Cleaning Brick & Stone
Count yourself lucky if your brick or stone fireplace surround is just dirty. If someone painted over it in the past, restoration is harder.
Over time, small, black, carbon-based particles become embedded in the surface of masonry fireplaces. Removing this built-up dirt is usually fairly labor intensive, and effective cleaning materials range from art-gum erasers—they really work!—to a variety of household and specially formulated cleaners.
The go-to cleanser in the past was trisodium phosphate (TSP), but this harsh chemical is a notable pollutant of waterways. Today there are more ecofriendly cleaners, such as Chimney Rx. Even a wash with window cleaner can significantly improve the appearance of materials like stone or rugged brick.
Since masonry is so varied, experiment with a variety of cleaners, beginning with the gentlest. When working with any kind of harsh cleaner, use a sponge or wire brush and wear long rubber gloves to protect hands and arms.
Painted surfaces require more elbow grease and the process is messy. Start with gentle hand-scraping with a variety of tools, with or without a heat gun or infrared tool, such as Eco-Strip’s Speedheater, to loosen paint from the surface.
Since masonry surfaces tend to be at least slightly rough, it’s almost impossible to get all of the paint off without one or more applications of a proprietary cleaner specifically formulated for jobs like this. Only a few, such as Blue Bear’s Soy-Gel, are free from harsh chemicals. Be sure to protect other surfaces. In the end, the results may be well worth the mess.
ABOVE Never paint a brick or stone surround—or a future owner may be forced to do this.
LEFT Blue Bear’s Soy-Gel removes paint from masonry safely and easily.