There’s nothing quite like enjoying the warm crackle of a fresh fire in your fireplace. It basically screams “Christmas,” and also is a wonderful way to heat up your home. Unfortunately, fireplaces are soot makers, and cleaning fireplace bricks can become a difficult task for those not in the know. So, how do you clean fireplace brick, anyway?
To clean your brick fireplace, you can use dishwashing detergent, water, and vinegar, baking soda and dish soap, borax and dish soap, bathroom cleaner, or trisodium phosphate. Before applying the chosen method, scrub away any soot stains, and ensure your bricks are intact. Then, follow the instructions for the specific method of your choice.
Getting grime off a fireplace can be done using a wide range of different products. Trying to find the right one for you can be tricky, but it’s not too hard. This guide will help school you on what needs to be done to clean fireplace bricks.
How To Clean Fireplace Brick
1. Prepping Your Brick
If there’s one thing we can all agree upon, it’s that having a faster, easier cleaning session is ideal. Rinsing away soot and grime isn’t as easy as vacuuming away gunk. So, let’s limit how much we have to rinse, shall we? Here’s what you need to do:
- Grab a large, firm-bristled brush, and scrub away at the soot-stained areas. The brush will be able to loosen up clingy stains and also help some soot fall to the floor.
- Using a vacuum extension with a soft brush, suck up the soot that fell and continue to lightly scrub the bricks. This will remove a lot of the clingier soot and grime.
- Visually inspect your brick fireplace. If you notice any major cracks or dents, we strongly suggest patching up your fireplace professionally before you continue to use it.
Now that your bricks are prepped, it’s time to apply a cleaning solution to them. The good news is that there are a lot of options you can use here, each with its own perks. Here are the most popular ones…
Cleaning Your Bricks using Dishwashing Detergent
Most people who just have a little bit of soot don’t need to mix a giant special cocktail of chemicals to make the stains go away. The easiest way to get light stains to vanish is to mix half a cup of dish detergent with four cups of water in a spray bottle. Then, just use that as the detergent for your bricks.
If you have very old bricks or just need a quick fix, use this method. Most older bricks won’t be able to hold their own against tougher stain removers, which is why having a gentle touch is a must.
Yep, it’s the ol’ classic that people have been using since the pioneer days. Because of the acidity of the vinegar, we don’t suggest using these on fireplaces that are older than 20 years. Here’s how to use this:
Cleaning Your Bricks using Water and Vinegar
- Mix equal parts white vinegar and warm water in a large spray bottle. Shake it gently.
- Mix another bottle with water and small amounts of baking soda. Shake it, and then set it aside.
- Spray them down with the vinegar solution. Wait three to five minutes after you’ve sprayed them.
- Using a scrub brush, scrub away the soot in circular motions. Rinse away the soot using the bottle with baking soda water.
- Pat dry. Tada! You should have a nice, clean patch of bricks.
Cleaning Your Bricks using Baking Soda and Dish Soap
Another good option that works well on all fireplaces is a baking soda-dish soap paste. To really work this solution well, make sure to work from the bottom to the top in order to prevent streaking. Here’s how to make this solution:
- Get 3 tablespoons of dish soap, and mix it with half a cup of baking soda. Both ingredients work well to lift stains and whiten stone. You want it to have a sticky, paste-like consistency.
- Smear the paste on the patch of brick that you want to clean. Let it sit for five to 10 minutes.
- Use a scrub brush to scrub away the bricks, rinsing them with warm water. The water will break up any additional grime that is left on the bricks.
Cleaning Your Bricks using Borax and Dish Soap
One of the more effective methods to whiten your bricks is to use borax to do it. Here’s how to make it work for you:
- Pour two tablespoons of borax, four cups of warm water, and one tablespoon of dish soap in a medium spray bottle. Close the bottle and shake it. You can also use a bucket for this mixture, if a spray bottle is not available.
- Spray down your fireplace with the mixture. Or, you can use a rag to slather it on if you’re using a bucket. The choice is entirely up to you.
- Using a scrub brush, slowly scrub away in small circles. The circular scrubbing method will be used in almost every cleaning method we talk about, simply because it reduces the chances of streaking.
- Rinse away the mixture with a warm, wet rag. This has the easiest cleanup of the more common “heavy-duty” methods. Spritzing it down with water can also work well if you don’t feel up to wiping it down.
Cleaning Your Bricks using Trisodium Phosphate
Do you have a fireplace that’s seriously covered in grime? Like, to the point that you aren’t sure that it’s salvageable? If so, then you’re going to need to go with a more powerful cleaner. This is a job for Trisodium Phosphate, also known as TSP. Here’s how to use it properly:
- First, put on your safety gear. You will need to wear gloves, safety goggles, and (ideally) thick clothing. Place a plastic liner near your carpet, since you won’t want to get this wet. Oh, and open a window or turn on your vent. The fumes can be a bit much!
- Mix 1/4 cup of TSP with two gallons of HOT water in a large bucket. Stir using your scrub brush.
- Dip your brush into the mixture, and use it to clean away the soot. Due to the sheer strength of this cleaning solution, you don’t need to let it rest. In fact, letting it sit can actually be somewhat damaging in some cases.
- Rinse off your bricks with warm water. I find that using a spray bottle of it works well. Then, let it air dry.
Cleaning Your Bricks using Bathroom Cleaner
I’ll be honest, this should be your absolute last option and should only be used if you don’t have any of the other cleaning agents listed above at your disposal. Bathroom cleaning agents can’t always get soot out of fireplace bricks, and can even damage older bricks. With that said, using it might be able to alleviate some of the stains.
How do I clean a fireplace that has bricks that run all the way up to the ceiling?
The best way to clean bricks that are high up is using a mixture of water and dish detergent, with the help of a tall ladder. Start all the way up on your ladder, then work your way down to help avoid streaking and make the most of your cleaning time. When you’re done, just wipe the fireplace with a wet rag if you so choose.
Does vinegar harm brick?
While vinegar is often touted as the universal cleaning agent, the truth is that this chemical is a little too acidic for older bricks. This can leave bricks brittle, or even worn down, after a long period of cleaning. This is the primary reason why most cleaning experts advise people to avoid using vinegar on masonry that’s older than 20 years in age.
Can bricks on the inside of my chimney be painted?
Though some may find it to be a little excessive, there’s no reason why you can’t paint bricks on the inside of your chimney. When painting your chimney, make sure to give your bricks a thorough cleaning before you apply the first coat. If you see soot, it’s not clean enough to paint!
Can I use muriatic acid to clean my chimney and fireplace bricks?
It is possible to use muriatic acid to clean a chimney, and in most cases, it’s a method that doesn’t require much scrubbing whatsoever. However, there are a ton of warnings and techniques that need to be employed in order for this to be a viable option. Most people agree that it’s an option best left to professional fireplace cleaners.
How do you get mold off of brick?
If your fireplace (or outdoor bricks) has mold, the best way to get rid of the mold is to use bleach. Add a tablespoon of bleach to a gallon of water, mix it up, and spray your bricks down. The bleach will almost instantly kill mold, refresh your bricks, and also help prevent the growth of mold in the future. With that said, do not wash your bricks down with bleach too frequently as it can harm them.