A fireplace is always a welcoming addition to any home. All homeowners know that whether you have a stone fireplace, a marble, or a brick one, it needs regular cleaning and that you will inevitably end up with soot on the surface, even on bricks. This will be even more visible when you have bricks painted with bright colours.
Because soot can leave permanent stains on the surfaces it comes into contact with, it’s important to know how to clean it properly. We will show you how to do so with a natural remedy like baking soda or vinegar or potent chemical cleaner to remove soot from your painted brickwalls and get them shiny again.
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How often you should clean
Soot builds on bricks, ceramic tiles, grout and painted surfaces, leaving a smoky odour and ugly black marks. It’s important to clean soot regularly since it can cause long-term harm, especially to porous brick surfaces.
The more frequently you use a brick fireplace, the more you’ll need to clean it. Otherwise, soot stains and discolouration will be increasingly difficult to tackle.
Allow at least 12 hours for your fireplace to cool before using it, as cleaning hot bricks is not recommended. You can either allow it to cool down overnight or for at least 12 hours before starting out any cleaning method.
This will keep your hands safe and ensure that no chemicals become warm while you use them. If you use your fireplace for heat, cleaning it during the summer months when you won’t be using it as much is a good idea.
Get rid of the ashes and any loose soot. You can clear it out with a stiff brush and a dustpan before you start scrubbing your wood-burning fireplace. This will make deep cleaning a lot easier for you later on. You can keep wood that hasn’t been burned for subsequent use.
It is a good idea to lay down a cloth or towels to protect your floors. The reason for this is that while you clean, you may drip water or chemicals on the floor and fireplace surround. To avoid damaging your carpet or hardwood, install a protective covering on the area surrounding your fireplace.
Newspapers should not be used since the ink can transfer to your floors if they get wet. Also, you may get chemicals on your hands while removing soot and so to protect your skin and avoid irritation, put on rubber gloves.
Natural remedies for cleaning soot off painted bricks
Cleaning soot off painted brick walls is an easy DIY task and requires tools and materials you already have at home without using harsh chemicals or special degreasers.
The bicarbonate of soda is one of the most powerful natural ingredients used for cleaning purposes. You can use it to clean all kinds of stains off the carpets and your mattresses, a burnt pan, get paint off metal door handles and so forth. Here’s how to clean fireplace bricks.
1. Make a paste using water and baking soda in a 1:1 ratio
You will need warm water + 4 teaspoons of baking soda (about 56 g). Combine the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir until thick paste forms.
2. Rub the mixture into the bricks with your hands
Scoop a large amount of the paste onto your bricks and spread it around. Apply a thin layer to the entire brick face, working from the top down. Extra paste should be applied to the inside of the fireplace, where the soot will be the thickest.
Pay attention to the fissures and grooves that exist between the bricks. These are the bits that will be stained the most. Apply the paste with a clean rag using circular motions to protect your hands.
3. Allow 10 minutes for the paste to set
To dislodge the soot, let the paste sit for about 10 minutes. Allowing the paste to dry or firm completely may cause harm to your brickwork. Spritz it with water if your paste becomes too dry to rehydrate it.
4. Scrape the mixture away using an abrasive scrub brush
Baking soda, which is somewhat abrasive, will help you clean away difficult soot with your brush. Use a scrub brush or a paintbrush with rough bristles and brush gently so as not to damage the bricks themselves. To remove the baking soda residue from your brush, dab it in water every now and then.
5. Remove the drop cloths and clean fireplace bricks with water
Remove any remaining baking soda from your bricks with a gentle sponge dipped in water. Allow the fireplace to dry before reusing it completely. Remove any cloths or towels that were placed on the floor to catch spillage.
Another natural powerful ingredient used for cleaning around the house is vinegar. You can paintbrushes, remove rust from chrome and the list could go on and on. Let’s see how to use vinegar for cleaning your brick fireplace.
1. Mix white vinegar and water in a spray bottle
Combine around 240 mL of vinegar with 240 mL of water. Give the bottle a good shake to make sure they’re well mixed. Use a clean spray container that has never been exposed to strong chemicals. Most home goods and hardware stores sell empty spray bottles.
NOTE: If your bricks are older than 20 years, vinegar may be a bit too harsh to use, and so it is better to stick with a non-acidic cleanser like baking soda.
2. Apply the vinegar solution to the inside and outside of the bricks
Spray your vinegar cleanser all over the bricks, starting from the top and working your way down. Pay close attention to the areas with a lot of soot, which could be around the fireplace’s opening. Make sure cloth is in place to catch any drips. If you have any vinegar cleanser left over, you can use it to clean bathrooms tiles and worktops naturally.
3. Allow 10 minutes for the mixture to set
Because vinegar is moderately acidic, it will help break down the soot and grime that has accumulated on your bricks. Allow the vinegar and water to set on the bricks for a few minutes, but not let them dry. Allow it to sit for no more than 10 minutes, or the acidity will begin to corrode your bricks.
4. Scrub the bricks with a brush from top to bottom
Use a scrub brush dipped in warm, clean water and pay special attention to the crevices between the bricks and any soot-covered places. Scrub the bricks until there is no longer any vinegar odour.
To remove the vinegar faster, sprinkle baking soda over the bricks. This, however, can induce a foamy response on your bricks, which could result in a mess.
5. Remove the drop cloths and clean your bricks with water
Spread the water all over the bricks with a soft sponge. Then, remove any cloths or towels used to cover the area around your fireplace. Allow your fireplace to thoroughly dry before using it again.
How to remove soot from your painted bricks with chemical cleaners
1. Put on gloves before you start
If you get a chemical cleaner like TSP (trisodium phosphate) on your hands, it might harm your skin. To protect your hands, put on rubber cooking gloves and avoid contacting TSP with your bare hands as much as possible. TSP can also affect your eyes. If you’re worried about splashing, put on safety eyewear.
2. Combine trisodium phosphate and water in a bucket
You will need to add eight tablespoons (112 g) of TSP to a bucket of warm water (4 litres). Choose a plastic bucket that you don’t wish to reuse in the future. Stir the ingredients together until they create a thin, runny paste.
3. Scrub the mixture into the bricks with a stiff-bristled brush
Scrub the paste into the outside and inside the bricks using your brush. Then, add more paste to areas with more soot, working from the top down. Scrub the affected areas to remove the soot, but be careful not to harm the bricks. This is especially the case if your fireplace is old.
4. Rinse the bricks with water using a sponge
Apply warm water to your bricks with a gentle sponge. Wipe away any TSP residue that has remained on your bricks with a soft sponge. After you’ve finished using your bucket and brushes, thoroughly rinse them. Apply more TSP paste and scrub your bricks again if there is still soot on them and then remove the dropcloths once you’re done.
How to remove soot from painted bricks with dish soap and salt
1. Combine the cleaning solution in a bowl
Combine 4 litres of warm water and two tablespoons of dish detergent in one bucket with grease cutters. Pour 4 litres of cool water into a second bucket and add one cup of distilled white vinegar.
2. Spritz the stained areas with water
Spritz the stained spots with plain water now from a spray bottle. To keep the bricks from drying out, work in small sections at a time.
3. Get the scrub brush ready
The brush should be dipped in the dishwashing liquid solution and thoroughly sprinkled with table salt. The salt will release the soot off the brick by acting as a mild abrasive. Now scrub the dark areas with some elbow grease.
Wipe away the cleaning solution and loosen soot with one sponge. Then, wipe the cleaned area with a second sponge dipped in the soapy water and vinegar solution. The vinegar will aid in the removal of soapy residue and the elimination of smoke stains.
5. Repeat the process as needed
If the bricks are stained, repeat the procedures with new cleaning solutions or switch to a more vigorous cleaning approach.
After the soot has been cleared, you may notice rust streaks on metal fireplace accessories. Oxalic acid is all you need to remove such stains, and don’t forget to follow the product instructions to the letter.
The acidic nature of soot can make it difficult to remove at first, but the above solutions will work well in many situations. They will get rid of the unsightly black discolouration. Remember never to touch a harsh chemical cleaner with your bare hands, and always put on rubber gloves!
Next project: How to clean soot from fireplace stone in easy steps.