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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Cleaning Dirty Fireplace Bricks

A Nice Clean Red Brick Fireplace.

How to Clean Fireplace Bricks Inside the House

I love having a fire in the fireplace on a chilly night; it’s so cozy and relaxing as you’re snuggled up in a blanket watching a good show or reading a good book.

I also love the look of a brick fireplace, it just adds to the ambiance and comfort but they do need to be maintained if you want to keep them nice looking and free of sooty buildup.

If you still have a wood burning fireplace and can burn wood with little restrictions, consider yourself lucky as some cities are not allowing wood burning devices in new construction due to air pollution.

If you want to know more about burning wise, at the end of this post is a link to the EPA frequently asked questions?

Now onward to cleaning those dirty fireplace bricks.

A Little About Soot? 

Soot is black powder from incomplete burning of wood, coal, or other organic/natural material.

It doesn’t take much burning to cause soot to form and it can be hard to clean if not cleaned occasionally as the black carbon ash easily stains brick.


Bricks are made of clay then baked in a kiln to make them strong and durable and they can be sealed or unsealed. Typically the bricks inside the fireplace are unsealed and will be harder to clean as soot and grime will penetrate more easily.

Cleaning Supplies 

Here is a list of the supplies you’ll need when cleaning your brick fireplace.
• Nylon bristle brush
• Sponge
• Paint brush
• Green scrubby
• Spray bottle
• Cleaning rags
• Vacuum cleaner or broom
• Drop cloth
• Rubber gloves
• Kneeling Mat
• Goggles

Where to Begin? 

If you are actively burning fires, wait at least a full day before cleaning. When you’re ready, lay your drop cloth down, use a broom (be sure to clean this thoroughly later) to loosen dirt then use a shop-vac and vacuum the brick to remove some of the loose soot, cobwebs and dirt. I would also consider using a bag in the shop vac.

Another thing to consider is wearing an old pair of clothes as you are more than likely going to get splattered with dirty soot and other messy particles of dirt and debris.

Now it’s time to don the gloves and goggles!

Cleaning Methods 

It will require a bit of work to clean the soot from the bricks. If the brick happens to be painted, try cleaning a few bricks in an out of the way spot to make sure it doesn’t lift the paint.

For all cleaning methods listed, have a separate spray bottle or bowl of plain water to completely rinse the surface after using a cleaning solution.

Using Dawn Dishwashing Detergent 

I use Dawn for a lot of dirty jobs where I don’t need strong chemicals, it’s a great degreaser. Using Dawn dish soap is one of the less aggressive cleaning methods for your brick and will work well on brick that does not have decades of buildup on them.

You can either use a spray bottle or just dip the brush directly in the solution. If you opt to just dip, make sure you have plenty of cloths covering the floor as water will get sloshed around.

Mix 1/2 cup dish detergent to 4 cups hot water and start cleaning; working in small sections. Rinse well with plain water when finished.

Using Borax and Dawn Dishwashing Detergent 

Borax is a natural disinfectant and will help increase the cleaning power of detergents. Borax is odorless and alkaline which gives it its cleaning power. Borax produces a small amount of hydrogen peroxide when mixed with water so it acts a little bit like an oxy type cleaner.

Mix together 2 Tablespoons Borax and 1 Tablespoon dishwashing liquid with 4 cups hot water. Hot water is necessary to dissolve the Borax.

I would mix this in a bowl until the Borax is dissolved then transfer to a spray bottle so you can shake it periodically.

Spray a section of brick with the cleaning solution and scrub the bricks. If you run into a hard spot to clean, use a bit more pressure or use a stiffer brush. Rinse with clean water after cleaning.

These are just a couple of methods you can use to clean the fireplace brick in your home. For more brick cleaning methods, click HERE.

And here is the link to the EPAs FAQs:

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