If you’re reading this guide, chances are good that you’re staring at a soot-stained fireplace and asking yourself how the heck you’re going to get it clean. The good news: we’ve got six different ways you can pick from, the bad news: it’s going to take some elbow grease.
Using Soap and Abrasives
This method involves working a paste made of soap and an abrasive (salt) into the brick, allowing it to dry and adhere to the dirt, and then removing the dry material.
Rubber gloves, a cloth, dish soap, table salt, a stiff-bristled brush, and water
- Mix one ounce of soap with one ounce of table salt in just enough water to make the mixture creamy.
- Thoroughly rub it into the brick with a cloth.
- Allow it to dry for at least ten minutes, then use a stiff brush to remove it.
This method works in the same way as the first, but will be harsher on your brickwork.
Rubber gloves, dish soap, pumice, ammonia, a scrub brush, and water
- Make a thick mixture of soap, pumice, ammonia (start with just a little), and hot water.
- Paint the mixture onto the brick with a brush or cloth, and let it dry.
- Remove the dry mixture with a wet scrub brush.
Using Naptha and Ammonia
This method uses the cleaning power of naphtha, abrasives, chemicals and muscle. Works particularly well on soot.
Rubber gloves. a bar of naphtha laundry soap, ammonia, pumice, a large pot, a stiff-bristled brush, detergent, and water
- Shave the naphtha bar into a large pot and add three quarts of water.
- Bring the mixture to a full boil and keep it there until the soap melts.
- Allow it to cool.
- Mix in one cup ammonia and one pound of pumice.
- Brush the mixture onto all of the sooty surfaces and let it stand for at least one hour.
- Scrub it off using a stiff-bristled brush.
- Remove any remaining material with a warm water rinse, followed by a normal cleaning with a strong detergent.
Using Trisodium Phosphate
This method employs harsh chemicals and elbow grease – wear gloves and eye protection! Also be careful not to get this on your skin, carpet, furniture… well, anywhere except the fireplace brick…
Rubber gloves, eye protection, 1/2 cup trisodium phosphate (TSP – can be found at most hardware stores), stiff-bristled scrub brush, water.
- Dissolve 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) trisodium phosphate (TSP) in 1 gallon of hot water.
- With a stiff scrub brush, scrub the brick surfaces with the mix.
- Rinse with plenty of warm water.
- Repeat if soot or greasy stains are not removed.
- More TSP may be added if necessary, up to 1 cup per gallon. This is a very strong solution; avoid getting it on your skin, carpet, or fabrics.
Using Oven Cleaner
This method uses oven cleaner, which was designed specifically to remove burnt food and scorch marks from your oven.
Rubber gloves, eye protection, your favorite oven cleaner, a towel.
- There’s no need to preheat anything; just spray it on.
- Let it soak for about 3-5 minutes, or follow the time recommended for that particular cleaner.
- Wipe it off with a coarse towel.
White vinegar is a mild acid that works well for cleaning a brick fireplace, including for removing smoke residue from the brick or even for cleaning glass fireplace doors. Here are cleaning instructions for using vinegar on your brick fireplace based on information from Vinegar by Vicki Lansky.
White vinegar, a scrub brush, water, a towel.
- Spray or pour some undiluted white vinegar onto the brick.
- Scrub the area with a scrub brush.
- Pat the area with towel to soak up the dirt and vinegar.
- Spray or pour some water over the area to rinse it.
- Pat the area with a towel again to soak up the water.
How to Cover a Brick Fireplace
If you’re fireplace is scorched beyond your tolerance for cleaning, you can:
- Paint it: painting a brick fireplace, Fireplace Paint Kits
- Resurface it: How to cover a brick fireplace with tile