You are probably wondering why your wall, despite its new paint, is starting to chip and fall off. Such a situation should not be normal but is also not that surprising, especially if the masonry is executed poorly. In fact, it is an evident sign that the construction is substandard and was badly planned.
That being said, if you notice your wall paint developing bubbles and are starting to chip off, it is likely because of the white deposit—commonly known as wall salt—coming out of your wall.
What is Efflorescence?
Also known as wall salt, Efflorescence is a white crystalline deposit that commonly appears on concrete surfaces, bricks, stones, stucco, and other building surfaces. It is formed when water and the natural salts present in the construction materials meet. The water then dissolves the salts which will be deposited on the surface eventually through evaporation.
But that is simply a general explanation as efflorescence is caused by varying factors, which I will explain further in the next section.
Moreover, effloresce appearance-wise is not only white, but may also come grey, brown, and even yellow. Its texture is soft and powdery as well and typically appears in the wet season as well—although it may also appear during spring and fall.
But the thing about this white deposit is that its damage does not manifest on concrete walls, bricks, or stone. It rather harms the wall paint or the wallpaper, which may prompt you to repaint it regularly. And that is not cost-effective!
What Causes It?
There are several reasons as to why salts or efflorescence develop on home and building surfaces. In fact, for this natural reaction to take place, it will require three elements: water, salt, and air. And all of these are inevitably present in both residential and commercial spaces.
But primarily, wall salt forms due to excess moisture produced by rain, snow, and water. That is why if you noticed, these white deposits typically appear during the winter and rainy seasons. Although these can pop during spring and fall seasons too.
But that is only one factor. Poor masonry, as well as incorrect installation of building materials, may also contribute to the reason why a wall produces salt.
And some construction-related issues are:
- Joint materials collapsing after installation
- Faulty installation of through-wall flashings
- Not enough ventilation during masonry
- Lacks moisture barrier while installing masonry
- Construction materials were carelessly stored
A Guide to Preventing and Getting Rid of Efflorescence
The presence of efflorescence in walls is indeed a hassle for home and building owners. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent it, as well as ways to remove it.
- Capillary breaks. To stop natural soil from penetrating concrete walls and other surfaces, professionals recommend installing capillary breaks like polyethylene sheeting. It is then placed between the soil and the building material.
- Application of surface sealer. The application of a surface sealer or hydrophobic sealant is also an excellent solution to prevent efflorescence. Essentially, it helps prevent water and moisture absorption. It is often applied after the final clean-down and mortar tooling.
- Installing grout with mechanical vibration. To prevent the presence of water, installing grout with mechanical vibration could do the job. Essentially, it curbs voids in the grout.
- Proper drainage. Water is one of the primary sources of wall salt. As such, to halt it from developing, you must place drainage properly in areas with a high chance of exposure to water.
That said, when building pavers, make sure that the grading and the bedding material is fit to install drainage. You can also use permeable geotextiles as they can help prevent salt absorption.
- Quality masonry. Substandard masonry work is often the reason why efflorescence appears on walls and other surfaces. So, make sure to hire professional and credible masons who can flawlessly do the basics such as the installation of flashings and eaves, as well as implementing overhanging copings.
- Store masonry materials properly. Another prevention tip is to properly store all masonry materials. Simply laying these tools on the ground may seep water off the ground. Hence, it is best to put it away from the ground, as well as to use a waterproof covering to avoid water absorption due to precipitation.
- Use dense tooled mortar joints. Concrete walls are naturally porous, which means it easily absorbs water. To reduce it, you can use dense tooled mortar joints.
Whether it be on concrete surfaces, bricks, or stones, the presence of efflorescence does not only cause damage but is also unsightly to look at. The good thing is that there are several ways to get rid of it.
As mentioned, wall salts are soft and powdery in texture which means they can be removed easily. If the efflorescence developed in your interior walls, it is best to use a brush with stiff—or even soft—bristles. It is much better and less messy compared to when you use a chemical solution or a washer pressure.
Just make sure to wear a mask to protect your lungs from the dust.
Aside from brush, using washer pressure also works. Water can dissolve salts efficiently. And if you add force, it will also sweep them away. The only catch about this method is that you must completely dry the water off the building material. Otherwise, it may cause efflorescence to reappear.
Keep in mind that this method is applicable only for exterior walls.
Last but not least is through chemical solutions. If you find the above methods insufficient, then using a wall salt removing solution should be your last resort. Prosoco’s Light Duty Concrete Cleaner, for instance, is a non-etching acidic cleaner that removes dirt, mud, and atmospheric dirt such as efflorescence without damaging the original color and texture of the surface.
It is a safe alternative compared to using muriatic acid, which can cause discoloration, stain, and may even burn the surface.
How to Remove Wall Salt Using Chemical Solution
Step 1: Rinse the affected area. 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 the solution to the affected surface. 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 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.