Cleaning your fireplace bricks can be a pain. It’s messy, tedious, and requires a lot of scrubbing. While it may be tempting to use time-saving commercial cleaners to power away soot, their toxic ingredients can harm your family, pets, and the planet.
Before turning to toxic chemicals, try these all-natural ways to clean a fireplace first. Common ingredients in fireplace cleaners like trisodium phosphate (TSP) and ammonia create toxic fumes and pollute waterways. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency listed TSP as a “hazardous substance.”
The damage caused by these harmful chemicals— both to your health and the environment— are not worth the convenience. In this guide to cleaning a fireplace without harsh chemicals, we’ll break down three proven ways to clean fireplace bricks using all-natural ingredients (and a bit of elbow grease).
How to Clean A Brick Fireplace Without Harsh Chemicals
Gather Your Cleaning Supplies
First things first, you’ll need to gather your cleaning supplies. Regardless of which of the DIY fireplace cleaners below you choose to use, you’ll need the following items before you clean:
- Waterproof drop cloths
- Broom and dustpan/ vacuum
- Spray bottle with water
- Firm scrub brush or brushes of various sizes (Opt for ergonomic brushes that make scrubbing a bit easier.)
- Rubber gloves, face mask, and protective eyewear (soot can easily irritate your eyes, lungs, and skin)
The soot and ash inside your fireplace can easily stain clothing, so also want to change into clothing you don’t mind getting dirty in. Once you’ve donned your paint clothes and waited for your fireplace to fully cool after use, you’re ready to begin cleaning!
Prepare Your Fireplace for Cleaning
Before you begin cleaning with a scrub brush, you’ll want to prepare your fireplace for cleaning. Start by covering your floor— particularly carpeted areas— with waterproof drop cloths. Remove any grates or andirons and set them aside on a towel. As you clean, be mindful of tracking any soot on your hands or the bottom of your shoes.
Next, sweep out any ash, debris, or small pieces of firewood that are still inside the hearth. Then, vacuum out any remaining soot and dust. While this step may seem a bit redundant, removing every bit of dirt you can beforehand dramatically reduces the amount of scrubbing required later.
Prepare Your Cleaning Solution
The Cream of Tartar Method
The cream of tartar method works best on smaller areas of unpainted brick. Use it to clean the front of your fireplace and to spot clean any stubborn soot-stained areas. To make a cream of tartar cleaner for fireplace brick, simply combine two tablespoons of cream of tartar with enough water to make a thin paste.
The Baking Soda Method
The cream of tartar method can get a bit expensive when cleaning more extensive areas, like the inside of your fireplace. To create a baking soda and dish detergent cleaner for fireplace brick, add three tablespoons of dish soap to ½ cup baking soda. Mix until it forms a thin, spreadable paste.
If your paste isn’t spreading easily onto your fireplace bricks, try adjusting the ratio of dish soap to baking soda to find the perfect consistency.
The Vinegar Method
If your fireplace isn’t dirty enough to require deep cleaning, but you still want to make your bricks sparkle, try using a vinegar-based cleaner. Simply mix equal parts vinegar and water into a spray bottle and shake.
It’s important to note that vinegar-based cleaners should not be used on fireplaces older than 20 years, as they require less abrasive cleaners.
Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start cleaning. As we said before, using natural cleaners instead of harsh commercial cleaners does require a bit more elbow grease. But the hard work required makes it all the more satisfying the next time you’re enjoying the warmth of your freshly-cleaned fireplace.
Wet Stained Areas as You Go
To make scrubbing a bit easier, fill a spray bottle filled with warm water and spritz it on an area before you begin cleaning. Keep the spray bottle close by, as you’ll want to keep spraying to prevent the brick from drying out and maximize the power of your cleaning solution.
How to Clean Fireplace Bricks with Cream of Tartar or Baking Soda Paste
If you’re using a baking soda or cream of tartar paste, spread a thin layer of the mixture over sooty areas. Scrub in small circular motions to avoid spreading the soot to nearby bricks.
Let the paste sit for five to ten minutes while you move on to the next area. Once the paste has worked its magic, rinse the area with warm water. Repeat if necessary.
How to Clean Fireplace Bricks with Vinegar
If you’re using the vinegar fireplace cleaning solution, start by spraying the bricks with the vinegar cleaning solution. Let it sit for five minutes, and respray the bricks with the mixture.
While the bricks are still wet, clean the area with a scrub brush. Use small circular motions to avoid creating streaks of soot. Then, spritz the bricks with a mix of baking soda and water to neutralize the vinegar’s acidity.
How often should you clean fireplace bricks?
It would be best if you cleaned your fireplace any time you notice black streaks and stains from soot. While cleaning your fireplace is a bit of a hassle, frequent cleaning helps prevent permanent damage and discoloration. The more often you clean, the easier it’ll be to keep your fireplace looking pristine.