How to Clean Brick

Brick has a tough reputation, but it is easily damaged by harsh cleaning. When cleaning your interior brick surfaces, always start with the mildest method and work upward until you achieve the desired result. What follows are several methods, each one a bit more aggressive than the previous. Start with the first and work your way up.

Dish Detergent

You Will Need:

  • Bowl or small bucket
  • Warm water
  • Grease-cutting dish soap (such as Dawn™)
  • Table salt
  • Cleaning rags
  • Scrub brush (coarse bristles)

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Mix one part dish soap and one part salt with just enough water to make a loose paste.
  2. Using the cleaning rag, spread the mixture onto the brick surface
  3. Using the scrub brush, scrub the paste into the brick surface.
  4. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes.
  5. Rinse the paste off the brick with a clean rag dipped in clean warm water.

Boric Acid

You Will Need:

  • Boric Acid, such as Borax (usually found in the laundry aisle)
  • Bucket
  • Warm water
  • Scrub brush (coarse bristles)
  • Cleaning rags
  • Rubber gloves

The Cleaning Process:

  1. In your bucket, add about 1 tablespoon of boric acid to one gallon of warm water.
  2. Wearing your rubber gloves, dip your scrub brush in the cleaning solution and scrub the surface of the brick.
  3. When you’re done scrubbing, rinse away the solution with a rag dipped in warm water.


You Will Need:

  • Bowl or small bucket
  • Ammonia*
  • Grease-cutting dish soap
  • Pumice
  • Hot water
  • Cleaning rags
  • Rubber gloves
  • Scrub brush (coarse bristles)

*Ammonia is considered a dangerous chemical and should be handled with care. NEVER mix ammonia with bleach or any products containing bleach. For more information regarding ammonia safety, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Household Product Database and follow the links for the information desired.

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Mix two parts dish soap, one part ammonia and one part pumice (pumice powder can be found in stores that sell beauty supplies, and also in many arts and crafts stores), adding hot water until a loose paste forms.
  2. With rubber gloves on, use the cleaning rag to spread the mixture onto the brick surface, and allow it dry (at least 10 minutes).
  3. Wet your scrub brush, and scrub the mixture off the brick.
  4. Rinse with rag dipped in clean, hot water.

Naphtha Soap

(This method is especially useful for removing soot from fireplaces).

You Will Need:

  • Large pot
  • Fels Naphtha Soap*
  • Ammonia
  • Pumice
  • Paint brush
  • Scrub brush (coarse bristles)
  • Rubber gloves
  • Bucket
  • Dish Soap
  • Warm water
  • Cleaning rags

*Fels Naphtha soap is an old style laundry soap and can be a little hard to find. It is sold on some websites, such as Soaps Gone Buy.

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Fill the large pot with about three quarts of water and bring to a boil.
  2. Shave a bar of Naphtha soap into the boiling water, and keep boiling until the soap dissolves.
  3. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool.
  4. Mix in one cup of ammonia and about a pound of pumice. (See cautionary statement above regarding ammonia safety.)
  5. Wearing rubber gloves, paint the mixture onto the brick surface with the paint brush, and allow it to set for about one hour.
  6. Scrub the brick with the scrub brush (still wearing gloves).
  7. In the bucket mix a little dish soap with hot water and with a rag, wipe down the brick to remove residue from the Naphtha solution.
  8. Rinse again with a rag dipped in clean water.

Trisodium Phosphate

This is your method of last resort. Trisodium Phosphate (sold in most home improvement and hardware stores) is a hazardous chemical, and you should wear heavy duty rubber gloves and safety goggles when using this product. Avoid getting this solution on anything except the brick, including skin, flooring, carpeting, and furniture. For more information regarding hazards associated with TSP is available online.

You Will Need:

  • Large bucket
  • Trisodium Phosphate (TSP)
  • Hot water
  • Scrub brush (coarse bristles)
  • Cleaning rag
  • Goggles
  • Heavy duty rubber gloves

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Making sure you are wearing your protective gear, in your bucket, mix about 1/2 cup of TSP with 1 gallon of hot water.
  2. Dip your scrub brush in the solution and scrub the brick.
  3. When done scrubbing, rinse the area thoroughly with hot water, using the cleaning rag.
  4. If stains remain, you may scrub again, increasing the TSP to 1 cup per gallon of hot water. NOTE: This will be a VERY strong and abrasive solution! Be careful not to get it on yourself or anything else, except the brick!

Additional Tips and Advice

  • To avoid damage to your brick, always try the mildest method of cleaning first, and graduate step by step to more aggressive cleaning methods until you find one that works.
  • Never apply sealant or waterproofing to any brick surface; brick needs to breath and applying any such substance to your brick will ultimately ruin it.
  • Your brick surfaces should be dusted and vacuumed regularly to lessen the frequency of heavy duty cleaning.
  • No matter what cleaning method you are using ALWAYS keep your work area well-ventilated to avoid the ill-effects of fumes from your particular cleaning solution.
  • For heavy patches of grime or burnt material on brick fireplaces, oven cleaner may be an effective alternate cleaning method.


  1. Maryann says:

    How do you manage to get the soapy Dawn off the brick fireplace? Wiping it down with a clean rag takes forever and ever to get rid of the soap.

  2. Ric says:

    Try this!

  3. Sara says:

    I was thinking the same thing about how to remove the sudsy Dawn dish liquid without soaking my carpets. I think I’m going to try the borax paste.

  4. Larry says:

    How do I clean the water damage (white powdery efflorescence) on the surface of only a section of an old brick house due to water from a window-mounted AC?

    Would appreciate your comments…Larry

  5. Melanie says:

    I left a lengthy comment on the post How to Clean, Seal and Polish a Brick Driveway about removing efflorescence from brick. See it here. Hope it helps!

  6. Gaynell says:

    I need to clean whiskey and coke off my brick wall that’s been there for years. Any tips?

  7. Melanie says:

    Try using an enzyme cleaner that is safe for brick, such as Nature’s Miracle Hard Floor Cleaner. Follow the directions on the label of your selected cleaner. Since the stain is old, it may take a couple applications to remove it fully.

  8. Chris says:

    How do I clean motor oil from vandalism? It’s been on the exterior of my brick for a small period of time. Any suggestions would be great!

  9. Melanie says:

    This is the article that you need: How to Clean Automotive Fluid Spills.

  10. Sue says:

    I have a brick wall around our fireplace that has water damage from a leak. Do I still use these methods to clean the brick back to normal?

  11. Laurie says:

    I have an interior brick foyer. When the walls and ceiling were primed, paint got on a quarter of the bricks. Any idea how to clean this and maybe polish them? Using a pressure washer indoors is not an option.

    Check it out! We’ve answered your question! Yay!

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