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A fireplace is a thing of great beauty, adding to the charm of any room it is in. In fact, fireplace mantles are some of the best places in a living room to display art, Christmas stockings, and cherished family photographs. However, brick is porous in nature, which means soot is bound to accumulate in the tiny holes on its surface.
Empty the fireplace
The first thing you will need to do is to completely clear out your fireplace. Make sure the fireplace is cold before you start clearing it out though. Then, using a vacuum cleaner with the brush attachment, remove as much ash and soot as you can from the hearth.
Wet the bricks
The key to cleaning fireplace bricks effectively lies in saturating them with plain water before you apply a cleaning agent and scrub them. Because the bricks are porous, the water will seep in, and when you apply soap or any other cleanser, it will stay on the surface instead of getting absorbed.
Before you start wetting the bricks, remember to put down some waterproof cloth to avoid wetting the insides of your home. The easiest way to wet the bricks would be to either use a spray bottle or to buy a masonry sponge from a hardware store.
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Prepare your cleaning solution
There are multiple cleaning agents you could choose to clean your fireplace bricks. What you choose will depend on the age of the bricks and the amount of soot that needs to be cleaned.
If the bricks in your fireplace are 20 years old or older, it is best to use mild detergents like dishwashing soap to avoid damaging the bricks. Dilute a quarter cup of clear grease-cutting dish soap with four cups of water. Scrub it gently and see if the soot is removed.
Distilled white vinegar is a great option for more stubborn stains, although the solution may be too acidic for older bricks. To prepare this solution, mix equal parts vinegar with warm water. A small amount of dishwashing fluid can also be mixed with it. The proportion ought to be just two tablespoons for every gallon.
Foaming bathroom cleaners like Scrubby Bubbles are actually best suited for non-porous surfaces, but we’ve heard some homeowners swear by them. If you’re using one of these, we’d suggest you apply the cleaner on the bricks and leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes before you begin cleaning.
If none of these cleaners are effective in removing the soot, you may need to resort to stronger cleaning agents. Keep in mind though that these agents could cause irreparable damage to older, more fragile bricks. You will also need to protect yourself by using safety goggles, rubber gloves and keeping the room well ventilated.
- A mixture of two tablespoons of borax, two cups of water, and a tablespoon of dish detergent.
- A half-cup of ammonia mixed with four cups of water and a quarter cup of dish soap.
- A gallon of hot water mixed with a 1/8th cup of trisodium phosphate (TSP).
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The scrubbing process
While the milder detergents can be spritzed onto the bricks using a spray bottle, you will need to mix the stronger detergents in a bucket and use either a sponge or a paintbrush to apply it to the bricks.
Always work in small areas to make sure the bricks don’t dry out and work your way from the top downwards. That way, you will not need to worry about staining or streaking on areas you’ve already cleaned.
The correct tool to scrub bricks is a firm, plastic bristled scrub brush. Dip your scrub brush in the solution and scrub the spot clean in a circular motion. If at first, the soot does not appear to be going, apply the cleaning solution and let it sit for a few minutes before you repeat the steps.
As you finish scrubbing a small area, repeatedly rinse that area using a sponge dipped in clean water. As you keep rinsing, the water is bound to become dirty, so keep changing the water as well.
Once you’ve finished scrubbing and rinsing all the bricks, check for any stubborn soot stains that may be remaining. You can cleanse these using either a mixture of cream or tartar or baking soda and water. Apply this mixture to the stains and let it sit for around 10 minutes. Scrub it firmly using a toothbrush and rinse it again.
Read more: Inside fireplace painting
Hiring professional help
Sometimes, when soot has been collected on the bricks for a while, chances are that the stains may not easily wash off, even when you use stronger cleaning solutions. When this happens, it may be time for you to hire professional cleaners for a deep clean. Cleaning only the bricks should cost you between $95 and $250, but that cost can go up to $225 to $326 if your chimney needs to be cleaned as well.