Written by Grove Collaborative

Clean Team: How to clean fireplace bricks naturally.

Last Updated: January 20, 2021

Your fireplace should be the place of light, warmth, and peace during the dark winter months that seem to stretch on endlessly. However, it can’t be any of those things if it looks dirty and soot-drenched. The only vibes you’ll be getting from it then are grim and goth! That’s why it’s important to clean your fireplace and surrounding bricks regularly.

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Ready to tackle the dirtiest spots in your home? Grove Collaborative has you covered with Clean Team. Each week, we’ll do a deep dive into how to clean a different place or item in your home. No spot is too small — and we’ll tell you how to conquer them all, naturally.

How often should you clean a fireplace?

Good question. After all, nothing says charming and cozy quite like a toasty fire burning in the dead of winter. It gives character to a room and can be a perfect focus for your décor.


Still, a fireplace is not without its drawbacks. No matter how hard you try, eventually some soot forms and scatters on to the bricks surrounding your fireplace, creating a grimy, dirty look.


If you follow the National Fire Protection Association Standards, all chimneys, fireplaces, and vents should be inspected at least yearly to ensure they are working properly.


With that in mind...

Weekly

Perform weekly cleanings to remove ashes, soot, and debris, especially if you use your fireplace on a regular basis. Not only can soot latch itself onto drapes, carpets, upholstery, grout, ceramic tiles, and of course, bricks, it can also cause permanent damage by settling into porous surfaces.

It’s also important to sweep the hearth regularly to minimize the spread of ashes, and to ensure that it’s safe to burn your fuel. It’s also highly recommended to remove all soot as soon as possible, to help prevent discoloration and minimize the risks of soot flying around the house damaging your carpeting and furniture.

Yearly

Deep cleaning of the fireplace and surrounding bricks should be done once every year, at minimum. The best time is when you are done using the fireplace for the winter season. Even better if you do it twice a year.

One of the dangers of not cleaning your fireplace and chimney every 6 months or so is that it can result in build-up of creosote. Creosote is a highly flammable substance that can cause an uncontrolled fire. This fire burns hotter than 2000 degrees, making it difficult to extinguish. Just something to keep in mind when planning your cleaning schedule!

Best way to clean a fireplace

While the above is all of the best natural cleaning solutions for jazzing up your fireplace and its surroundings, the below is a basic sequence of cleaning steps you will follow, regardless of what solution you end up using.

How to do it:

Step 1:

Regardless of your cleaning method and ingredients you use, first prepare the surrounding area of the fireplace. Cover carpets with waterproof cloth, set a kneeling board down for yourself, and cover up with masks, gloves, and protective eye gear.

Step 2:

Vacuum away soot and ashes by removing the grates and any other removable attachments from the fireplace. Clear out ashes and debris, as well as any small particles using your vacuum.

Step 3:

Prepare a cleaning solution by making a paste with baking soda and dish detergent, with a loose consistency for easy application. You can adjust the amount of detergent to get the right consistency.

Step 4:

With a scrub brush, apply the cleaning paste onto the bricks. Scrub in a circular motion, starting from the bottom. This will minimize any streaks. Once you have scrubbed to your satisfaction, let it sit for some time.

Step 5:

Rinse the bricks with water to remove the cleaning paste and any loose dirt or soot. Repeat the steps if needed.

Step 6:

(Optional) If your chosen cleaning method does clean your fireplace as well as you’d hoped, try making a mixture of ammonia and dish detergent to clean it again. Follow the same steps and use salt or ground pumice stone while scrubbing to help loosen stubborn soot.

Which household items can be used to clean a fireplace?

Before choosing a chemical cleaner for your fireplace and its surroundings, why not give some natural cleaning ingredients a chance?

Compared to packaged chemical cleaners, natural cleaners are gentler and less abrasive. Just make sure all the ingredients in your DIY cleaner are non-flammable for your safety. Some of the best natural fireplace cleaners can be made from easily accessible household items. For instance:

Vinegar and water spray

Probably the most gentle cleaner on this list, vinegar and water spray does the job but requires a lot of scrubbing to thoroughly clean. It can be made easily by mixing equal part water and vinegar in a spray bottle and scrubbing with a sponge or brush. It’s best to finish up with a paste of baking soda and water to neutralize the effects of the vinegar on the bricks, which could otherwise cause discoloration with time.

Detergent and salt

Another mild method, a detergent and salt mixture works best on fresh stains and streaks. The two-step method requires dipping a scrub brush into a mixture of detergent and water, and then sprinkling generously with salt. The salt acts as an abrasive to help loosen dirt and soot.

Baking soda and dish detergent

Granted, this is an effective cleaner for nearly everything, it still requires a lot of arm work for your fireplace. The loose paste can be formed by mixing 1 part dish detergent to 2 parts baking soda. Scrubbing is best done with a brush in circular motions, to help loosen the dirt and prevent streaks. Finish cleaning with a water-dampened cloth to remove the cleaning solution as well as any leftover grime.

Cream of tartar and water

Surprisingly, cream of tartar works well and is probably one of the most effective cleaners for fireplaces and chimneys. Though you will require bulk amounts of cream of tartar to do it right. Create a cleaning mixture using cream of tartar mixed with just enough water to form a thin paste. Rinse with warm water when done to remove any leftover cleaner and debris.

Dishwashing liquid, ammonia, pumice

This method is designed for stubborn stains that require extreme measures. The scrub brush is dipped in a solution of dishwashing liquid and ammonia diluted with water. You can then sprinkle the mixture with finely-ground pumice powder. The pumice works better than salt and doesn’t dissolve.

Best natural products to clean a fireplace

Things to watch out for when cleaning a fireplace

Cleaning a fireplace does not have to be complicated. The key is to prioritize your safety above the cleanliness of your fireplace. For instance:

Don’t sweep immediately

It’s best to not sweep ashes immediately after turning off the fireplace. Instead, wait at least a day for them to cool down to prevent the risk of injury. You can also sprinkle wet coffee grounds on the ashes before sweeping. This helps keep the ashes from flying around willy nilly.

Don’t use abrasive or flammable chemicals

Be careful about the chemicals you use to clean your fireplace. Ensure that your cleaning products are not flammable to prevent excessive and uncontrolled burning the next time you light a fire. Minimize the use of abrasive chemicals to avoid damaging the finish of your fireplace and surrounding bricks. Some even opt to use an oven cleaner for their fireplace, since it’s designed to be non-flammable.

Do a spot clean first

Before you start cleaning with any DIY cleaners, test the solution on a small spot in the corner. Check for any discoloration of the tiles or bricks, as well as any harsh reactions like flammability.

Do use a kneeling board

It’s best to use a kneeling board or folded towel to rest your knees while cleaning your fireplace. It provides a welcome cushion and also prevents soot and ashes from getting on your knees and transferring to other surfaces around the house with you.

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Looking for more cleaning how-tos and other sustainable swaps you can make at home? Grove has you covered. From timely topics such as our handwashing and hand sanitizer breakdown to evergreen primers like our simple ways to reduce your plastic use at home, our handy guides are here to answer your most pressing questions. And let us know how if you have any cleaning questions (or share your own tips using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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