How to Clean Brick Fireplace Enclosures

Before you clean your brick fireplace, check within the chimney for creosote accumulation. The Chimney Safety Institute recommends that as a safety measure to prevent chimney fires, sweep the interior of the chimney when the accumulation reaches at least 1/4-inch thick on the interior walls.

Ash and Fire Debris

Put a tarp or drop cloth before the fireplace to protect your flooring from ash and soot as you operate. Eliminate any remaining fire and ash debris from in the fireplace. You may use a vacuum, but be aware that the fine ash clogs bag-less vacuum filters. In case you have a lot of ash, spread used coffee grounds atop it before removal to cut down on dust. Prepare the walls for cleaning by dry scrubbing them with a soft-bristle brush to get rid of loose debris. You do not have to toss the ash out in the event that you compost it in overturned garden beds or spread it between landscaping, since it can help to make soil alkalinity.

The Dirty Work

Wear a face mask and rubber gloves since you work. Eliminate the grate to get cleaning outside. A solution of trisodium phosphate, household bleach and water securely removes excessive grime and dirt from the interior of your brick fireplace. In a plastic bucket, combine a gallon of warm water, 6 tablespoons of trisodium phosphate and one cup of bleach to make a cleaning solution, or utilize a store-bought brick or masonry cleaner. Soak the brush in the cleaning solution before scrubbing the walls. Rinse with clear water and dry with a household rag.

Burn or Brown Stains

Any homeowner can mix up a solution of oxalic acid dry bleach and water to get rid of brown or manganese stains on the bricks. Combine 1 gallon of water in a nonmetallic container with 1 pound of dry oxalic acid bleach. It’s important to wet the brick with clean water until you apply the mixture with a brush or by a spray bottle. Following the stain is gone, neutralize the oxalic acid solution with a mixture of 1 gallon of water and 1.5 ounces of sodium carbonate, available as soda ash, washing soda or soda crystals. Rinse with clean water and dry.

When All Else Fails

Hydrochloric acid or muriatic acid is the last selection for cleaning a fireplace as it’s harmful to have around the house and can damage brick should you use it haphazardly. It requires strict adherence to label precautions and use. Avoid unbuffered muriatic acid since it can cause stains as opposed to eliminate them. A safer alternative for tough stains is phosphoric acid, available from many hardware and home improvement stores. When using harsh chemicals, wear the proper safety gear, including a special National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-approved mask or breather. Keep plenty of water and baking soda for sale as a neutralizing agent in case you want to use it. Thoroughly wet the brick with plenty of water prior to applying an acid-based item.

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