Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Come On, Baby, Light My Fire

Now that the weather is getting cooler here in upstate New York, it's high time that we bring you an update regarding our fireplace. We envision ourselves sitting all cozy-like by the fire during the holidays and winter weather, but in order to do just that we've got to give her a good cleaning and prep so we're sure she's up for the job. This is our first time having a fireplace, though, so I have to admit that I'm not all that knowledgeable as to what is involved. This time I decided to start from the outside and work my way in.

After painting our walls in the living room, the soot on the exterior brick became more and more noticeable. Unfortunately, I can't have my way with the brick and just paint over the darn thing, so I hit up one of my favorite places, Pinterest, in search of a way to make it less of an eyesore. That is where I found the following recipe that would help clean the brick: Dawn dish soap and baking powder. That's it. You just mix the two in a bowl until it turns into a paste. The idea is to smear it onto the brick, let it sit for about 15-20 minutes, and then scrub/rinse it off. Sounded easy enough, so I dove right in.

I decided to only clean half of the fireplace, so I could see for myself if this would really work. Make sure you lay down some old towels on the floor, especially if you have carpeting like we do. It makes it a lot easier to clean up afterward.

The general idea is that the baking soda and dish soap will help draw out the soot and other stains from the brick.

Yum. Look at all of that ugly soot staining our brick.

Now the page from which I found the recipe made it sound all magical. That after the brick had a good soak, everything would be like new again. Well, let me burst that bubble for you. There's a lot of elbow grease involved. Once your brick has had ample time to soak in it's baking soda mask, it's time to break out a stiff-bristle scrub brush, a few old wet hand towels, and a bucket of warm water.

I didn't get to take pictures of my progress on cleaning off the paste (for obvious reasons), but you basically dip the brush into the water and begin to scrub the brick. Once it's nice and foamy, you wipe it off with your wet towel. It might take multiple scrubs and wipes to get everything off (especially on the mortar), and you will likely have to change your water pretty often like I did. Work in sections from top to bottom. It's much easier that way. So here is the finished result. Can you see the difference?

Looks a lot cleaner, huh? Oh, and please ignore the gross and crusty black area of the inner brick. I have yet to tackle that guy. He's definitely on my list, though.

I wasn't expecting miracles, but I think it turned out really well. I mean, how beautiful can you really expect red brick with crumbly mortar to look? Another pleasant and unexpected surprise is that I was able to scrub off a lot of the extra paint splatters and marks that had found their way onto the brick from previous owner paint jobs. How awesome is that!?

So we went from looking like this on move-in day...

To this...

We've still got a lot more work to do, like the other side, but seeing even just this little transformation brings me joy. I am so glad that my little Pinterest trick worked, and I wanted to share it with anyone else who might be interested in cleaning their fireplace. It should work on brick or stone. Give it a try! The only thing you have to lose is a little bit of baking soda, dish soap, and some time.

Our next hearth project? It's probably going to be tackling that hideous black box. That white log rack needs a good scrubbing and paint job as well. You can be sure that you'll virtually tag along with me as I go along and figure this all out!

Any fireplace experts out there that can offer us tips? Do you have a dirty fireplace that could use a good scrubbing? If you decide to try the baking soda/dish soap paste, let me know how it works for you!

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