Cleaning smoke stains from fireplace brick

Q. The front of our living-room fireplace hasbricks with a non-acid base cleaner, but they are still gray and dull. What will restore the brick to their original orange-red color? Josephine McPherson Plymouth, Mich.

A. If the proper cleaning agent was used, the dull-gray appearance is probably only smoke residue that has been incompletely removed.Try the cleaner again, but you should realize that used bricks are porous and may resist complete restoration.

You can always get in touch with the manufacturer of the cleaner and ask it to suggest a reason for the dull appearance as well as a remedy.

To clean the sooty brick, scouring powder with household bleach, plus a stiff-bristle brush, are suggested by the Brick Institute of America, 1750 Old Meadow Road, McLean, Va. 22102. (703) 893-4010. The trade group reports that some alkali detergents and commercial emulsifying agents, brush- or spray-applied and given sufficient time for them to work, also perform well. Test a small area first.

For small stubborn stains, apply a poultice using trichloroethylene. Ventilate the harmful fumes.

Happy brick cleaning!

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