If you’re a homeowner, then you know that keeping your property in top condition is critical. One of the things you may have to deal with at some point is brick efflorescence.
Brick efflorescence is a white, powdery substance that can appear on exterior and interior surfaces alike. And while it’s not necessarily harmful, it can be unsightly.
In this guide, we’ll explain what it is, how to prevent it, and how to remove it if necessary. Let’s get started!
What Is Brick Efflorescence?
Efflorescence, also known as wall salt, is a white to yellowish crystalline salt deposit that commonly appears on porous surfaces such as bricks and concrete walls. It is a chemical reaction that takes place when minerals like salt—which are often found in construction materials—meet water. When finally in contact, water will naturally dissolve the salts and will eventually be deposited on the surface through evaporation.
Appearance-wise, efflorescence may have varying colors. Depending on the type of salt and other chemicals present, it may appear brown or gray. It also has a powdery yet soft texture. And because it happens mainly due to evaporation, wall salt is commonly seen during the winter and rainy seasons. Although it could appear during the fall and spring seasons too.
Efflorescence is not necessarily harmful. But many homeowners do not like the sight of it spreading on walls as it ruins the overall interior or exterior design of the house. The constant appearance of wall salt can damage the house’s paint or wallpaper as well, which is not cost-effective.
What Causes It?
The spread of crystalline salt deposits on porous surfaces happens due to several different reasons. And for it to take place, it will require salt, water, and air to mix.
However, one of the top reasons why efflorescence appears on bricks and other porous surfaces is due to excess moisture produced by rain and snow, which explains why it usually appears during the rainy and winter seasons.
But that is just one of the many factors that contribute to its development. In fact, it can be easily treated and fixed.
What many home and building owners do not notice is that substandard masonry largely plays a part in it as well. Having that said, below are the common construction-related problems that prompt the buildup of the crystalline salt deposit.
- Joint materials breaking after installation
- Through-wall flashings are not properly installed
- Not enough ventilation during masonry
- Lacks moisture barrier while installing masonry
- Construction materials were carelessly stored
How to Prevent and Eradicate Efflorescence on Bricks
The presence of white to yellow-ish salt deposits in walls is indeed a hassle for home and building owners. But the good thing is that there are a number of ways to avoid it, as well as to get rid of it.
Brick Efflorescence Prevention Tips
There are four ways to avoid crystalline salt deposits from appearing on walls. And these are through the application of surface sealant, proper drainage and gutter system, the use of capillary break, and quality masonry.
- Use a surface sealer to avoid water and moisture from penetrating the concrete. Walls that are made of bricks and concrete are porous and naturally absorb water and moisture. Treating the wall using a surface sealer, on a good note, can fix it.
Surface sealers are hydrophobic sealants that are usually used to prevent crystalline salt deposits such as efflorescence. It essentially seals the surface and blocks water and moisture from penetrating the walls. It is typically applied after the final clean-down.
- Make sure there is a drainage system that is properly working. Water and moisture is the main reason why efflorescence appears. To avoid it, make sure that all drainage—particularly the gutter—is properly and efficiently working. It is crucial in areas where exposure to water is high.
- Take advantage of capillary breaks’ perks. A capillary break is a hydrophobic material (like glass and plastic) used to stop the movement of moisture into a building or a house. It is installed in between parallel layers of materials—between the soil and the building materials—that creates a gap. It then stops the excessive amount of water or moisture coming from the soil.
- Hire a professional mason. Last but not the least, it is crucial that all masonry work is properly and efficiently done. As mentioned, substandard masonry is usually the reason why efflorescence appears on walls. As such, to prevent it, hire a team of professional and credible builders that can provide quality work.
Brick Efflorescence Removal Tips
Efflorescence on concrete walls and bricks, on a good note, is not permanent and can be removed. The top three methods homeowners use are pressure washing, brushing, and applying chemical solutions.
Use a Washer Pressure
Efflorescence is essentially a salt buildup which also means that it can be removed easily using water. Water can easily dissolve salts. And if added with force using a washer pressure machine, sweeping it all away will take just a minute.
The only disadvantage is that it is only applicable to exterior walls. Homeowners will need to completely dry the wall off too, to avoid the reappearance of wall salt.
Use a Brush
Efflorescence is naturally soft and powdery in texture which means it can be easily removed even without the use of water. In fact, you can use your hands to wipe it. Although that would be messy.
That said, you can use a brush instead. It is especially recommended if it is on your house’s interior walls. Use a brush with soft to mild bristles to avoid damaging the paint or wallpaper. Such a method is much more convenient and is also not messy compared to when you use water or a chemical solution.
Use a Chemical Solution
Lastly, if you find the mentioned methods insufficient, you can use a chemical solution too to remove efflorescence. There are a lot of commercial—and even natural—solutions that you can try and use. Prosoco’s Sure Klean Vana Trol, for example, is a masonry cleaning product that is used specifically for sensitive and stone. For other types of wall surfaces, its Sure Klean Light Duty Cleaner is also a great solution.
Commercial solutions are safe alternatives compared to, say, muriatic acid, which often prompts discoloration and stain. It may even burn the surface too.
How to Remove Wall Salt Using Chemical Solution
Step 1: Rinse the affected surface. Clean the affected area first by rinsing it using water. You can use a garden hose and even a washer pressure if the affected area is outside your house. If inside, it is best to use a sprayer instead.
Step 2: Apply your chosen solution to the affected area. Once done, simply apply the solution to the affected surface. Make sure that you are wearing gloves and eye goggles to contact. Let the mixture sit for several minutes. And if needed, you may have to reapply it a couple of times until the wall salts are completely gone.
Step 3: Re-rinse and dry the surface. Finally, re-rinse the affected area again to remove the remaining salts as well as the solution. Make sure that the area is completely dry to prevent efflorescence from reappearing. You can use a dry clean towel to dry it off.
Brick Efflorescence might look easy to remove. But using the wrong method can damage your walls! As such, make sure to use the right method only. If it is on your house’s outer wall, using a pressure washer is highly recommended. If not, then using a chemical solution such as Prosoco’s Sure Klean 600 is needed.