If you’ve just moved into an old property with a brick fireplace and want to clean it up to make a feature of it, chances are you just don’t know where to start. Soot and smoke stains can be difficult to remove, but we have a few options to help you with this tricky job.
If you’re not sure about which method to use, try out one or two on small areas of brick to see which you get on best with. Be careful about using more than one method though – certain chemicals when mixed together can become dangerously toxic – never mix ammonia and bleach.
Whichever method you choose, make sure you lay down some cloths and newspaper around the fireplace to protect your walls and floor from any splashes.
One further point to note is that which ever method you decide to use test on a small inconspicuous area of the fireplace first to make sure that the solution/mix does not cause any damage to the bricks
Soap and Abrasives
In this method we create a paste from soap and an abrasive material (in this case salt), which will soak up the dirt and can then be removed once dry.
You’ll need protective rubber gloves, safety goggles, washing up liquid, table salt, a cloth, a stiff-bristled brush and some water.
Take about 25 grams each of washing up liquid and salt, and mix the two together, adding a little water if needed. When well mixed, you should have a creamy mixture. Don the rubber gloves, take your cloth and use it to rub the mixture into the brick.
Let your mixture dry – give it at least ten minutes. Then take the stiff brush and use it to scrub the dry mixture off the wall. You may need to repeat this, depending on how dirty the bricks are.
Household ammonia can be used in the same way as the soap and abrasive mixture above, but it will be harsher on the brickwork so be careful, especially if the bricks are old.
You’ll need rubber gloves, safety goggles, washing up liquid, household ammonia, pumice powder, a cloth, a scrubbing brush and water.
Combine the washing up liquid, ammonia, pumice and hot water to make a paste – use about equal measures of each. Wearing rubber gloves to protect your hands, use the cloth to rub the mixture into the brick.
Let the mixture dry – about an hour should do it, then use the brush to scrub it off the brick.
Naptha and Ammonia
Fels Naptha Laundry Soap can be bought online, and adding it to the above method will work wonders on soot. The soap has to be melted down so the method get a little more complicated here. If you don’t think you’ll need the full amount, you can halve the measurements.
You’ll need rubber gloves, safety goggles, a bar of Fels Naptha Laundry Soap, household ammonia, pumice powder, household detergent, a cloth, a scrubbing brush, a large old pan and water.
Take your naptha soap and shave it into an old pan. Add six pints of water, bring the mixture to the boil and simmer until the soap all melts. Let the mixture cool, then add one cup of ammonia and a pound of pumice powder and mix into a paste.
Wearing rubber gloves, use the cloth to rub the mixture into the brickwork. Let the mixture dry on the bricks for at least an hour, then use the brush to scrub it off the wall. Use warm water to rinse off any remaining mixture, then go over the whole thing with cleaning detergent and rinse again.
Trisodium Phosphate (TSP)
TSP is a cleaner, degreaser and stain remover. It’s a powerful chemical, and you’ll need to wear gloves and eye protection when handling it. You can purchase TSP from hardware shops.
You’ll need rubber gloves, safety goggles, TSP, a stiff-bristled brush and water.
Mix eight tablespoons of TSP into a gallon of warm water. Make sure your skin and eyes are protected, and use the brush to scrub the solution into the brick. It’ll take plenty of elbow grease to work the soot stains out, but don’t scrub too hard or you could damage the brick face.
Rinse the wall with plenty of warm water, and repeat the scrubbing process if the bricks are still stained.
Other Cleaning Methods
Different people prefer different solutions for cleaning with, and there are a few other options you can try. Bathroom cleaning spray, oven cleaner and white vinegar are all easy-to-obtain options that you might like to try before moving onto the harder stuff. Whatever you use, it will take patience and hard work!
All project content written and produced by Mike Edwards