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How to Clean a Fireplace Brick – Your Complete Guide

April 20th, 2016 | by admin
How to Clean a Fireplace Brick – Your Complete Guide
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Fireplaces are of different types, but the most common is brick. It is an aesthetically pleasing material for the interior of your house, yet it is also the most difficult to restore to its original state.

It is indeed cozy to sit in front of a fireplace during cold, winter nights (and sometimes, even during daytime) while reading your favorite book, sipping coffee or tea, or just laying around and doing nothing. It is a haven of comfort and relaxation, most especially if we are enjoying the experience with our loved ones.

Until one day, when everything seems so right, while you’re feeling rejuvenated with the warmth of the fireplace starting to flicker towards you, an annoying discoloration became a sudden distraction – the white sides became black and stingy. But hey! Don’t fret though because there are several ways by which you could tidy this up.

To make it dirt-free, there are different cleaning chemicals you can use (including basic household ingredients or the commercial ones), but no matter what you choose, it is very important to know the fundamentals. Otherwise, you will mess up things, costing you more later on.

how to clean brick fireplace

Step-by-Step Cleaning Guide

Protect yourself.

Always, the first thing to do, is to wear protective gear such as rubber gloves before the cleanup as most chemicals are not meant to come in contact with our skin, and are also not meant to be inhaled. Take note there are minute particles that might get into your eyes and nose, so safety glasses and masks will prove useful. Remember, “Prevention is better than cure”. In addition, do not forget to open the windows of your house so that natural air can just go through, neutralizing the smell and the fumes coming out.

how to clean a brick fireplace

Protect the surrounding.

Prevent those cleaning chemicals to affect the surroundings of the fireplace by covering nearby walls and floors with old newspapers or plastic.

Sweep them all.

Sweep all loose particles like dust, ash, and remains of wood. Get a steel brush or broom, or a shovel to collect the dirt. Dispose these off into a sturdy trash bag, or, to prevent ash from spreading in the air, you may dump these into a damp or wet bucket.

Soak it to prepare.

Douse or soak the area in preparation for the initial scrubbing. If the place does not have a built-in drain, you may gather some old and thick towels or blankets to absorb the liquids then wring them regularly to avoid flooding your place.

Inspect and brush.

Inspect the surface for soot and smoke streaks. Brush the affected areas with warm and soapy liquid. Do not brush too hard as this may damage the surface. (The proper way of brushing is in gentle circular motion, from the bottom up, to avoid unattractive streaks and to avoid missing an area.)

Inspect and brush

Rinse and dry.

Rinse the surfaces and inspect once again for any stains that were not removed. Dry the stained spot then stick and press clay on the affected spot/s, leave for around five minutes, then remove. This usually removes light stains.

Remove blemishes.

For the remaining blemishes, the simplest approach is to dilute vinegar. Go for a 1:2 ratio.  Spray the spot and leave for 15 minutes. Wipe with a sponge and check. You may also use bathroom cleaning spray and oven cleansers (partnered with coarse towel for wiping) for your startup cleaning procedure.

Alternative Method for Tough Stains

If none of these procedures works or if stains remain, prepare another mixture using the recommended chemicals (check out the list below.) Combine the ingredients to create a pasty substance. First apply the paste to just a small, inconspicuous spot to see the effect to the material. Leave it to dry and stand for around 10 to 15 minutes and then, observe what the effect is to color and appearance. Is it corrosive? Does it cause discoloration or some other abnormal reaction?

Once you have chosen what to use, apply the substance to the rest of the stained areas. Let this dry within the recommended time, and then wipe, brush, or rinse with warm water.

Perform another inspection and for those stains that remain, consider buying some commercial fireplace brick cleansers.

Once you have gotten rid of the undesirable specks and you are happy with your work, do another round of rinsing. Use cloth to mop up the area, and tidy up the remaining parts, including the exterior.

cleaning fireplace brick

Creating the Pasty Substance

The following are the ingredients you can mix to create a pasty substance:

– Equal amounts of ammonia, hot water, and pumice; wait for an hour before scrubbing.

– Eight tablespoons of non-sudsy Tri-sodium Phosphate (aka TSP) with a gallon of warm water; wait for at least an hour before scrubbing.

– Same portions of dishwashing liquid soap and salt or any abrasive material.  Irrigate to achieve desired creamy consistency; let dry for around half an hour before brushing.  Repeat the process as needed.

– Shavings of naphtha soap (the whole bar) into water; boil to melt the soap then add a pound of pumice and a cup of ammonia; scrub the area and let stand for at least an hour.

– Two to three tablespoons of cream of tartar mixed with hot water; have it sit for around 10 minutes.

– Five tablespoons of dishwashing liquid detergent with half cup of baking soda; stet for a quarter of an hour

cleaning brick fireplace

Another effective cleaning technique is using muriatic acid. This is a proven effective cleanser, however, due to its corrosiveness and harmful fumes, it is not recommended in households, rather, by professionals. If you are considering hiring professional services to do the work for you, this is likely one of their implements.

If the goal is not only to make the fireplace spotless but to restore it to original state, and the above procedures don’t work for you, then it’s time to consider repainting. By doing so, you not only revive the beauty, but you also have the chance to repair any damages and reinforce the structure.  Going by this option is a bit risky (due to fire hazards and the natural properties of brick) but it also has its own perks, such as the availability of maintenance-free paints.  Make sure you select paint that not only goes with the original color or the interior of the house, but also has to be suitable for the texture and makeup of the material.


Cleaning a fireplace is never an easy task. It entails patience and muscle effort, but think about the end game – the warm feeling of having your own comfortable corner during the cold, winter season.



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