Real Simple answers your questions.

By Real Simple
Updated November 09, 2009
Seating around a fireplace
Credit: Frances Janisch

Q. How do I remove soot stains on a brick fireplace?

Tracy Dressen

Lakeville, Minnesota

A. Because of the porous nature of bricks, they soak up soot like a sponge. If you have the right cleaner and a bit of time, however, you can get rid of the buildup without having to call in a professional. Ashley Eldridge, director of education for the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), offers these cleaning instructions:

Fill a spray bottle with water and spray the brick until it is saturated. Then scrub with a natural bristle brush to loosen the stain. Next, spray the brick again using a specialized cleaner like Rutland Brick & Stone Cleaner for Fireplace ($20, Scrub again with the brush. Repeat the entire process until the stain is gone. Then blot any remaining liquid with a cloth. (Note: To make sure you don’t alter the appearance of the bricks, test a concealed area first.)

Keep the bricks clean by figuring out what is causing the smoke to escape into your home and not out of the chimney. (Examples could be a damper that isn’t fully opened or a fire that is too large for your fireplace.) Head to to look for symptoms under “Homeowner Resources” or to find a professional chimney inspector. ―Kristin Appenbrink

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