If you’re like most people, you probably thought that getting a fireplace would make your home cozier and cause no problems. But after a few weeks of using it, you realized that it’s not only the logs that need chopping—the fireplace bricks need cleaning too!
But don’t worry! We’re here to help!
We’ll teach you how to clean a brick fireplace inside and out in no time.
What’s the Best Time to Clean Your Brick Fireplace?
The most convenient time to clean a fireplace is spring or fall.
Including your fireplace in your spring cleaning list will help you eliminate any soot and debris accumulated over the winter. This will also prevent dust, ash, and debris from scattering all over your room.
Cleaning your fireplace during fall will make sure it’s in functioning order immediately before the start of the heating season. This way, you’ll avoid bad smells and a potential fire hazard once you start using the fireplace again.
How Often Should You Clean Brick Fireplaces?
According to CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America), you should clean your fireplace when the soot/creosote buildup in the chimney liner reaches 1/8 inches.
Regardless of this, it’s best to clean a brick fireplace at least once a year regardless of whether you use it often or not.
You can reduce the mess between annual cleanings by removing grime off the bricks as soon as they start looking dirty. If you wait too long, the soot can become difficult to remove and even stain the bricks and your precious items around the fireplace.
Should I Do It Myself?
Hiring a professional to clean your fireplace is the safest way, but if you want to save up some money, you can always try to do it yourself (by following the right instructions and taking all necessary precautions).
How to Choose the Right Fireplace Brick Cleaner
There are a few effective natural and synthetic cleaning agents for fireplaces made of bricks, including vinegar, baking soda, salt, Elbow Grease, etc.
But how to choose the right one?
When in doubt, the three most important things to consider are:
- The type of bricks
- Fireplace location
- The type of soot
Before you start cleaning your fireplace, you should identify whether it’s made of absorbent or non-absorbent bricks.
The easiest way to do so (if you’re unsure about the brick type) is to test your bricks by sprinkling water on them. If the water beads up on the bricks‘ surface, your bricks are non-absorbent. If they tend to absorb water, they’re absorbent.
For cleaning absorbent bricks, you’ll likely need a deep-cleaning chemical solution or a commercial chimney/ fireplace brick cleaner.
On the other hand, some water and a good scrub brush might be enough for non-absorbent bricks.
Fireplace Location—Indoor vs. Outdoor Fireplaces
Indoor fireplaces require special attention when cleaning. You should be extra careful not to damage the objects surrounding it. Therefore, you should avoid harsh cleaners, as well as cleaners that produce harmful fumes (if there isn’t enough air circulation in your room).
You don’t need to be that careful with outdoor fireplaces. You can generally use harsher cleaning agents on them and deploy easier rinsing tactics depending on the surroundings.
The Type of Soot
If you’re dealing with dry soot, using a soft brush is usually enough to remove it.
If it’s wet soot, you’ll need to use a detergent or degreaser (make sure to test the cleaner in an inconspicuous spot before using it on the entire fireplace to avoid staining and damage).
Cleaning Your Fireplace Inside and Out
Now let’s take a look at some of the methods that can be used to clean your fireplace’s interior and exteriors.
Step 1: Gather Tools and Materials Needed for the Cleaning of Your Brick Fireplace
If your fireplace is only lightly soiled, you can probably clean it with just a damp cloth.
However, if there’s a lot of soot and grime buildup on the bricks, you’ll need more items like:
- A stiff brush or putty knife (to loosen and remove the debris)
- A vacuum cleaner adapted for ash or a heavy-duty vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter
- A bucket of water
- A spray bottle
- An adequate cleaning agent, such as:
- Dishwashing liquid
- Baking soda
- Elbow Grease,
- Scrubbing Bubbles, etc.
- Protective gear (e.g., a protective mask, goggles, etc.)
- A masonry sponge, etc.
Step 2: Prepare and Protect the Surrounding Area
Remove any furniture, carpet, and textile situated near the fireplace. If this is impossible, you can cover the area around the fireplace with a tarp.
If your fireplace is placed near any electronics, unplug them before you begin your cleaning.
Also, make sure to open up all the windows and doors to boost air circulation, as some of the cleaning products may be dangerous to inhale.
Step 3: Clean the Soot off Your Brick Fireplace
This is the messiest part of the whole process. Unfortunately, unlike electric grills, electric fireplaces, and other electric heat-producing objects, wood-burning fireplaces produce lots of soot that needs cleaning.
When your fireplace is cold, scoop and sweep away any wood debris, loose soot, ashes, and grate from the hearth. Use a vacuum cleaner for finer debris and dirt.
Don’t forget to mask up with a highly-protective breathing mask. Soot can cause breathing issues like asthma, bronchitis, and even cancer. You can use some protective goggles to protect your eyes as well.
Step 4: Saturate Porous Brick With Water
Wet the entire brick area (inside and out) by spraying or sponging it with water. This will prevent the cleaning solution from entering the bricks and potentially damaging them.
This is especially important if you’re planning to use an acidic cleaner on a porous brick, as acidic cleaners can eat away the brick from the inside when absorbed.
Make sure to saturate the entire wall, not just the stained areas.
Step 5: Clean the Inside of Your Fireplace Brick Wall
Once you’ve removed as much debris as possible and saturated the bricks with water, you can wipe the inside of your fireplace with a cloth dampened in the cleaner of your choice.
Clean in small sections so that the cleaner doesn’t have a chance to dry on the bricks. Rinse each section with clean water as soon as you’re done with it.
How to Clean a Brick Fireplace With Scrubbing Bubbles
According to many homeowners, Scrubbing Bubbles and similar bathroom cleaners are strong enough to remove soot residue and brighten up your brick fireplace.
And the process is quite simple:
- Spray the bricks with Scrubbing Bubbles.
- Let the cleaning solution sit for 15–20 minutes.
- Scrub the brick with a brush or masonry sponge.
- Rinse the bricks with water.
If this approach doesn’t work, you can take it a step further by trying a harsher approach.
How to Clean Your Brick Fireplace With Vinegar
Vinegar can be a pretty effective brick fireplace cleaner. However, you should be careful about using it on fireplaces older than 20 years, as vinegar’s acidity can damage old bricks.
This is how to clean your fireplace with it:
- Prepare a vinegar solution of equal parts of vinegar and water. You can also add 90 drops of lemon juice and/or about two tablespoons of dishwashing soap per gallon to boost effectiveness.
- Apply the cleaning solution with a sponge and let it sit for an hour. This solution should work like magic to clean a red brick fireplace and rid it of soot, dirt, but also the white efflorescence left after construction.
- If you’re dealing with tough stains, you could sprinkle some baking soda or salt on a brush and use them as mild abrasives to scrub away the stains. Baking soda will also absorb the smell of the vinegar and neutralize the vinegar’s acidity.
Tip: You can also use fine-ground powdered pumice as a scrubbing agent.
Tip 2: If the bricks are still stained after using this method, don’t be afraid to apply some Elbow Grease after rinsing the bricks thoroughly.
How to Clean a Fireplace Brick Wall With TSP
If you aren’t happy with the results of any of the previously described methods, you can use this harsh chemical to get rid of the hardest of stains.
To safely handle trisodium phosphate (TSP), follow these steps:
- Mix 1/2 cup of TSP with a gallon of hot water in a bucket.
- Apply the mixture to the bricks with a brush or a sponge.
- Scrub the bricks.
- Rinse well with plain water and a clean sponge.
Use TSP with caution as this harsh chemical can damage ceramic tiles, colored fabric, and even corrode metal. Also, make sure you wear protective clothing, gloves, and goggles and that the area is well ventilated.
How to Clean a Brick Fireplace With Ammonia
Given that ammonia is toxic, we recommend using this method to spot-clean particularly stubborn stains on your fireplace walls.
- Use protective gear like rubber gloves and goggles, and make sure there’s good air circulation in the room.
- Mix 1/2 cup of ammonia with four cups of water, and add a 1/4 cup of dish soap.
- Dip a scrubbing brush into the mixture and scrub the brick wall until the tough stains are removed.
All these cleaning methods can also be used to clean a brick fireplace exterior. However, exterior walls usually arent’s that dirty, so you most probably can get away with using just water and a masonry sponge.
Step 6: Rinse Thoroughly
Whichever cleaning method you choose, you should rinse the bricks thoroughly to prevent the cleaner from potentially staining the wall or corroding the bricks. Use fresh water, a spray bottle, a clean masonry sponge, a cloth, and a bucket to rinse the bricks.
Dry your fireplace with a cloth and repeat the procedure if you’re not satisfied with the results.
- Use the smallest amount of water possible when cleaning your fireplace, as bricks and mortar can absorb it. Otherwise, you might encounter problems during cleaning and risk mold developing on the bricks.
- Clean your brick fireplace starting from top to the bottom to avoid streaks.
- Don’t forget to clean any brick around the fireplace. They can also harbor combustion debris and soot.
- Seal the brick wall with a masonry sealer to protect it from humidity and dirt absorption.
- If you accept nothing less than an impeccable cleaning job (or if your fireplace is heavily stained), have your brick fireplace cleaned by professionals.
- Vacuum the whole room, and use a quality hardwood floor cleaner to eliminate any debris that flew away in the cleaning process. This way, you’ll protect your family and pets from exposure to toxic soot.
There’s no denying it—soot and dust from your fireplace can and will stain the bricks and all the furniture and walls surrounding it. So, you need to clean it regularly.
We hope these tips help you clean your fireplace quickly and efficiently so that you can get back to enjoying the cozy warmth of your fireplace all winter long.
How do you clean and brighten a brick fireplace?
You can clean your brick fireplace and brighten it up at the same time by treating it with a commercial fireplace cleaner or a mixture of vinegar and water. For better results, use baking soda, salt, or other mild abrasive that you’ll apply with a hard scrub brush.
Does vinegar harm brick?
Yes, but only if your brick fireplace is over 20 years old. If this is the case, consider a less abrasive cleaner.
For newer fireplaces, vinegar is an effective brick cleaner. It’s also non-toxic both to you and the environment.
What is a good brick cleaner?
Vinegar is the best natural brick cleaner, especially in combination with abrasives like baking soda powder or salt. TSP (trisodium phosphate) is the most potent brick cleaner. However, due to its corroding properties, it should be used with caution.
How do you make the old brick look new again?
- Clean the stains with a mixture of vinegar and water.
- Scrub the surface with a mild abrasive like salt or baking soda.
- Replace any broken mortar or bricks with professional help.
- Seal your wall with a deep penetrating sealant to prevent soot and moisture penetration.
Can you use OxiClean on brick?
Yes, you can clean brick with OxiClean, as well as other products containing oxygen bleach. Cleaners like this are particularly suited for outdoor bricks (e.g., outdoor brick walls, fireplaces, paths, etc.). They’re also especially effective against mold and mildew buildup.
However, OxiClean can be corrosive, so to be on the safe side, follow the instructions on how to clean a brick fireplace with this cleaner carefully.