Getting your fireplace ready for fall decorations or winter warmth involves a good cleaning. In addition to hiring a chimney sweep to inspect the inside of the fireplace, you’ll want to make sure the exterior looks good as well. Over time, the brick above the fireplace opening can become coated with soot, which is a byproduct of burning wood. As smoke drafts upwards, the solid carbon particles settle on surrounding surfaces, like brick, making it look dark. Soot is actually slightly oily due to the incomplete burning of oils in the wood. It contributes to build-up inside the chimney (known as creosote) and is combustable. If you’ve ever tried wiping away soot with a dry cloth you’ve realized that it is rather stubborn. Fortunately, we’ve tested an easy way to make your own brick cleaning solution with items you probably already own. Check out the video below to see this soot removal in action!

Materials needed:

  • gloves
  • dry towels
  • a drop cloth or tarp to catch water
  • bucket or container
  • paint stirrer or spoon
  • table salt
  • dishwashing liquid
  • sponge or scrub brush
  • spray bottle filled with warm water


Step 1: Mix equal parts salt and dish soap

You can use table salt, like we did, as well as regular dish soap. Mix the two ingredients together in the bucket and stir until it forms a paste. The salt acts as an abrasive and the soap dissolves the oily soot. We suggest combining a small amount at a time as this makes it easier to mix and not waste materials.


Step 2: Scrub the fireplace

Lay a towel, drop cloth or a tarp on your floor below your work area. Dip your sponge or scrub brush into the mixture and apply a thick coat onto the bricks. Work in sections and be sure to get the cleaning solution in the mortar. Let this sit on the brick for about 5-10 minutes.


Step 3: Rinse with water

Using your spray bottle filled with plain, warm water, spray the soap mixture to remove it from the brick.


Step 4: Dry the fireplace

Use a dry cloth to pat dry the bricks and mortar. Repeat the above steps if necessary.


Want to avoid soot stains in the future? Read our steps for fireplace maintenance tips on Get Advice.