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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.

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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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