Safest but most effective way to clean red brick?

HoneyDoodApril 19, 2011

Hello All,

I'm about to close on a 23 year old home with a brick front. It's in good condition, but near as I can tell they've never cleaned the brick front of the home.

I've read things like a mixture of bleach, muratic acid, TSP, and others. All of these are somewhat toxic, and the home has some plants and shrubs out front I'd like to keep.

I have a pressure washer, but of course I don't want to blast it with terribly high pressure. However I was wondering if there is a recommended solution that I can inject into a low pressure wash with a 40 degree tip? If possible, something organic?

Even if it's not as effective as the toxic options, I'll take a 60% effective organic method over a 100% effective toxic method.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

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dave777_2009

My suggestion would be plain water. Use your pressure washer, and stand back a bit - to reduce the pressure. Grout is very susceptible to water and pressure damage - so watch it and go easy on the grout.

Brick is Fired Clay, and will probably clean up well enough with just plain water. Afterwards - there are some clear waterproofing agents which can be easily applied to the brick to help keep it clean. Available at your local Hardware Store in the Concrete, Mortar, Brick section....

If plain water using pressure washer at reasonable distance and time don't do it - than try a weak solution of tsp.

You could also try just some mild dish soap in a water solution. You are trying to get mold and general scum off the brick; not polish them....

Muratic acid will work - but it can also EASILY stain - by drawing out salts from the bricks.... So you have to work very carefully with Muratic.

Good Luck.
D.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 12:46AM
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HoneyDood

Thanks Dave! I had read a little about muractic, and nowhere did anyone state you could end up with stains. I knew there was a downside to it somewhere.

So right before I'm about to put fresh coats of wax on a vehicle, I wash it with "Dawn" dish washing liquid. It rips the wax right off, which in turn makes the fresh wax look even better.

Environmentalists also use it on animals caught in oil slicks.

Will Dawn damage the bricks? Because I can't think of anything better and more gentle to remove 23 years of crud, before I seal them. If it wont cause damage, should there be a limit to how many times I do it? I was thinking 2 or 3 times before sealing the brick?

Lastly, what would you use to seal it? Thompson has the best tv commercials of course, but is there anything better to clearly seal red brick?

Thanks again!

-Chris

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 9:21AM
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brickeyee

"Afterwards - there are some clear waterproofing agents which can be easily applied to the brick to help keep it clean. Available at your local Hardware Store in the Concrete, Mortar, Brick section...."

And if you have freezing weather can lead to spalling and damage by trapping moisture inside the bricks.

Dawn will not work in a pressure washer.
It foams way to much.

TSP does NOT foam, and in low concentrations is not very harmful.

Just wash off the plants thoroughly after cleaning the brick.

If you use the pressure washer almost parallel to the face of the brick you can minimize damage.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 10:11AM
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dave777_2009

Chris - DAWN won't damage your bricks.

Plain water would probably be fine.

You do have to wait a couple of days (an no rain should be forecast) for the bricks to be dry - before applying any sealer. But no big deal. Follow the directions.

http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1v/R-202529383/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053

The above product works fine. They also make a 'no gloss' version which does the exact same thing - but is invisible and does not affect the look or appearance of the bricks; in any manner. Again, you would have to follow the directions.

Several other reputable companies make similar products. Get thee to a Hardware store, and look around at the products. You can call and talk to Sika if you want (in NJ) at: 201 933 8800

Just take a look around at your Hardware Store. Pick up a how-to book on Concrete and Masonry work for $20. Again, not hard at all, and good luck. It is not even hard for a home owner to learn how to make some quick (grout) tuck point repairs. (You do need a small (like 4") grinder for that/ plus a DUST mask or Respirator /eye & hearing protection/ are all MANDATORY if you care about your health...) These items don't cost much. And hearing and eye should both be worn when just mowing your lawn for example...

D.

Here is a link that might be useful: Concrete Sealer

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 11:05AM
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brickeyee

Dawn can foam in a presusre washer and damage it.

Bricks do not require sealing.

It can trap moisture in the brick and result in spalling damage in freezing weather.

The trapped water freezes, expands, and spalls the face of the brick.
It can also cause mortar cracking the same way.

It will not keep dirt off the brick.

Why bother?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 7:13PM
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ron6519

You do not have to clean brick on a regular basis.
Ron

1 Like    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 8:18PM
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dave777_2009

Side Comment: Here in the Pacific NW; where it rains all the time; and freezes during the winter...

The Brick Masonry Companies Routinely use these products to help Prevent Spalling & Freeze damage to both the bricks and the grout. Even extend the warranties if you have the treatment.

The products are promoted by the various Concrete and Brick manufacturers - to prevent damage to the bricks. Since they do help prevent, and don't encourage damage - that is why a LOT of the various reputable Masonry companies use these products...

D.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 11:11AM
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sierraeast

In n.w florida where the majority of homes are brick veneer, a good business/service is once a month pressure washing homes. They typically use a bleach mixture to rid the mold/algae that crusts the veneer. Some lawn maintenance outfits include it as part of their service.

Obviously it's geographic location that dictates how often your veneer needs cleaned, in some areas, if at all.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 11:49AM
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brickeyee

"Since they do help prevent, and don't encourage damage - that is why a LOT of the various reputable Masonry companies use these products... "

Who performed the study?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 2:20PM
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