Knowing how to clean a brick fireplace is vital if you have one in your home. Why? Because no matter how well you clean it, as soon as you use it again, it’s filthy.
Learning how to clean a brick fireplace is remarkably simple, but there are a few inside tricks you’ll need to know. Because bricks are incredibly absorbent, you must saturate them first. Then you can clean them using one of the various cleaning agents. Which cleaner you choose will depend on how severe your soot and smoke stains are.
Anytime you use the fireplace, you’ll have soot and smoke markings on the hearth and façade of your fireplace. Depending on how long the fire burned, these may be full-blown stains or light surface discoloration.
So, we’ve listed some helpful tips on how to get rid of the ugly soot and smoke patches effectively. These will help you keep that fireplace looking squeaky clean after each use.
Tips on How to Clean a Brick Fireplace
First, you should ensure you have all the supplies you need to get started. But bear in mind that we’ll be starting with the milder dishwashing detergent cleaning method. And we’ll only move on to using other cleaning agents, should the dishwashing liquid not be effective.
- Masonry Sponge
- Spray bottle
- Drop Sheet
- Dishwashing Liquid
- White Vinegar (if dishwashing liquid doesn’t work)
- Foaming Bathroom Cleaner (if Vinegar doesn’t work)
- Borax (Optional – If a stronger cleaner is needed)
- Ammonia (Optional – If a stronger cleaner is needed)
- Trisodium Phosphate (Optional – If a stronger cleaner is needed)
- Baking soda (for spot cleaning tough stains)
- Scrub brush (stiff fiber or plastic bristle – not metal)
- Cloth or rags
- Protective Glasses or Goggles
- Old Clothes (for working in)
Empty the Fireplace
It’s essential to start with a cold fireplace. We also advise that you place a drop sheet down to protect the floor around the fireplace before you begin.
Take the grate and any other metal elements out of the fireplace when you’re ready. Remember to place these on a drop sheet and not allow them to touch your floor or furniture.
Next, you’ll want to remove the ash from the fireplace. You can start by sweeping up large amounts of the debris. But, when there’s less to deal with, you can use your vacuum cleaner with the precision nozzle to suck it up.
Saturate the Bricks
If you simply start to clean the brick surface with a cleaner, the bricks will absorb the solution. This is because bricks are incredibly porous and, therefore, absorptive.
Before cleaning, you must saturate the bricks with water to prevent them from absorbing the cleaning agent. This way, your cleaning agent remains on the surface of the brick to break down and remove the dirt.
You can minimize dripping and get a large quantity of water to the brick if you use a masonry sponge. This sponge holds a great deal more water than a regular sponge. And it can be purchased at your local hardware store.
So, before cleaning, saturate the bricks with water using your sponge and a bucket of water. But do so in small sections because you don’t want to saturate everything, only for it to dry before you get there.
Make Your Own Brick Cleaner
You have a few options for making a cleaning agent to clean a brick fireplace. And we’ve listed them below, starting with the gentlest and ending with the most intense.
You should always start with the gentle cleaning agent, which is the dishwashing liquid solution. And only if that doesn’t work should you move on to the next option.
Bear in mind, though, that older bricks are more fragile, and the stronger cleaners could damage them. You should, therefore, exercise great caution when working on brickwork older than 20 years.
Dishwashing Liquid Solution
To make this solution, mix ¼ cup of a clear dishwashing liquid with 4 cups of water. This is the gentlest of the cleaning solutions here. And, if this solution doesn’t do the trick, you can move on to trying the vinegar solution.
The vinegar solution is also straightforward to make. All you need to do is mix vinegar and water together at a ratio of 1:1. You can also add a tablespoon of clear dishwashing liquid to the solution if you like.
Bear in mind that vinegar is acidic and is, therefore, a bit harsher on the bricks than dishwashing liquid is. Therefore, proceed with care. If the vinegar solution doesn’t work, you can use a foaming bathroom cleaner.
Foaming Bathroom Cleaners
If you need a more potent cleaning agent, you could also buy a foaming bathroom cleaner to use on the brick. You would need to look for the kind of cleaner designed to be used on grout and porous tiles. As these will be most effective on the very absorptive brick.
With this type of cleaner, you’ll have to leave it on the brick for a while to ensure it’s effective. 15 to 20 minutes should be sufficient. After that, you can use your hard bristled brush to scrub the foam in and lift the dirt.
Using Strong Cleaners
As a last resort, if all else fails, you could consider using a more potent agent to clean your brick fireplace. Again, these could damage older, fragile bricks. So, it’s best to be cautious when using these. You should also wear gloves and protective eyewear when working with any of these.
Borax Solution: Take 2 tablespoons of borax and dilute them in 4 cups of water. Then add 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid.
Ammonia Solution: You’ll need a ½ cup of ammonia, which you’ll mix with 4 cups of water. Then add a ¼ cup dishwashing liquid.
Trisodium Phosphate Solution: Add a ⅛ cup of trisodium phosphate (TSP) to 1 gallon of hot water.
Time to Scrub
The gentler solutions, such as the dishwashing liquid and vinegar solutions, can be applied using the spray bottle. On the other hand, stronger solutions should be mixed in a bucket and applied with a paintbrush.
Remember that we’re starting with the gentler solution, which is the dishwashing liquid solution.
After saturating a section of the brickwork, spray some dishwashing solution on the stained areas. Then grab your hard-bristled brush and scrub in a circular motion to lift the dirt. It’s essential to work from the top down, as this will prevent dirty liquid from running down onto areas you’ve already cleaned.
Use your masonry sponge to rinse the area thoroughly. Then allow the section to dry. Once dry, you’ll be able to see whether the stain is gone or you need to tackle it again.
Learning how to clean a brick fireplace isn’t as complicated as you might think. But it’s a sizeable task and should be executed when you have a whole morning or afternoon to spare.
Remember to start off with the less intense cleaners, like dishwashing liquid. And only break out the strong stuff if all else fails. With these tips in your pocket, your fireplace will be so clean that your friends will think you never use it.