Cleaning soot, ash, and smoke off fireplace bricks is possible and not too hard. You just need a cleaning product that is made specifically to clean soot and smoke stains.
We’re renovating the wall around our fireplace. It had ugly, purple wood paneling and a tiny mantel. We took down the wood paneling and put up dry wall. Then we textured and painted the wall around the fireplace a beautiful shade of white. I love how it’s coming along. The only problem is that the soot and smoke marks and grime are really obvious on the fireplace bricks. The fireplace itself looks terrible next to our new, clean wall. (One home improvement project always seems to lead to another project).
I wanted to get the bricks clean before we install our mantel because some of the bricks will be a little harder to reach when surrounded by wood. So I tried to clean them with just about every different type of cleaner I own. Soap and water, Ajax, magic eraser, de-greaser, a bleach solutions, and more (I tested them in an inconspicuous place in case it damaged the bricks). Nothing worked. Nothing removed the black.
There are two problems with cleaning fireplace. First, soot and smoke residue are oil-based, so they don’t clean up like most household problems which are water-based. I’ve seen homes where the owners tried to repaint a wall that had smoke stains. Bad idea. The stains come through the water-based paint.
The second is that bricks are very porous, so most of the cleaning products go into the holes in the bricks and just sit there. The dirt stays on the bricks and it’s hard to remove the cleaning products.
After many failed Google and Pinterest searches, I asked our chimney sweep his suggestion for cleaning the bricks. He recommended . And it worked! Here’s how I cleaned our fireplace bricks.
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Fireplace Cleaning Supplies
- Speedy White Hearth & Stove Cleaner
- Scrub brush
- Rags or cleaning cloths
- and lots of elbow grease
How to Clean the Bricks
I cleaned three bricks at a time. I started by spraying a few squirts of the Speedy White cleaner onto the bricks then let it sit for a couple of minutes.
Then I started scrubbing. I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed for at least 5 minutes on those three bricks. It foamed and then the white foam slowly turned gray. Sometimes I added a little more cleaner if the foam died down. Just FYI, my scrub brush is nothing special—I bought it at the dollar store.
After lots of scrubbing, I used a wet cleaning cloth to clean up the foam. All the oils and dirt get into the foam, so wiping it up is important. I rinsed out the cleaning cloth and wiped the bricks again. And again until the cleaning cloth wasn’t showing any more dirt or foam.
On some of the dirtier bricks I repeated the spraying, scrubbing, and cleaning two or three times.
Eventually all the black soot and smoke stains came off. All the grime on the fireplace was gone! The bricks look clean and almost brand new.
I do have to admit that there are a few stains the cleaner didn’t remove. There are a couple of dried paint spots from when the previous owner painted. The cleaner didn’t affect those at all. There are also a few dark circular stains that look like wax candle drippings. Luckily they are tiny and not too noticeable because I haven’t figured our how to get rid of them yet. Let me know if you have any suggestions. The porous bricks have thwarted everything I’ve tried.
Now our fireplace looks new and clean and matches the surrounding wall. All it needs now is a new, modern-style mantel.