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How To Clean Fireplace Bricks

Whenever you need to clean a brick fireplace, the thought of it is usually quite overwhelming. Soot stains, ash, black streaks, loose dust and older bricks flake together to create a headache for most homeowners. And that's before you even think about cleaning the fireplace surround.

If you need to clean fireplace brick, don't stress too much just yet, because your friends here at the Cleanup Team are standing by with some advice that will make cleaning fireplace bricks a much simpler process than you ever thought possible. And if it's still not sorted by the time you reach the end of today's post, you can always call us in to carry out a professional clean for you. But more on that later.

For now, let's focus on how to clean a brick fireplace using supplies you'll probably already have at home and some you probably won't - but which will ALL make cleaning your bricks a breeze!

Why Cleaning Fireplace Brick Is So Difficult

A brick fireplace can be so difficult because keeping any fireplace clean is hard enough, but a porous brick is probably the most difficult of them all. Stubborn soot stains will stick to it like glue and all the soot, smoke, and ash will combine together to create a real problem.

Soot stains can be dealt with, though. You just need to know how to clean fireplace bricks effectively. And it's important that you do too.

You have to work to prevent excessive dust from carbon filled materials which can actually cause chimney fires in the long run because of creosote buildup if you leave your fireplace bricks uncleaned for too long.

So, if you have a brick fireplace, here's everything you'll need to clean bricks effectively.

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How To Clean Fireplace Bricks

What You Need To Clean Fireplace Brick

Essential Gear

  • rubber gloves
  • overalls
  • respirator or face mask
  • tarp, old sheets or a waterproof drop cloth to protect carpets and hard floors
  • vacuum cleaner with soft brush attachment
  • broom
  • scrubbing brush
  • sponge
  • cloths

Fireplace Specific Products

  • dish soap or dishwashing liquid
  • hot water
  • borax
  • ammonia
  • trisodium phosphate

Household Cleaner Approach

  • spray bottle
  • warm water
  • dish soap
  • baking soda
  • table salt
  • white vinegar
  • old toothbrush or scrub brush
  • oven cleaner
  • scrubbing bubbles

How To Clean Fireplace Bricks

Before either of the methods we talk about today, you'll need to protect yourself - wear gloves, overalls, and a face mask - and your home - using a protective covering to catch as much soot as possible when cleaning brick fireplaces.

After that, you'll also want to use a scrub brush or broom, so the loosened soot is easier to clean. Just scrub the bricks in circular motions as far up as you can reach to remove soot. We'll focus on getting the bricks clean later. Right now, you just want to make the soot and mess easier to clean.

The first method we'll show you below is using the fireplace specific cleaning products for deep cleaning fireplace bricks and the surrounding facade. These aren't harsh chemicals, but they do create a mild abrasive that works wonderfully as cleaning solutions.

Fireplace Bricks

1. Vacuuming

The very first thing you'll need to do after using a scrub brush to loosen the soot is vacuum up as much of the soot and debris as possible. Using one of your soft brush attachments, run the vacuum over the bricks to collect as many small particles of debris as possible. This will make the cleaning later much easier.

2. Tackling Light Stains

For light stains, a simple dishwashing liquid solution will work. Mix together 100ml of mild detergent with 900 ml of warm water in a spray bottle (approximately 1/2 cup of dishwashing detergent and four cups of water). Spray directly onto the bricks and use your scrub brush in a circular motion to work the dishwashing detergent and water into the brick.

Once clean, rinse them with just hot water to clear away any of the dish soap and soapy residue and then dry with a dry cloth. Fragile bricks and bricks older than 20 years will need to be kept as dry as possible according to the brick industry association, so don't leave the cleaning solution on for too long. Instead, spray a few bricks at a time, scrub, wash with plain water, dry, and repeat.

3. Tackling Tougher Stains

When tackling tougher stains, you have a couple of options open to you. The first is borax. Simply mix two tablespoons of borax with 4 cups of warm water (950ml, approximately) and one tablespoon of dish soap in a spray bottle, then apply to the stains as above, scrubbing, drying, and repeating so the cleaning solution doesn't sit for too long.

The second deep cleaning solution is trisodium phosphate. This is an especially harsh cleaning solution, so you should only clean bricks with this mix if dish soap and borax aren't working. Here, one tablespoon of trisodium phosphate (TSP) should be mixed with a gallon of water in a bucket before you scrub. Dip your scrub brush in the solution and apply in a circular motion to work the mix into the porous surfaces of the brick. A sponge dipped in this mix would also work for the facade. But again, don't leave it sitting for too long. Wash with plain water afterwards and dry quickly.

4. Cleaning Newer Bricks

Newer bricks (not 20 years or older) can also be cleaned using ammonia. This is one of the best cleaning solutions, but it should NEVER be used on older bricks or fragile ones, as ammonia can damage them far too easily!

Here, you can mix a few tablespoons (4) of ammonia with 2 tablespoons of dish soap, in a standard 1000 ml spray bottle topped up with warm water. Wear rubber gloves for this one to stop the ammonia from damaging your skin. Spray the bricks, scrub with your scrub brush (elbow grease may be necessary for tougher stains), then wash clean with just water before drying.

Related Post: How To Clean Soot Off Walls

Cleaning Fireplace Bricks With Household Products

You can also clean brick fireplaces with at home cleaning products too, without the need for special chemicals. And in many cases, so long as the stains aren't too bad, household solutions will work just as well. Here are just some of the methods you can use:

1. Baking Soda And Soap

Baking soda and soap is an age old cleaning method that can deal with almost any mess, including fireplace bricks. Mix just enough baking soda and dish soap together to form a paste and then use a scrub brush to work the baking soda paste into the bricks.

Instead of cleaning it away immediately, though, let the paste sit for five minutes. The baking soda will have loosened the soot during the scrub and the detergent can now help break it down. Scrub again before rinsing it off with warm water and drying.

Baking Soda

2. Spray Bottle With Water And Vinegar Solution

Mix equal parts white vinegar with cool water. The reason we mix equal parts vinegar and water is that the acidic vinegar would be too strong on its own. This method is only suitable for newer bricks, though, as old bricks won't be able to handle the mildly abrasive cleaner.

Spray the bricks and leave to sit for a few minutes. Then spray again, scrub using a brush, and then rinse clean with just water for best results.

Baking soda and water combined can also neutralise the acidity of the vinegar solution, so if you're nervous about leaving vinegar behind and it causing discoloration etc, reach for a baking soda water mix and spray the bricks. Leave to sit for five minutes before rinsing clean and drying.

Vinegar 2

3. Oven Cleaner

Any shop-bought oven cleaner should do the trick here - but this really is one of those 'last-resort' solutions. Oven cleaners aren't designed for fireplace bricks. With that said, they are surprisingly good at removing caked on ash and soot that has been burned completely onto the brick because of continuous heat.

Start by spraying the oven cleaner onto the bricks and then leave to sit for around half an hour. This gives the cleaner time to activate and break down any stubborn stains. After it's done, scrub your bricks before rinsing clean with just water and drying.

4. Scrubbing Bubbles

Scrubbing bubbles and foaming bathroom cleaners are great here too. Again, it'll need some time to activate (around 20 minutes or so), but the foaming action seems to work wonderfully on bricks when there are tough black stains ruining their look.

Spray the foam spray on to the bricks, leave for 20 minutes, scrub, and then rinse clean with water before drying.

foaming bathroom

Fireplace Specific Products Vs At-Home Solutions

Any of the methods above will clean up any fireplace brick with ease, but the question is- which is better, the fireplace specific products or the at home household cleaning solutions?

In truth - neither.

Here at the Cleanup Team, we're all about giving you the best advice, and all the cleaners discussed today will get the job done. So, if you have only got an oven cleaner and you need to clean up your bricks right now, then the oven cleaner is best for you. If you're looking to do a thorough clean, then you might track down some TSP for a true, deep clean of the bricks.

Our point is, cleaning your fireplace should be convenient, and it doesn't need to be hard. Find a method that works for you from the options above and stick to it.

We're confident you'll achieve great results.

How Often Should I Clean Fireplace Bricks?

It really depends on how often you use it. If you're using your fireplace often, then you'll need to keep it cleaner and might need to schedule a clean once a month or so.

If you use it less often, then 3 or 4 times a year ought to do the trick, with a thorough deep clean of your chimney and fireplace once a year. This will involve calling in the pros.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, today's post has shown you that there's more than one way to clean your fireplace and that those pesky bricks really aren't that difficult, so long as you have the right products at home.

With that said, you might find it easier to rely on pros to carry out this sort of cleaning for you. At the Cleanup Team, we offer a range of services that may be of interest to you. So, why not check out our services? We have a feeling you'll find something useful there, and we're always excited by the opportunity to work with new clients!

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