Clean­ing Brick & Stone

Old House Journal - - Restore -

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.

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