If you live in a brick house, or your home has a brick fireplace or brick flooring on the patio, you generally don’t have to give too much thought about brick cleaning. One of the reasons many choose to build brick houses is, besides being extremely durable as well as having high insulation properties, brick is a low maintenance material, and brick cleaning is seldom necessary.
In most instances, if the brick merely becomes dirty, the dirt or dust can be hosed away if on the outside of the house, or cleaned with a brush and bucket of water if on the inside. If the brickwork as been sealed, the job becomes just that much easier.
It would seem to make sense to seal all brickwork for that purpose, but from an aesthetic standpoint, a brick wall with a sheen isn’t always regarded as being quite as attractive, and a typical sealant will leave a definite sheen.
In an older house or building, the brick, while still structurally sound, may have collected a substantial amount of grime or may even have become stained. The most common type of staining is the result of plants, such as ivy, being allowed to grow along with the brickwork.
Blast It – With Care
For grime, a power washer is quicker and more effective than the garden hose, or a brush and water. A power washer is often even more effective than using a cleanser and scrub. When using a power washer, one needs to be a little careful about not using too much power.
This can be an especially important consideration on older buildings, where there may be cracks in the mortar or weak areas in the mortar that a power washer could damage. If the integrity of the mortar becomes compromised, freezing and thawing cycles over a few years could result in severe damage. However, brick walls are noted for their extreme strength and stability.
Stains can be a different matter and can occur from the outside or the inside of a brick wall. Cleaning compounds will generally need to be called into play, in which case it is best to call in an academic unless the job is small and you’re willing to accept the consequences if the wrong cleansing agent is chosen.
Acid, Effective But Not For All Jobs
Muriatic acid is one of the most effective brick cleaning agents. However, it generally should only be used on red brick unless the brick manufacturer or the building’s architect has indicated it’s safe to use on other types of brickwork. Muriatic acid must also be used in the correct proportion, typically a 10 percent solution. Too secure a solution can destroy the integrity of bricks.
Commercial Cleaners, Often The Better Choice
If you’re planning to do your brick cleaning, however, a commercial brick cleaner may be the better choice. There are several cleaners to choose among, and one or more are usually available at most larger home improvement centers.
Read the label carefully, and don’t be afraid to ask an expert on the subject, assuming one is nearby, as to which product might best serve your needs. Stubborn stains may require select chemicals or solvents, and as such, you may have to call upon the advice of someone in the masonry business who is familiar with different types of bricks and various kinds of stains.
There’s a saying in the masonry industry regarding brick cleaning, and it is “process is more important than the product.” Aside from deciding upon which cleansing agent you need, assuming it is to be anything other than plain old water, it will pay to learn something about what process will work best, and what all is involved in doing a proper job. Done correctly, your home can be the most attractive house on the block. Done incorrectly, it can be a neighborhood conversation piece.
While you’re at it, you might also want to clean your carpets.