How to Clean a Brick Fireplace with All-Natural Cleaners

updated Feb 6, 2024
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Living room fireplace.
Credit: Ashley Poskin

Tackling soot in your brick fireplace is a really messy, hands-on job. Though it might be tempting to use a powerful commercial cleanser to get the job done quickly, think about trying one of these all-natural cleaning options on your fireplace first; they are safe and just as effective as most commercial cleansers.

Quick Overview

How to Clean a Brick Fireplace

There are three all-natural cleaners you can use to clean a brick fireplace.

  1. Use cream of tartar and water.
  2. Make a vinegar-water solution.
  3. Combine baking soda and dish detergent.

Read on to learn how to apply each of these cleaning solutions.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

First Steps to Cleaning a Brick Fireplace

Before you do any scrubbing, remove all ashes with a shovel or dustpan and place them in a sturdy bag. Sweep out any remaining debris and follow up with the brush attachment on your vacuum (and don’t forget to clean the brush attachment afterward — you don’t want to spread soot around the rest of your home!).

A kneeling board or folded-up towel will come in very handy while working on this project. And it’s a good idea to put on gloves, a face mask, and protective eyewear to keep the soot from irritating your lungs and skin.

I tested three different natural cleansers on my very old fireplace and have to say that I was most impressed with a simple paste made with water and cream of tartar. The vinegar and water spray did the job but didn’t yield as great a result as I would have liked and took the most scrubbing on my part. The baking soda and dish detergent paste worked just about as well, but again took a lot of scrubbing on my part.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

How to Clean a Brick Fireplace with Cream of Tartar

This method works best when used on smaller, concentrated areas like the surround or on the hearth. It yielded the best results when compared to the other two methods, but unless you have access to large, bulk quantities of cream of tartar, you might stick with baking soda or vinegar for the interior of your fireplace.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Step 1: Prepare the cleaning solution.

In a bowl, combine about two tablespoons of cream of tartar and a bit of water to make a thin paste.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Step 2: Apply the paste.

Apply a layer of the paste to the sooty area and let sit for 5-10 minutes.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Step 3: Rinse (and repeat as needed).

Rinse with warm water, and repeat steps if necessary.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

How to Clean a Fireplace with Vinegar

First, a warning: If your fireplace is older than 20 years, you may want to opt for a less abrasive cleaner and steer clear of the vinegar solution.

Step 1: Make the water-vinegar solution.

Mix equal parts vinegar and water and combine in a spray bottle.

Step 2: Spray the solution.

After using a dry brush or sponge to remove as much loose soot as possible, spray the bricks with the solution. Let it sit for a few minutes and spray once more.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Step 3: Scrub the bricks with a scrub brush.

While the bricks are still wet from the second application, take a scrub brush and work from the bottom up (to avoid streaking) in small circular motions.

Step 4: Follow up with a baking soda and water solution.

It is a good idea to follow up with a baking soda and water wash to neutralize the acidity of the vinegar on the bricks.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

How to Clean a Fireplace with Baking Soda and Dish Detergent

Is there anything baking soda can’t clean?

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Step 1: Create the baking soda and dish soap paste.

Add about 2-3 tablespoons of dish soap to about a half cup baking soda to make a paste. You’re not really looking for a thick consistency, you want it to be able to spread it on the wall with ease, so you might end up adding more than 2 tablespoons of soap.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Step 2: Scrub the bricks.

Dip your scrub brush into the paste and scrub in small circular motions from the bottom of the brick up, to avoid streaks.

Step 3: Let it set before rinsing.

Let the mixture set on the wall for a few minutes before rinsing with warm water. Repeat the steps if necessary.

Step 4: Clean the bottom of the fireplace and hearth.

After the side walls of the fireplace have been cleaned, finish up by washing the bottom of the fireplace and the hearth. Keep old rags on hand to soak up any dirty water that has run off from scrubbing the walls, then apply your cleanser, scrub, rinse, and repeat until clean.