If you use your fireplace often, it won’t be long before it starts to look dirty and aged. Here’s how to clean fireplace brick effectively without causing any damage.
While having a fireplace is great on cold, cozy nights, it is a home feature that requires some upkeep. The more you use your fireplace, the quicker you’ll notice the bricks and mortar start to look aged and filthy from exposure to smoke and ash. While this is normal and unavoidable, it’s not appealing to look at, so it’s time to roll your sleeves up and give your fireplace a good cleaning. It’s not a glamorous job, but with a few simple steps, your fireplace can look good as new. Here’s how to clean fireplace brick quickly and easily.
What You’ll Need
Have these items on hand before you get started:
- Spray bottle
- Scrub brush
- Cleaning solution of your choice (see below for ideas)
- Old toothbrush
- Bucket or container for the cleaning solution
When you’ve collected these things, put on some clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. You may also want to put on some knee pads if you have any.
How to Clean a Brick Fireplace in 5 Steps
Now, let’s get to work. Starting with a cold fireplace, follow the steps below to bring your fireplace back to its former glory.
1. Remove Any Ash or Soot
First, you want to set aside any screens, grates, wood, or other items in or in front of your fireplace. Then use a vacuum hose to clear out any ash or soot so you can start with as blank a canvas as possible. Once you’ve sucked up as much as possible with the hose, switch to the vacuum’s brush attachment and trace the mortar lines to get rid of debris between the bricks. When you’re done vacuuming, lay down a waterproof drop cloth immediately in front of the fireplace to reduce tracking soot or spilling dirty water on your floors.
2. Saturate the Bricks With Water
Next, you need to get the bricks wet. Really wet. Saturating the bricks first is the key to getting the best clean. The easiest and least messy way to do this is to fill a spray bottle with plain water and give all the bricks a good coating. You can also wet the bricks with a masonry sponge if you prefer, which you can likely find at a hardware store. Starting with wet brick helps the cleaning solution you end up applying work on the outside of the brick instead of just soaking in.
3. Prepare a Cleaning Solution & Scrub
There are several routes you can go with picking a cleaning solution. See common methods below.
The mildest approach is dish detergent. If your fireplace bricks aren’t that dirty, or if you’re worried about causing damage to really old bricks, it may be best to try dish detergent first. If that doesn’t work, you can move on to something a little more aggressive later. In a bucket or similar container, mix together ¼ cup of clear, grease-cutting dish soap with four cups of water. Use a bristled brush to scrub the brick from the top down, then follow with an old toothbrush to get between bricks and in the corners.
Vinegar is another cleaning solution option, though it’s not recommended for bricks 20 years or older. Even if your fireplace brick is approaching 20 years, you still may want to use caution due to vinegar’s acidity. To clean with vinegar, mix equal parts warm water and vinegar and start scrubbing. Don’t worry—the vinegar smell will fade after an hour or so.
If those don’t cut it, borax is an option. For this, combine two tablespoons of borax, one tablespoon of dish detergent, and four cups of hot water in a spray bottle. Coat the bricks and scrub them in a circular motion.
If all else fails, many homeowners swear by Scrubbing Bubbles. Scrubbing Bubbles isn’t just for cleaning bathrooms, but it is recommended primarily for non-porous surfaces, so use it at your own risk. Many who have gone this route suggest spraying the product on the brick and allowing it to sit for about 20 minutes. Then dip your scrub brush into some water and scrub the brick, and follow up with a rag to wipe away any remaining product.
Once you’ve sufficiently scrubbed down your fireplace with whichever solution you choose, you’ll need to rinse it clean. Use a clean, wet rag or sponge to wipe down the entire surface, rinsing your rag after each pass. If the water gets dirty, be sure to change it as often as needed. Continue until you get all the suds and are just left with clean brick.
5. Spot Clean as Needed
Lastly, do a final up-close inspection to see if there are any spots you missed. If there are any stubborn stains remaining, mix a little baking soda with some warm water and scrub them away with a toothbrush or wire brush and then rinse. You can also use cream of tartar if you don’t have any baking soda nearby.
Tips for Cleaning Your Fireplace Bricks
These extra tips can help make your cleaning more effective and your experience more pleasant.
- For old brick, start with the least abrasive cleaning method first.
- Clean your fireplace from top to bottom to avoid drip streaks on lower areas you’ve already cleaned.
- If at first you don’t succeed, try again. You may need two or three rounds of cleaning for really dirty fireplaces.
- Make sure your scrub brush is sturdy enough for the job so you don’t have to exhaust your wrist or worry about the brush falling apart midway through.
- Clean your fireplace a couple of times a year to keep soot from collecting. This will make each cleaning experience easier.
Knowing how to clean fireplace brick effectively is one of those skills you never thought you’d pick up until becoming a homeowner. If you follow these steps (remember, you may have to do it more than once), you should end up with a fireplace that looks close to new.
For other cleaning tasks, check out our Public Goods cleaners that are all made to be effective without resorting to harmful chemicals. Our blog is also full of useful tips for how to clean items around your home in low-tox and sustainable ways.
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