Have you ever walked by a house and been struck by how beautiful its brickwork was?
Rich, earthy colors and a rough surface can really draw you in. What happens, though, when these bricks get dirty and stained?
The same building can all of a sudden look old, run-down, and unwelcoming. This is where cleaning bricks comes in. Whether you’re a homeowner who wants to make your yard look better or a business owner who wants to make a good first impression, brick cleaning is an important part of keeping your property looking good and lasting as long as possible. So, let’s dive into the world of brick cleaning and find out how it can make your outdoor areas look much better.
Methods for Cleaning Brick
There are a number of ways to clean brick surfaces, such as:
- Power washing
- Using chlorine bleach, oxygen bleach, borax, or white vinegar
- Soap or diluted vinegar
- Trisodium phosphate (TSP)
TSP is the best way to clean bricks inside, but it can also be used to clean bricks outside.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how to clean the bricks and choose the way that is the gentlest and most effective.
Preparing for Brick Cleaning
Before you clean brick surfaces, you need to do a few things to get ready. These things are:
- Wetting the surface with a garden hose to prevent streaking and suboptimal results
- Covering nearby surfaces with a tarp or drop cloth to protect them from cleaning solutions that can damage plant life or other surfaces like siding
- Using a stiff bristle brush or a brush with natural or nylon bristles to scrub the brick surface, paying close attention to the crevices and nooks on the bricks
- Frequently replacing the water in the bucket to avoid streaks on the brickwork
Cleaning Exterior Brick Surfaces
There are several reasons why it’s important to clean the outside of brick surfaces.
First, it helps get rid of tough stains and discolorations, as well as dirt on the surface that can hide the brick’s natural color and beauty.
Second, moss, mildew, and layers of dirt trap moisture that breaks down the surface of the brick.
Cleaning the brickwork will keep it in good shape for years to come.
Third, regularly cleaning brick walls, walkways, and fences outside not only keeps them looking clean and new, but also makes them last longer.
The first step in cleaning the outside of brick walls is to remove dirt, dust, and grime from the surface.
You can do this with a power washer, a stiff brush, and hot soapy water.
This will get rid of all the dirt you can see on the wall.
If you use a power cleaner, make sure to use the setting with the least amount of power to keep the brick surface from getting damaged.
Inspecting the Condition of the Bricks
Before cleaning the bricks, it’s also important to check how they look.
If the bricks are strong and not broken, you can use harsher cleaners, but if they are loose or broken, you need to be more careful.
If you want to clean the bricks with soap, test a small area first to make sure the detergent hasn’t changed the color of the bricks.
Using Cleaning Solutions
You can use a commercial brick cleaner to get rid of stains and grime, or you can make your own cleaner by mixing laundry soap and water in equal parts for grime, and bleach and water in equal parts for moss stains.
Dry brick tends to soak up cleaning solutions quickly, which can leave streaks and less-than-ideal results.
Before adding any cleaning solution, you should use a garden hose to wet the brick surface.
Sealing the Bricks
After cleaning the bricks, it’s best to seal them with a brickwork waterproofing agent to help keep water from getting in and causing more damage.
During construction, bricks should be kept off the ground and under a protective cover.
Wall surfaces and bricks that haven’t been put yet should also be kept from getting wet.
Surface Restoration: Bringing Your Outdoor Surfaces Back to Life
If you’re looking to clean your outdoor surfaces, chances are you’re also interested in surface restoration.
This process involves more than just removing dirt and grime from your brick walls or patio.
It’s about bringing your surfaces back to life and restoring them to their former glory.
Surface restoration can involve a variety of techniques, from pressure washing to chemical treatments.
The goal is to remove any built-up dirt, stains, or discoloration, and to repair any damage that may have occurred over time.
Whether you’re looking to improve the curb appeal of your home or simply want to enjoy your outdoor spaces to the fullest, surface restoration is a crucial step in the cleaning process.
By investing in this service, you can ensure that your outdoor surfaces look their best and last for years to come.
For more information:
Revive Outdoor Surfaces: Surface Restoration 101
Methods and Equipment for Brick Cleaning
Brick surfaces outside of a home can add a touch of warmth and charm.
But they can get dirty and stained over time, which takes away from their beauty.
There are a few different ways and tools that can be used to clean brick surfaces.
How bricks are cleaned depends on how old they are and what kind of shape they are in.
Pressure washing is a great way to clean new or strong brick.
But scrubbing with bleach, oxygen bleach, or a mix of borax and white vinegar works better for old or stained brick.
For tough spots, you can mix 1 teaspoon of bleach with 1 gallon of water.
Muriatic acid can be used to clean rust, soil, and mortar spots, but it should be used carefully and diluted with warm water.
When cleaning brick surfaces, it’s important to do things the way the maker says to.
If the suggestions are not available, Table 1 on the website of the Brick Industry Association shows how to clean different types of bricks.
In general, you should choose the way of cleaning that is the kindest and most effective.
Brick surfaces that are old or fragile should be cleaned by hand with a bucket and brush or with a low-pressure washer.
Wire brushes shouldn’t be used on bricks because they can scratch the surface.
When cleaning brick surfaces, it’s important to use the right tools and safety gear, as well as the right cleaning method.
To protect yourself from poisons and dust, you should wear rubber gloves, safety goggles, and a face mask.
To clean brick surfaces, you’ll also need an outdoor hose, a pressure washer (if you have one), and a bucket.
When using a power washer on a surface that isn’t very strong, it’s important not to use more than 3,000 PSI.
Wire brushes tend to stain walls, so you should avoid them.
Instead, use a brush with natural or nylon bristles to clean places that are hard to get to.
Creating a Cleaning Solution
For general cleaning, soap or diluted vinegar can be used to make a cleaning solution.
To get rid of mold, mildew, and moss, mix one teaspoon of bleach with one gallon of water.
If you want to clean a brick patio, you can also use borax or white vinegar.
Different kinds of bricks, types of weather, and types of surfaces can all pose different problems.
If you want the best results, you might want to hire a professional who cleans the outside of buildings.
Maintenance and Prevention of Brick Cleaning
Cleaning brick walls outside is a must if you want to keep their original beauty.
But it’s important to remember that how often you clean depends on the type of upkeep that needs to be done.
Waterproofcaulking.com says that brick surfaces that are outside should be cleaned twice a year to keep algae and dirt from building up.
A company that helps with pressure washing can help with this job.
But preventive upkeep can do a lot to keep the brick surfaces looking as beautiful as they did when they were first built.
Here are some tips and tricks to help you keep your bricks clean and keep them from getting dirty:
Cleaning New Masonry Construction
Cleaning a new building made of brick or stone needs a different method.
prosoco.com says that 14 to 28 days after building is done is the best time to clean new masonry construction.
The longer mortar and grout smudges stay on the surface, the harder they are to clean.
If you clean the joints before the mortar has hardened, which usually takes seven days, you might damage the joints.
High-strength mortars (type “S” or…) are an exception.
The website also suggests using a low-pressure spray or a densely packed, soft-fibered masonry washing brush to spread the cleaner so that it doesn’t get driven right into the brick.
Common Problems and Solutions
Brick cleaning is a delicate process that needs careful attention to detail to avoid common problems.
One of the most common problems is using the wrong cleaning solution, which can cause white scum, efflorescence, manganese, or vanadium stains.
Another common problem is not thoroughly wetting the brick masonry surface with water before and after using chemical or detergent cleaning solutions.
Dry masonry allows the cleaning solution to be absorbed, which can lead to white scum, efflorescence, manganese, or vanadium stains.
Inspecting Brick Surfaces
It is also important to check brick surfaces for cracking, spalling, bowing, sweeping, leaning, and salts.
These problems can happen when cleaning both old and new bricks.
To avoid common problems when cleaning new masonry construction, it is best to follow all safety instructions in the product literature and use a proprietary cleaner from a well-known company that stands behind its products with literature, customer service, and job-site and specification-written support.
Tips to Prevent Damage to the Brick Surface
When cleaning the outside of a brick surface, you need to be careful not to damage the surface.
Here are some tips to keep the surface from getting damaged:
- Wet the brick surface before applying cleaner: Dry brick tends to absorb cleaning solutions quickly, which can lead to streaking and suboptimal results. To prevent this, use a garden hose to wet the surface before applying cleaner.
- Use a tarp to hide nearby surfaces: Some cleaning solutions can damage plant life or other surfaces like siding. Cover any areas you don’t want to get wet with a tarp or drop cloth.
- Use a brush with natural or nylon bristles for hard-to-reach areas: Avoid wire brushes as they tend to stain your bricks.
- Don’t use any more than a 3,000 PSI pressure washing setting for weakened surfaces: High-pressure spray drives the cleaner right into the brick, which can damage the surface. Use a low-pressure spray or masonry washing brush instead.
- Follow the brick manufacturer’s recommended cleaning procedure: When manufacturer recommendations are not provided, refer to Table 1 for recommended cleaning methods for various brick categories. Select the gentlest effective cleaning method to avoid damaging the wall surface.
- Use a proprietary cleaner from an established company: Proprietary cleaners have special ingredients that increase “dwell-time,” making them more effective over a larger area than raw acids. Those same ingredients make results uniform over the entire masonry surface. Many will actually improve the original color depth and uniformity of brick, block, tile.
Eco-Friendly Brick Cleaning
If you want to clean your outdoor bricks without using harsh chemicals, you’re in luck.
There are several eco-friendly options you can try, such as natural cleaners, specialized products, and household chemicals.
Read on to learn more about these options and how to use them effectively.
Natural Cleaners: Vinegar, Lemon Juice, and Baking Soda
Some of the best eco-friendly cleaners for outdoor bricks are probably already in your kitchen.
Vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda are all-natural options that can remove tough grime from bricks, cement, and glass.
Here’s how to use them:
- Vinegar: Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution onto your bricks and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Scrub the bricks with a stiff-bristled brush and rinse thoroughly with water.
- Lemon Juice: Cut a lemon in half and rub it directly onto your bricks. Let the juice sit for 10-15 minutes and then scrub the bricks with a brush. Rinse with water.
- Baking Soda: Mix baking soda and water to create a paste. Apply the paste to your bricks and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Scrub the bricks with a brush and rinse with water.
Specialized Products: Easy Brick Cleaner and EcoCleanse
There are a few eco-friendly products you can use to clean bricks if you prefer to use a specific product.
- Easy Brick Cleaner: This ready-to-use cleaner is environmentally safe and effective on all types of brick and block. It’s especially useful for dark-colored bricks. Simply apply the cleaner to your bricks, let it sit for a few minutes, and then rinse with water.
- EcoCleanse: This yellow, alkaline solution can eliminate oxidation, carbon, oil, and other types of dirt and grime from exterior surfaces, including brick, granite, and concrete. It’s available in various gallon sizes and contains biodegradable surfactants and a pleasant orange scent. EcoCleanse is safe to use with hot or cold water.
Household Chemicals: Vinegar and Water for Moss Removal
If you have moss on your outdoor bricks, the best way to get rid of it is with household chemicals and water.
Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle and apply the solution to the affected area.
You can add this mixture to the soap dispenser of your pressure washer or apply it with a brush.
Let the solution sit for 10 to 15 minutes and then rinse with water.
There are several eco-friendly ways to clean outdoor bricks, including natural cleaners like vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda, specialized products like Easy Brick Cleaner and EcoCleanse, and household chemicals like vinegar and water.
By avoiding harsh chemicals and choosing these eco-friendly options, you can keep your brick cleaning routine green and effective.
DIY vs Professional Brick Cleaning
Brick cleaning is an important part of keeping the outside of your home or building in good shape.
It not only makes the property look better, but it also keeps the bricks from getting damaged.
But should you clean the bricks yourself or hire a professional? Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.
DIY Brick Cleaning
Brick cleaning can be a cheap DIY job, but it’s important to take care not to damage the bricks.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Check the weather forecast: Choose a day when it is around 50 degrees and cloudy to avoid the cleaning solution from evaporating too quickly.
- Remove surface dirt and grime: Use a garden hose to remove any surface dirt and grime from the brick before moving on to the next step.
- Choose the right cleaning solvents: There are three effective types of cleaning solvents for brick: soapy water for general cleaning, a bleach formula for mold and mildew, and muriatic acid for the toughest-to-remove stains. Avoid using ammonia, muriatic acid, drain cleaners, oven cleaners, and the like, as they can damage the brick.
- Use the right tools: Use a good sponge or a natural or nylon-bristle scrub brush to avoid leaving bits of metal behind that can rust and stain the brick. Avoid using a wire brush or power tools to clean brick, as they can damage the brick. If you insist on using a power tool, there are two solutions you can try: a cleaning disc that is a safer alternative to wire brushes or a soft washing technique that uses low-pressure water and cleaning solutions.
Professional Brick Cleaning
Hiring a professional to clean your bricks can be more expensive, but it has some benefits.
- Experience and expertise: Professional brick cleaners have the experience and expertise to clean your brickwork without causing any damage. They have access to specialized cleaning equipment and solutions that are not available to the general public.
- Time-saving: Cleaning brick can be a time-consuming process, especially if you have a large area to clean. Hiring a professional can save you time and effort.
- Safety: Cleaning brick can be a hazardous task, especially if you are using harsh chemicals or power tools. Professional brick cleaners have the necessary safety equipment to protect themselves and others.
Tips for Maintaining Clean Outdoor Brick Surfaces
Outdoor brick surfaces are a beautiful addition to any home, but they need to be cleaned and cared for properly to look their best.
Here are some tips for keeping your outdoor brick surfaces clean.
Seal the Bricks
One of the most important things to do to keep outdoor brick surfaces clean is to seal them.
This will protect them from water damage and make water run off of them.
Use a brickwork waterproofing agent to make sure the bricks are protected from the weather.
Use a Proprietary Cleaner
To keep outdoor brick surfaces clean, you must use a proprietary cleaner from a well-known company.
Proprietary cleaners have special ingredients that increase “dwell-time,” making them more effective over a larger area than raw acids.
Those same ingredients make results uniform over the entire masonry surface.
Many proprietary cleaners will even improve the original color depth and uniformity of brick, block, and tile.
It’s important to rinse the bricks well to avoid leaving behind stains and residue.
On outside surfaces, high-pressure spray (above 50 psi) drives the cleaner right into the brick, where it’s hard to get out.
Make sure to rinse the bricks well to make sure all of the cleaner is gone.
Avoid Wire Brushes
Wire brushes tend to leave stains on bricks, so it’s best not to use them.
Instead, use a brush with natural or nylon bristles to clean hard-to-reach areas.
For surfaces that aren’t very strong, don’t use more than 3,000 PSI of pressure cleaning.
Follow Manufacturer Recommendations
When cleaning outdoor brick surfaces, it’s important to use the method recommended by the brick’s manufacturer.
If the manufacturer’s instructions aren’t available, look at Table 1 for recommended cleaning methods for different types of brick.
Choose the method that will clean the bricks without damaging them.
Protect Wall Surfaces and Unlaid Brick
Protect the walls and bricks that haven’t been laid from rain.
Some of the chemicals used to clean brickwork, including their fumes, can be dangerous.
Make sure to protect any nearby surfaces that may be affected by the cleaning process.
Pressure Wash with an Eco-Friendly Vinegar and Water Mixture
Mixing equal parts vinegar and water is the safest and most eco-friendly way to clean your hardscape.
You can add this mixture to the soap dispenser of your pressure or power washer and generously apply it to the brick surfaces.
By using these tips, you can keep your outdoor brick surfaces clean and looking their best.
Always use a special cleaner from a well-known company to get the best results.
Concluding thoughts and considerations
In conclusion, brick cleaning isn’t just about getting rid of dirt and grime from outdoor surfaces. It’s also about preserving the history and character of a building and making sure it lasts for a long time. It’s about taking pride in our surroundings and showing respect for the work of those who came before us.
But brick cleaning can also be a metaphor for life. Just as we must clean and maintain our physical surroundings, we must also clean and maintain our mental and emotional well-being. We must get rid of negative thoughts and toxic relationships and take care of the good things in our lives.
So the next time you’re scrubbing a brick wall, think about what you’re doing and what it means to you. Just as a clean brick wall can give a building new life, a clean mind and heart can give your journey new life.
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What are some ways you can keep the outside of a house clean?
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Links and references
- BIA Technical Notes No.20 for CMU cleaning
- PGH Bricks™ Technical Manual
Chemical Cleaning 101: Safe & Effective Outdoor Cleaning
Masonry Cleaning 101: Importance, Methods, and Benefits
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