How frustrating…You’ve have this new house with a new fireplace, and after a couple of uses, you’re greeted with a problem you haven’t dealt with before—black soot.
Or maybe even worse, you’ve lived with looking at this issue in your family room for years.
I completely understand your feelings. I’ve had to deal with soot issues in the past in several houses.
So much so that I’ve compiled this how-to guide on tried-and-true methods for dealing with them.
So, what is soot?
Essentially, you get soot when the wood or charcoal you’re burning in your fireplace incompletely combusts and comes out as dust.
Soon, I’ll be taking you through some of the best methods for dealing with this problem.
You’ll even learn about how to remove soot, including how to remove soot from fireplace brick (inside and outside the fireplace).
Something to Think About
Before we get to the steps, here’s the deal:
Soot is potentially dangerous and can happen from more than just your fireplace. Even candles can cause soot to attach to your brickwork.
That said, the amount of soot produced by candles is insignificant.
But, wait—it can be dangerous? How? Inhalation of soot particles can cause a wide variety of breathing issues, including bronchitis, asthma, and it’s even linked to certain types of cancer.
You won’t get sick immediately, but long-term exposure is a risk factor for these conditions.
First, you’re going to want to know about soot residue because it’s acidic; this means that getting it off of your brick hearth or any affected spots on your brick mantel is going to be a challenge.
This means that if you have a lot of it, either from years of soot buildup (causing layers of soot) or from a small house fire, it won’t be the easiest of jobs.
Additionally, when it comes to removing soot, just like removing old caulking from brick surfaces, I look to whether it’s a large-scale or a small-scale removal.
If you’re dealing with soot damage from a house fire, you have to deal with it as soon as possible, owing to the risks I explained earlier.
You may want to call a professional in that case; however, if that’s not an option, then be sure to wear protective gear; this includes a respirator, gloves, and goggles.
You’d also do well to crack open a window or two, just to be on the safe side.
Removing Soot – the Steps
Let’s actually get to what you can do to solve the problem and learn, amongst other things, how to clean fireplace brick.
This cleaning solution will work if you’re removing soot from a fireplace, brickwork, white brick, or a chimney.
I like it, and it’s stronger than using baking soda that some people recommend.
It’ll also work well if you’re trying to figure out how to remove BBQ soot from fire bricks.
Easily Remove Your Soot Stains
Step 1: Get Your Supplies
You’re going to need:
- Hot water
- Trisodium phosphate
- A scrub brush
- A clean cloth
- Rubber gloves, goggles, dust mask for safety
- Heavy duty drop cloths help with big jobs too!
Step 2: Mix it Up
By mixing just a little bit of warm water with trisodium phosphate, you’ll have all you need to start scrubbing.
TSP is a really great cleaning agent, by the way. It’s safe to use, and I like it better than baking soda and plain water.
Step 3: Dip the Scrub Brush In
It’s as easy as the title says. Simply dip the scrub brush into your bucket of water solution, and you’re ready to get to scrubbing away some of these stubborn smoke stains in your fireplace-surround (or any other red-brick surface).
Step 4: Start Brushing
The chemical agent should remove the stain relatively quickly (under a couple minutes). Repeat and scrub again with a stiff brush as needed.
Step 5: Clean it Off
You need only dip the cloth in some water to get rid of the excess solution on the wall.
Soot Eraser Sponges
If the above doesn’t work, or if you’d just feel more comfortable using a professional scrub product, then read on to learn about the products you can use and how to use them.
There are several different scrub products, but I’ll briefly mention some of my personal favorites.
Soot and Dirt Remover Sponge – Buy Here
This is an excellent soot cleaner if you’re looking to do a “dry-clean,” that is, to remove the soot without using water.
Dry Cleaning Soot Eraser Sponge: This is another great dry cleaning product, with the ability to clear dirt and dust as well.
These sponges are handy for removing soot from brick walls before painting. They may also work as a fireplace soot remover.
How do you actually go about acquiring and using these products? Good question.
Step 1: Understanding These Products
These soot removers won’t work in every situation and are best used for smaller soot stains. That said, they’re still really effective.
I even use these sponges for cleaning soot off of surfaces other than brickwork.
Step 2: Purchase the Products
There are many products out there, so you don’t necessarily have to buy these specifically.
If you’d like to purchase the ones that I’ve already mentioned, you can click on the Amazon links above.
Step 3: Using Your Chosen Product
What’s great about these is that cleaning is simple and only takes a few minutes because they’re dry cleaning products.
It’s just a matter of scrubbing the affected area until the soot is gone.
A Free & Non-Chemical Option
If you’re not interested in buying a new product and are also worried about the potential ramifications of scrubbing chemicals on your brick walls, especially indoors, you may want to opt for this solution.
This solution is a much better choice as well if you’re dealing with painted brick, as it doesn’t run the risk of scrubbing off paint.
Step 1: Determining What You Need
To do this, you’ll need the following:
- Dish soap
- Warm water
- A sponge & a small bucket
- Courage & grit
I’m only joking about the last one, though it will require a bit of perseverance.
You might also need:
- White vinegar
Step 2: Mix the Dish Soap In
Mix some dish soap in a small bucket with some warm water.
Step 3: Cleaning
Take your sponge and put it into the hot water, and then start swiping and scrub clockwise or counterclockwise until the soot is gone.
You can use the same sponge to clean the dish soap solution off of the wall.
Step 4: If All Else Fails
If you’ve done a good scrub for several minutes, but it’s still not coming off, try to mix some white vinegar with the water.
Like before, keep brushing the wall until you see progress.
This method can also work to get rid of efflorescence on brick too. Yep, elbow grease works for many applications!
A Great Product for Fireplaces
If you’re looking for something to deal with the inside of your fireplace, you may want to try this powdered soot remover (or any product like it).
The best thing about these products is that you only need to add some to the fireplace every once and a while.
Bear in Mind
These solutions will work well in many situations, such as cleaning soot off stone walls and various other places.
The sponges, for instance, work well for furniture, window blinds, and paintings. You can also use the powdered soot remover in furnaces and cooking ranges.
Personally, I’ve been able to make use of the trisodium phosphate solution to clean various other things , like grease.
The same goes for the dish soap or the white vinegar solution.
You can use both to clean off other tough black stains in various parts of the house, including the kitchen.
If you’d like to learn more about how soot forms, you can watch this short video to learn more. I found it incredibly interesting:
Will the above methods work on both wood-burning and propane fireplaces?
Yes, though some will work better than others. A trisodium phosphate solution is usually a good option.
Can these methods work on stone like limestone?
Yes, they will, and you can even make use of the dishwashing liquid or white vinegar method.
What if the brick is just black from being burned?
They may look burnt, but the most likely solution is that the fire has just covered the bricks in soot. It’s essentially “baked” onto the surface of the bricks.
Cleaning this off will require deep cleaning with a power washer.
Can’t I just paint over the black soot?
Unfortunately, this won’t cover them up. Just like with cleaning mold off of brick first, you’ll have to remove the black soot ahead of any painting if you want it to stick well and look great.
Time to Get to It
Now that you know the methods for removing soot from brick walls and other places, grab your rubber gloves and get started.
I know that all this information can feel overwhelming, but don’t worry. Pick a method, try it out, and if it doesn’t work, try the next one.
Getting black soot on your brick walls can feel like a death sentence for your brick surfaces. Thankfully, there are solutions.