Taking paint off a brick fireplace: pt. 3
Almost ready to quit
We were almost ready to give up on the fireplace project. Pat was frustrated that weeks of work hadn't removed the paint completely and was ready to paint the whole thing dark gray. I did not want to do that!
Pat decided to give a couple more products a try. The oven cleaner worked well, but while it loosened the paint, it wasn't stripping it from the brick like we wanted. He did patch-test some acetone, but we didn't want to use that stuff in the dead of winter with no ventilation.
Back at Our Favorite Store Home Depot, we debated in front of the chemical stripper shelves for way too long. We finally decided to buy a can of Citristrip.
Why Citristrip? I have no idea. Maybe because it has fluorescent orange packaging and it's hard to miss. I think we just wanted something that wouldn't kill brain cells while we were using it. But really, we just picked it randomly from the shelf, without any research, and bought it.
Dealing with project fatigue
We also decided to shift gears a little. Pat had done most of the legwork muscling through the first few steps, and was definitely showing signs of project fatigue. He was ready to call it quits and just paint the damn thing.
At the same time, I was showing signs of a control freak who hadn't had enough time actually working on a project. I was ready to tag in.
Pat refocused on a new project (patching up the plaster walls), and I decided to step in by finishing what was left of the fireplace project: the tedious brick-cleaning work.
Citristrip is a neon-orange spray, but it also comes as a liquid you can paint onto surfaces. We sprayed some on to a test brick and waited 24 hours.
The next day, the paint started to flake away from the brick and we were able to scrape it. Going in with a wire brush and hot water lifted off almost all the rest of the paint. Just like that, very much by accident, we had found the last method to help strip the fireplace.
Shortly after the first successful test, I posted it on Instagram. I was so excited to find a method that gave the results we were looking for. See the second brick from the right? I'll show you how well the Citristrip worked on this baked-on paint.
Before applying Citristrip
Second from the left was already scrubbed, but second from the right had yet to get treated.
48 hours after applying Citristrip
For the record, you're only supposed to leave it on for 24 hours, but I got a cold and left it on for too long because I didn't feel like cleaning it. I scraped the flaked paint, and then used vinegar and boiling water to scrub the remainder of the paint with a small wire brush.
Halfway through scrubbing ...
The weird lighting is from the headlamp I wore to help me see. It was a dark and gloomy day, and we don't have the greatest room lighting. I alternated scraping and scrubbing with water and vinegar until I felt like I was done.
The final result
After I was finished scraping, I used freshly boiled water with a little vinegar for a final rinse. Finally, there was more brick than paint, and I could see the dark mortar. Success!
You can see how textured the brick is, and how deep the paint is within the crevices. I can see how someone might think this brick is ugly ... but I actually really like it!
The only downside
This method works well, but it's incredibly time-intensive. Cleaning two small bricks took about an hour, but they did have a lot of baked-on paint. Most of the other bricks have a lot less paint and will likely take less time.
Also: this will probably be the last update on the fireplace until I've cleaned all the bricks! I promise we're going to update on some other projects, because I bet you're sick of reading about the nitty gritty of BRICK CLEANING. I never thought I would write this much about bricks in my life, but here we are.
We're either going to install the stove, repair our crooked garage, build a new mantle, or paint the walls ... we're not sure yet. But those are likely to be our projects this spring.
Things I learned:
- If you're working with brick, wear gloves and remember to take off your jewelry! I kept ending up with bloody knuckles because I am an idiot.
- Also: if your hands are dry and you're working with vinegar: WEAR GLOVES, because holy hell vinegar stings, and again, I am an idiot.