How to Clean Soot from Brick

Co-authored by wikiHow Staff | Reader-Approved

Updated: December 20, 2019 | Reader-Approved

A fireplace can be a cozy addition to any home, but one of the inevitable byproducts is soot on the surrounding bricks. Soot can leave lasting stains on the material it comes in contact with, so it’s important to clean this buildup at least once a year. To clean soot from your brick, stick with using baking soda or white vinegar for a natural solution, or use a chemical cleaner like TSP to make your bricks clean again.

Method 1 of 4:
Getting Your Fireplace Ready to Clean

  1. 1
    Let your fireplace cool for at least 12 hours before you start. Hot bricks should not be cleaned. After your fire, let everything cool down overnight or for at least 12 hours before you start any cleaning methods. This will protect your hands and make sure no chemicals get warmed up as you use them.[1]
    • If you use your fireplace for heat, consider cleaning it during the summer months when you won’t need to use it as much.
  2. 2
    Remove the ashes and loose soot. Use a brush and dustpan to clean your fireplace out before you start scrubbing it. Throw away any ashes or large pieces of charred wood that may be in the fireplace. This will make your cleaning process much easier.[2]
    • You can set aside wood that has not been burned to use later.
  3. 3
    Lay a drop cloth or towels down to protect your floors. As you clean, you may drip water or chemicals on the floor around your fireplace. Lay down a protective covering on your floors surrounding your fireplace to make sure you don’t damage your carpet or hardwood.[3]

    Warning: Do not use newspapers, as the ink can transfer onto your floors if it gets wet.

  4. 4
    Put on rubber gloves to protect your hands. As you scrub your fireplace, you may end up getting chemicals on your hands. Put on rubber kitchen gloves to protect your skin and avoid irritation. If you are using TSP cleaner, put on safety goggles as well.[4]

Method 2 of 4:
Using Baking Soda

  1. 1
    Make a paste of a 1:1 ratio of water and baking soda. Combine 4 tbsp (56 g) of baking soda with 4 tablespoons (59?mL) of warm water. Stir the ingredients together until they form a thick paste. If your mixture is too runny, add more baking soda.[5]
  2. 2
    Rub the mixture into the bricks with your hands. Scoop large amounts of your baking soda paste and spread it onto your fireplace. Work from the top down to create a thin layer all over the brick face. Spread extra paste on the inside of the fireplace, since that is where the soot will be the thickest. Pay special attention to the crevices and grooves in between bricks. Focus on any areas of the fireplace are particularly dirty.[6]
    • Put on rubber kitchen gloves to protect your hands, or use a clean rag to spread the paste instead.
  3. 3
    Let the paste sit for 10 minutes. The baking soda will work to break down grease and grime on your bricks. Allow the paste to sit for about 10 minutes to loosen up the soot. Do not let the paste dry or harden all the way, or it could damage your bricks.[7]
    • If your paste does get too dry, spray it with water to loosen it up again.
  4. 4
    Scrub the mixture away with an abrasive scrub brush. Use a scrub brush with hard bristles to scrub away the mixture. Dip your brush in water occasionally to wash away the baking soda residue. The mildly abrasive baking soda will work with your brush to scrub away tough soot.[8]
    • Do not brush so hard that you damage the bricks themselves.
  5. 5
    Wipe down your bricks with warm water and remove the drop cloths. Use a soft sponge dipped in warm water to completely remove any baking soda left on your bricks. Let the fireplace dry completely before you use it again. Remove any drop cloths or towels you put down to catch spills.[9]

Method 3 of 4:
Cleaning with Vinegar

  1. 1
    Combine a 1:1 ratio of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Combine 1 cup (240?mL) of white vinegar with 1 cup (240?mL) of warm water in a spray bottle. Shake the bottle to make sure they are mixed well. Use a clean spray bottle that has not ever had any harsh chemicals in it.[10]
    • You can buy empty spray bottles at most home goods and hardware stores.

    Warning: If your bricks are more than 20 years old, vinegar may be too harsh on them.[11]Use a non-acidic cleaner like baking soda instead.

  2. 2
    Spray the inside and outside of the fireplace with the vinegar solution. Working from the top down, spray your vinegar solution all over the bricks. Pay special attention to areas that have a lot of soot, which could be right around the opening of the fireplace. Make sure you have a drop cloth down to catch any drips.[12]
    • If you have leftover vinegar solution, you can use it as a natural cleaner for bathrooms and countertops.
  3. 3
    Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. Vinegar is mildly acidic, so it will work to break down the soot and grime stuck onto your bricks. Let the vinegar and water sit on your bricks, but do not let it dry. Don’t let it sit for longer than 10 minutes, or the acidity could start to damage your bricks.[13]
  4. 4
    Scrub the bricks from the top down with a scrub brush. Dip your scrub brush in warm water and scrub your bricks. Pay special attention to the grooves in between bricks and any areas that have a lot of soot. Scrub at the bricks until the vinegar smell is no longer there.[14]
    • You can sprinkle baking soda over your bricks to remove the vinegar faster. However, this will cause a foaming reaction on your bricks and could create a mess.
  5. 5
    Clean your bricks with warm water and remove the drop cloths. Use a soft sponge to quickly spread warm water over all your bricks. Take away any drop cloths or towels you used on the floor around your fireplace. Let your fireplace dry completely before you burn anything in it again.[15]

Method 4 of 4:
Removing Soot with TSP

  1. 1
    Put on gloves to protect your hands. TSP, or trisodium phosphate, can damage your skin if you get it on you directly. Put on rubber kitchen gloves to protect your hands. Avoid touching TSP with your bare hands as much as you can.[16]
    • You can find rubber gloves at most home goods stores.

    Warning: TSP can also harm your eyes. Wear safety goggles if you are concerned about splashing.

  2. 2
    Mix trisodium phosphate and warm water in a bucket. Combine 8 tbsp (112 g) of TSP and 1 gallon (3,800?mL) of warm water. Use a plastic bucket that will not come into contact with food later. Stir the mixture until it forms a thin, watery paste.[17]
    • You can buy TSP at most hardware stores.
  3. 3
    Use a hard-bristled brush to scrub the mixture into the bricks. Scrub the paste into your bricks on the outside and inside of your fireplace using your brush. Work from the top down, and apply extra paste to areas with more soot. Scrub at the areas to remove the soot. Be careful not to damage the bricks themselves as you scrub, especially if your fireplace is old.[18]
  4. 4
    Rinse the bricks with warm water using a sponge. Use a soft sponge to apply warm water all over your bricks. Gently sponge away any TSP residue that is left on your bricks. Rinse your bucket and brushes thoroughly once you are done using them.[19]
    • If there is still soot left on your bricks, apply more TSP paste and scrub them again.
    • When you're done, remove the dropcloths.

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • Question
    Can I paint over fireplace brick that has been stained?
    Community Answer
    You could. Just be warned the paint may or may not peel off.
  • Question
    Our bricks are a sandstone type and smoothed. Will the water ruin the bricks?
    Community Answer
    Yes. Sandstone is too porous. The solutions will be absorbed into the sandstone. Do not use a stiff brush on sandstone. Use a foam spray only - but for a short time, and rinse gently. Avoid the salt/soap paste.
  • Question
    How can I clean smoke stains from a painted wall?
    Top Answerer
    Use the cleaning compound known as TSP, which is available at any hardware store.
Unanswered Questions
  • How do I remove soot from an old clay chimney pot?
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      • Never use abrasive chemicals when you clean soot from brick. Many will leave a flammable film which could be dangerous the next time you use your fireplace.
      • Only clean the fireplace when you are certain all ashes are entirely cold. Heat can remain trapped in the ashes for several days after a fire and you could inadvertently burn yourself.

      Things You’ll Need

      Using Baking Soda

      • Baking soda
      • Drop cloth or towels
      • Gloves or rag
      • Abrasive brush

      Cleaning with Vinegar

      • White vinegar
      • Spray bottle
      • Abrasive brush

      Removing Soot with TSP

      • Trisodium phosphate
      • Bucket
      • Gloves
      • Safety goggles (optional)
      • Abrasive brush
      • Sponge

      About This Article

      Co-Authored By:
      wikiHow Staff Editor
      This article was co-authored by our trained team of editors and researchers who validated it for accuracy and comprehensiveness. Together, they cited information from 19 references. wikiHow's Content Management Team carefully monitors the work from our editorial staff to ensure that each article meets our high standards.
      1 votes - 100%
      Co-authors: 13
      Updated: December 20, 2019
      Article SummaryX

      If the bricks on your fireplace have soot on them, you can easily remove it with baking soda or vinegar. Let your fireplace cool for at least 12 hours before you start cleaning so you don’t burn yourself. Once it’s cool, make a cleaning solution with 1 part baking soda and 1 part warm water. Put on gloves and rub the mixture onto the bricks with your hands. If you don’t have baking soda you can combine 1 part white vinegar and 1 part water in a spray bottle and spray it onto the bricks. Let the cleaning solution sit for 10 minutes, then use an abrasive brush to scrub away the soot. Make sure to dip the brush in water occasionally to wash the cleaning solution away as you work. To learn how to remove tougher soot stains with TSP, read on!

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      Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 349,378 times.

      Reader Success Stories

      • GS

        Gary Smith

        Dec 9, 2016

        "Wow. I thought I was going to have a tough time getting the bricks cleaned. I never thought of using some sort of scrubbing bubbles to clean the bricks, and it's something I can do myself and save money!"..." more
      • LH

        Lil Hasz

        Jul 30, 2016

        "We bought a 40-year-old home with a whole house wood burning stove. Brown discoloration on the brick base/wall. After your cleaning instruction, brick is clean and no longer smells."..." more
      • MP

        Mary Portillo

        Feb 15, 2017

        "I didn't know I could use Clorox mixed with water to clean brick. I will definitely try it! Thank you."
      Share your story

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