Soot stains can be unsightly and messy to clean. Sometimes even just basic soap and water doesn't cut away the soot deposits that can build up from burning fires in your fireplace over the winter months. The good news is that you can attack soot buildup with vinegar, a versatile cleaning product that's already available in your kitchen cupboard.
Cleaning Soot off Walls With Vinegar
Soot buildup can happen on the walls of your home over time, and the best way to remove it while keeping your paint intact is to use a natural cleaner like vinegar. Mix together 3 parts white vinegar and 1 part warm water in a bucket, and use a microfiber cloth or sponge to wipe down the soot stains. The vinegar should lift the soot stain from the wall, and should also eliminate the smoke odor that comes with soot deposits.
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If you are trying to treat an especially difficult soot spot or you need to treat a particular area for potential smoke damage, vinegar is still your best cleaning option. Warm equal parts vinegar and water and put it into a spray bottle. The higher vinegar concentration along with the spray bottle application will help keep the treatment localized. Spray the vinegar solution on the affected area and let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing the stain with a damp cloth.
Cleaning Soot off Brick
Soot accumulation on bricks is a common occurrence since brick is often the material surrounding fireplaces. Fortunately vinegar also removes soot from the crevices of bricks, leaving them practically as good as new. Take care with brick older than 20 years, though, as vinegar might damage it.
First put down a waterproof tarp or drop cloth to protect your floor and wet the bricks with clean tap water using a masonry sponge or spray bottle. Then, using equals parts warm water and white vinegar in a spray bottle, spritz the sooty areas and scrub them in circular motions with a stiff-bristled nylon brush, working from top to bottom. Thoroughly rinse treated areas using a sponge dipped in a bucket of clean water.
You can add some dish soap to your vinegar-water mixture for extra cleaning oomph: 2 tablespoons of dish soap per gallon at most.
Some experts recommend an undiluted vinegar solution on bricks. If you try this, dip a small brush in vinegar, scrub stained areas, and rinse; use a clean, damp sponge to wipe up any spills or splatters right away.
Cleaning Soot off Wood
Wood can be a tricky surface to clean with vinegar. A diluted water and vinegar solution (1 part warm water, 3 parts vinegar) is best for wood surfaces because pure white vinegar is too strong and will inevitably cause new issues that will also need to be addressed. Don't let the solution sit on the stain; scrub it off immediately and then wipe off the vinegar solution using a damp microfiber cloth or sponge when done. Wood can easily be scratched, so use nonabrasive wipes, such a microfiber cloth, to help keep your wood in good condition.