How to Clean a Brick Fireplace and Remove Soot

Cleaning a brick fireplace requires elbow grease, but if you follow these steps, it’s a DIY job you can tackle yourself.

Even if you stay on top of sweeping ashes and keeping your hearth clean, it’s inevitable – your brick fireplace will develop soot. Depending on the severity, there are many methods to eliminate the blackening around your fireplace.

Here’s how to clean a brick fireplace on the inside and outside.

How to Clean a Brick Fireplace – Step by Step

How to Clean a Brick Fireplace and Remove Soot

Before tackling the bricks around your fireplace, ensure the area is cool. If you’ve recently used the fireplace, wait 24-72 hours before cleaning it.

Step 1: Remove the Grate and Sweep Out the Ash

If there’s a grate in your fireplace, start by removing it. Then shovel out large amounts of ash into your ash bucket. Vacuum the rest. 

Run your vacuum over all of the bricks to remove dust and lingering debris. You want your bricks to be dust free before washing them.

(When cleaning the fireplace, use a vacuum meant for ash. Never use a regular vacuum for cleaning ashes, or it will clog the filters and burn out the motor.)

Step 2: Moisten the Bricks

Bricks are porous, which means they have small holes that absorb water. By wetting your bricks before using a cleaning solution, the plain water will fill the holes, allowing the cleaner to sit at the surface and work on the soot stains.

You can wet your bricks by wiping them with a damp sponge or filling a spray bottle with water and misting them. Make sure all the bricks are damp before moving to the next step.

Step 3: Prepare Your Cleaning Solution

When it comes to washing bricks, there are numerous cleaning solutions you can try. The one that will work best depends on how severe the blackening around your fireplace is and the last time you cleaned it.

While you should start with a mild option, you may have to use a heavy duty-cleaner if you haven’t cleaned your bricks in years.

Mild Cleaning Solutions for bricks:

  • Dawn dish soap and water – Mix four cups of water and ¼ cup of Dawn dish soap in a bowl or bucket.
  • Vinegar and water (do NOT use on old or crumbling brick)– Mix equal amounts of water and white distilled vinegar in a bowl or bucket.

Heavy-duty cleaning solutions for brick:

  • Foaming bathroom cleaner – You can use a foaming bathroom cleaner like Scrubbing Bubbles, but spot test first to ensure it doesn’t cause discoloration. 
  • Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) – Mix one gallon of water with ⅛ cup of TSP. TSP is a heavy-duty cleaner so use it as a last resort. Wear gloves and goggles when using TSP, and avoid getting it on any surface other than the brick.

Step 4: Apply Your Cleaner, Scrub, and Rinse

How you apply your cleaning solution depends on the product you’re using. No matter your chosen method, the brick must be wet with plain water first.

Cleaning brick with Dawn or vinegar:

If you’re using Dawn dish soap or a vinegar mixture to clean your brick, apply it with a sponge or soft bristle brush. Work in small sections, and scrub the area until you’ve removed the stain. Then rinse with fresh water.

Cleaning brick with foaming bathroom cleaner:

Do a spot test to ensure the cleaner doesn’t discolor your brick. If it passes the test, apply a layer of foam to all bricks and let it sit for 15 minutes. Put on gloves, then scrub the brick with a sponge or soft-bristled brush. Rinse afterward.

Cleaning brick with TSP:

Ventilate the area, put on gloves and goggles, and tarp off any surrounding areas. Apply the cleaner to the brick and use a scrub brush in circular motions. Rinse the area twice to remove all TSP.

Step 5: Address the Stains

With the brick washed, you’ll see areas where staining is prominent. Try reapplying your cleaning solution to the stains and allowing it to sit for a couple of minutes before scrubbing.

An alternate method is to mix baking soda with water until a paste forms. Apply the paste to the stain and leave it for ten minutes. Afterward, scrub in circular motions with a soft-bristled brush and rinse the area.

How to Clean Inside a Wood-Burning Fireplace

Cleaning inside a wood-burning fireplace is just as important as the outside. But, the inside proves a little more challenging. The black build-up in the interior isn’t just soot – it’s also creosote. 

Before tackling creosote on the fireplace brick, we highly recommend you call a chimney cleaning company to sweep your chimney. Doing so will eliminate harmful creosote build-up that can lead to house fires.

With your chimney swept, follow these steps to clean inside your wood-burning fireplace. First, ventilate the room and wear gloves and goggles.

  • Wait 24-72 hours after last using the fireplace.
  • Remove all ashes and vacuum out and around the fireplace
  • Wet the brick with a spray bottle filled with plain water or a damp sponge
  • Mix ¼ cup of dish soap with 4 cups of water
  • Apply the solution to the brick with a stiff-bristled brush, and scrub in circular motions
  • Rinse well

Allow the brick to dry before using the fireplace.

If there is still some creosote build-up in the fireplace, purchase a creosote remover or use a creosote burning log.

If you have a wood-burning insert in your fireplace, use a fireplace glass cleaner or a damp paper towel coated in ashes to clean the glass on the door.

Cleaning a Painted Brick Fireplace

If you’ve painted the brick around your fireplace, stick to a mild cleaner. Try adding ¼ cup of dish soap to 4 cups of water and using a soft sponge to scrub the brick. 

For stubborn stains, make a paste by combining baking soda and water. Apply the paste to the stain and leave it for ten minutes. Then go back over the area with a sponge dipped in your dish soap solution. Rinse afterward.