Home Remedies to Clean Your Fireplace Brick
You know what smoking does--well, besides impact your health. It can make you look old beyond your years. That's what a smoking fireplace does to your bricks, too. And you can tell your fireplace over and over not to smoke, but nine times out of ten, it's going to keep doing it.
If you want to keep your brick fireplace looking young, here are some tips for cleaning the brick.
Before you clean, mask and cover everything within splatter range. You'll be using some kind of cleaning agent and a stiff brush, so splatters are inevitable. Rubber gloves and protective glasses are necessary.
If the dirt seems minor, try the easy solution first--hot, soapy water and brush. If that doesn't work, there are home remedies you can brew. Fireplace shops carry special cleaners, and green-minded homeowners may want to try one of the oxygen-bleach products.
Oxygen-bleach products can be expensive, but are safer and perhaps more effective than the more caustic cleaners. The cleaners come in highly concentrated versions or lesser concentrations. Oxygen bleaches are environmentally friendly. And they don't take a huge amount of scrubbing--brush it on, let it sit, then wipe and rinse. You may need to repeat.
Home Brews for Cleaning Brick
- Salty Paste. There are some cheaper home remedies. The simplest version involves making a paste of soap and salt (to act as an abrasive). Take equal amounts of dish or laundry soap and salt (by weight), and add just enough water to make it creamy. Rub the mixture into the brick with a cloth and let it dry for at least 15 minutes. Scrub it off with a stiff brush and rinse.
- Ammonia Paste. If that is too weak, you can add a bit of ammonia to the paste, and substitute pumice for the salt. If it doesn't clean your brick, it at least will root out your sinuses.
- Naptha Paste. Stronger yet may be a potion using naphtha soap, ammonia, and pumice. First, shave up a bar of naphtha, melt it in three quarts of boiling water, and add a cup of ammonia and pound of pumice after it cools. Apply, let sit, and scrub off with a brush.
When All Else Fails - Brick Breakers
At this point, you've probably tried something else and scrubbed to the point of frustration. What now? You can try one of these solutions, but test a small area first and be sure to wear proper protection.
- Household Acidic Cleaners. The most well known of these is CLR. This is actually a solution of acids including lactic acid and gluconic acid. Test carefully, this will remove rust, minerals and creosote but may damage finishes.
- Oven Cleaner. Oven cleaner or lye, will remove creosote from the face of the brick or from a glass screen. Use only according to directions.
- Trisodium phosphate (TSP). Trisodium phosphate, usually available where paint is sold, would be a harsh, extreme step. Sale of TSP is banned in some areas. If you choose this method, handle with care.
Jim Mallery, a semi-retired journalist and onetime registered contractor, has extensive experience remodeling, repairing, and rebuilding homes.