How-To Videos

How to Clean Soot and Smoke on a Fireplace Surround

By: Danny Lipford
Black stains from soot and smoke on a wood burning fireplace surround.

Black stains from soot and smoke on a wood burning fireplace surround.

Stains from soot and smoke are a common problem on the surround around a wood burning fireplace. To remove black stains around a fireplace, use a strong degreaser, such as trisodium phosphate (TSP), which is available at home centers and hardware stores. Here’s how.

To remove soot and smoke stains:

  1. Make a paste of TSP and water.
  2. Apply the paste to a sponge, and use it to scrub off the black stains.
  3. Rinse the sponge thoroughly, and remove any residue with clean water.

Since brick is more porous, you may need to apply the TSP paste with a scrub brush when cleaning a brick surround. Watch this video to find out more.

Further Information

Video Transcript

Danny Lipford: Joanna writes to us: “How can I clean the soot and smoke off the face of my fireplace?”

You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fireplace surround that didn’t have at least a little bit of smoke and soot somewhere on the face of the fireplace. Now, basically, it’s just grease, so you need a good degreaser in order to clean this up. And one of the best degreasers I’ve ever found is TSP or trisodium phosphate.

Now, to apply this powder onto a vertical surface would be really hard. And if you try to spray any kind of cleaner on it, it will run right down. So what I’m going to do is make this simple paste by adding just a little bit of water to the TSP.

And using the same sponge, we’ll just apply this like that and come back with a more abrasive side of the sponge, and you can see it does a great job in cleaning all of that off.

And you’ll want a good, clean sponge to make sure you’re getting rid of all of the residue. Of course, cleaning ceramic tiles like this is fairly easy, because it has a glaze.

But if you have brick on your fireplace surround, then you’ll need to be a little more aggressive. The paste will work well, but you may need one of these.


Please Leave a Comment

11 Comments on “How to Clean Soot and Smoke on a Fireplace Surround”

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  • Official Comment:

    Thomas Boni Says:
    June 12th, 2019 at 11:56 am

    Hi, Anna!
    What a great question! We recommend submitting it to the Today’s Homeowner Radio Show for an in-depth answer.
    Please use this form to contact Danny Lipford, America’s Home Expert, directly:
    Take care!

  • Anna Says:
    June 9th, 2019 at 6:26 pm

    My son left the fireplace on all night and now the stucco above is a lighter color in some spots and discolored. Any suggestions for how to fix?

  • Joyce Says:
    September 24th, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    How do I remove soot buildup inside my firebox?

  • Aaron White Says:
    May 3rd, 2018 at 9:11 am

    TSP didn’t work at all for me!! Got any other suggestions?

  • Official Comment:

    Thomas Says:
    March 7th, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    Hi, M. Jens,
    “Since whitewash finish generally has soaked into the pores of the brick, it most likely will not affect it all,” Danny says.
    Thanks for writing to us!

  • M. Jens Says:
    February 24th, 2018 at 6:36 pm

    Will this cleaning method work on whitewashed brick? I don’t want to damage my hard work of whitewash!

  • cmlegend Says:
    January 8th, 2018 at 9:50 am

    I had some burning mark around my fireplace which was removed easily with Easy-off

  • Leah Says:
    January 8th, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Hello, I have a marble fireplace with a burn mark from where some wood rolled out of the fire and scorched the marble. Would your method work in this scenario?

    Thank you.

  • Fern Henley Says:
    January 2nd, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    This fireplace surround is natural stone a hundred years old or so old.
    It has some smoke stains but that blends in with the multishades of brown and mortar. To bring out the surface and color interest of the stones Downy liquid fabric softener can be used. Excess is wiped off and after using this for years and reapplying periodically it doesn’t seem to collect dust or damage the stones in any way.

  • Susan Miller Says:
    December 10th, 2016 at 12:27 am

    My fireplace surround is cedar wood. Will the TSP work on it, also?

  • Tom rosato Says:
    November 24th, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Your suggestion of using tsp to clean smoke off a brick fireplace just doesn’t,t work. There used to be a product called smoke remove made by protocol that was very effective. So far my research does not show any current availability.

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How to Clean Soot and Smoke on a Fireplace Surround