Professional brick layers make the job look easy, but even professionals don't always entirely clean brick work. Their knowledge helps them prevent the worst of the cleanup and they know the right products and techniques for cleaning mortar residue from brickwork. Do-it-yourselfers will make mistakes and messes, yet can still get great looking results by using some of these same strategies for removing mortar.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Hydrochloric acid
- Baking soda
- Stiff-bristled nylon or stainless steel brush
Wipe off any fresh mortar that has not set as soon as possible with water and a stiff-bristled or stainless steel brush. Mortar must cure for about seven days before acid cleaning can be done safely.
Remove all large pieces of excess mortar with a hammer and chisel. Be sure to wet the area to be cleaned thoroughly with water. Soak the bricks, but not to the point of leaving standing water on the surface and keeping them wet during the cleaning process.
Cover or protect any surrounding foliage or materials to prevent damage to plants, grass or other landscaping materials.
Put on protective clothing, mask and goggles. Hydrochloric acid is highly caustic and should only be used in areas with plenty of fresh air and good ventilation.
Mix one part hydrochloric acid to 20 parts of water for light coloured brick and 1 part hydrochloric acid to 10 parts water for darker brick. Always add the acid to the water to prevent dangerous reactions and splattering. Higher concentrations than these can stain or damage brick.
Prepare a neutralising solution of 50 grams of baking soda per one litre of water. Have it readily available during the cleaning. Pour it on acid if etching is occurring.
Test the solution on an inconspicuous area by leaving the solution on for no more than six minutes and rinsing thoroughly. Make sure the solution does not etch or stain the brick.
Apply the solution with a sprayer to a small area of pavers. Let the solution sit for three to six minutes before scrubbing with the brush until mortar is removed. Work one area at a time, making sure to not scrub the mortar joints.
Rinse the area with the baking soda solution to neutralise the acid. This is essential for light-coloured brick. Rinse the area thoroughly with water and move on to your next area.
Tips and warnings
- Hand cleaning is the recommended method with any dangerous chemical since it allows for more control.
- Pressure washing can be used as a substitute for scrubbing after the acid solution has been applied. Do not use over 1000 psi (pounds per square inch) of pressure or hold the nozzle too close--you could damage the surface. Run a test in an inconspicuous area first and follow the same rinsing procedure.
- Do not mix any other chemicals with hydrochloric acid. You could cause a violent reaction that causes splashing or the release of toxic fumes.
- Do not dump or rinse hydrochloric acid solutions into storm drains or other access to the water supplies. Dispose of extra solution and waste water responsibly. Hydrochloric acid solution is bad for the environment.
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