Ivy and walls seem to go hand in hand in landscape design, but it takes a good bit of maintenance to keep it pruned and tidy. And if you’ve ever pulled ivy off a wall, you know that the tiny roots adhere to the brick or siding like glue, leaving behind a maze of fuzzy tendrils that can leave your wall looking like a mess!
At my house, one wall of the porch is covered with ancient ivy tendrils from well before my time. I figure they’re a good worst-case scenario, since they’re dried out and stuck like glue, and the brick is textured, so they’re embedded deep inside the nooks and crannies.
Brick wall before. Those hairy tendrils stick like glue!
There’s no magic chemical or spray that will remove ivy from walls. It just takes lots of elbow grease or what we call around my house “a good old-fashioned Scrub-A-Rama.” In a nutshell, you have to scrub the ivy roots off with a brush, but the trick is to find an approach that’s strong enough to remove the ivy but not so strong that it damages your brick or paint.
Of course, smooth brick or siding is going to be much easier to clean than textured brick or stone. Depending on your situation, you may not be able to erase every strand, but you can certainly improve the overall appearance.
Ivy Removal Tips
To tackle this job at your house, follow these tips:
- Removing Ivy: When removing ivy, pull it VERY gently off the wall, not worrying about the stems that break and stay stuck. If the roots have grown into cracks, you don’t want to damage your mortar or siding by yanking too hard.
- Don’t Procrastinate: As I found with my porch, over time the roots will harden and be nearly impossible to remove. The sooner you can clean your brick, the better.
- Scraping: Start by using a wooden or plastic scraper to work loose any whole roots and stems that are still attached, being careful not to damage the mortar.
- Scrubbing: Once you’re down to just the hairy tendrils, it’s time for the scrub brush. Start with a nylon household scrubber and work loose as much dried material as you can – it will crumble better if the brush is dry. If there are still tendrils remaining, try loosening them with water and mild detergent. If the scrub brush isn’t doing the job, try progressing to a stiffer brush, or a scrubbing sponge. The stiffer the brush, the more likely you are to damage your wall, so take it easy! Test out your brush in an inconspicuous spot, to be sure it doesn’t scratch the surface.
- Torching: If all else fails and you have a brick or masonry wall, you can try using a propane torch to burn away the remaining roots. This has a chance of scorching your brick, so test it first. Be sure to wear goggles and keep the flame away from wood or flammable materials.
Brick wall after. Don’t damage your brick, as I did here in my test!
I have to admit, cleaning this textured wall proved to be more trouble than it’s worth. A soft brush only removed about half of the tendrils, and a stiff brush removed the surface of the brick. Yes, it reached a point where brick was coming off, and ivy wasn’t!
Even flame couldn’t erase the tucked-in strands. In order to preserve my brick, I had to accept that unless I want to pick at those roots with a needle and magnifying glass (and even I’m not that crazy), some of those tendrils are just going to have to stay there.
- How to Control English Ivy (article)
- Can Ivy Damage Brick or Wood on Your Home? (article)
- Growing Ivy on Old Brick Masonry (article)
- Removing Climbing Plants from Stone and Masonry (Chicora Foundation)
- Ivy on Brickwork (Brick Industry Association)