How to clean fireplace bricks?

Nothing makes a home cosier than a fireplace. It gives away warmth, soft light, and genuine comfort. However, when used on a daily basis, fireplaces will end up looking black and covered in black streaks. If the bricks around your fireplace look like that, it is time to clean them.

When soot accumulates it leaves black residue all over your bricks, as well as a smoke odour. This may occur on tiles, natural stone, or grout. It is important to clean that up on a regular basis, in order to prevent it from building up. If left for too long, it may stain the surface forever or cause permanent damage. If you use your fireplace often, you will need to clean its surroundings quite often as well. If maintained regularly, the stains and black residue will be easier to remove.

When cleaning those, you will need to take different steps and possibly different approaches, depending on the different surfaces being taken care of. Professional cleaners are also following these steps. With each method, you will have to take a number of steps prior to the actual cleaning and scrubbing. Keep reading to find out what those are:

  1. Protect your floors – Put a waterproof drop cloth on the floor. You will protect it from drips, spills, and further staining.
  2. Clear the fireplace – Always work with a cold fireplace. Remove grates and all of the ashes and debris. Dispose of them and vacuum any smaller particles.
  3. Vacuum and dust the hearth and the surroundings of the fireplace in order to remove as much soot as possible. Dust and wipe any decorative items around the fireplace. If they are removable, put them away in order to prevent any dust from gathering on them again.

Use detergent and salt

This is the gentlest method so we suggest you try it out first, before continuing with the rest.

  1. Mix the cleaning solution – Fill a bucket of warm water (4 litres). Add 2 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid (make sure you pick one with degreasing agents). Fill another bucket with cool water and add 1 cup of white distilled vinegar.
  2. Spritz the stained area – Fill a spray bottle with plain water and spritz the area. Spray a small area first to prevent the brick from drying out.
  3. Prepare the scrub brush – Dip the scrub brush into the dishwashing solution, then generously sprinkle the brush with table salt. The salt will act as a mild abrasive that will help loosen the soot from the brick. Use some elbow grease and scrub the dirty areas.
  4. Rinse away – Use a sponge dipped in the vinegar solution and wipe away the cleaning solution, salt, and loose soot. The vinegar will remove any soapy residue and remove any smoky odours.
  5. Repeat – If the area is nearly clean but not completely, repeat the steps again with a fresh cleaning solution. If that doesn’t help remove the dirt, continue to the next method.

Use dishwashing liquid, ammonia, and pumice

If the step above did not work, you can step up the game by adding ½ cup of household ammonia to your cleaning solution. Instead of salt, you can purchase fine-ground powdered pumice and use it as an abrasive instead. Repeat the same steps mentioned above but make sure you open your windows since ammonia can produce toxic fumes.

Use trisodium phosphate (TSP)

Trisodium phosphate is a powerful cleaner that will remove stubborn stains and soot from your fireplace bricks. It is toxic so make sure the area you use it in is well-ventilated. Protect your carpets, tiles, fabrics, and furniture – it may cause serious damage to them.

  1. Mix a cleaning solution – Add ½ cup of TSP to 4 litres of hot water. Fill another bucket with plain cool water.
  2. Scrub – Apply elbow grease to the stained areas, dip the scrubbed brush in the cleaning solution and scrub the dirty areas. Make sure the solution does not come in contact with your skin.
  3. Rinse – Use a damp sponge to wipe away the cleaning solution and loose soot. Repeat the steps if the soot is not completely removed.

Tips on how to maintain your fireplace clean:

  • Spot clean any soot or grime with a paste made of cream of tartar or baking soda and a small amount of water. Apply to the stains and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Scrub with a brush and wipe away with a damp sponge.
  • Use hardwood like oak, ash, or maple, or softwood like fir, spruce, or pine. They have a cleaner burn and produce less smoke and ash.