, including soot erasers and chemical spray. They tend to be more expensive, and may not be as environmental friendly as the ones listed here.
  • Do not use Muriatic acid, commonly called hydrochloric acid
  • Always wear gloves when using cleaning supplies
  • brushing can cause splatter - wear goggles
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  • Photo Credit, webdigs

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