Bucket-and-brush cleaning is the most widely used method for cleaning newly constructed brick walls both small and large. A minimum amount of equipment is needed for this method, and workmen do not need to be highly skilled.
Step 1 – Determine Proper Cleaning Solution
The bucket-and-brush method may be used for cleaning all colors and textures of brick. However, care must be used in selecting the proper cleaning solution for the job. Some brick cleaning solutions are specifically made for certain types of brick. You should first test a clean sample area to determine the solution’s effectiveness and ensure it does not damage the brick. The safest way to determine the proper cleaning solution for a given type of brick is to ask the brick manufacturer for his or her recommendation.
One of the most-used solutions is muriatic acid. This solution has been used for many years in cleaning red brick walls, and it is both readily available and economical. When used in a 10-percent solution — one part muriatic acid to nine parts water — and applied under proper conditions, it will thoroughly clean most red brick walls.
The problem with this cleaning solution is that people too often use solutions stronger than the recommended 10-percent maximum to try to make their job easier. Additionally, they sometimes fail to apply the solution under proper conditions as will be explained below. Furthermore, people often use muriatic acid on some types of brick that can be damaged with this acid. For these reasons, many cleaning contractors refuse to use muriatic acid, and many architects and engineers refuse to allow muriatic acid on the job site.
Commercial Cleaning Compounds
There are many new cleaning compounds on the market today that will clean new masonry as well as muriatic acid without posing as much of a safety risk. Many of these cleaners contain small amounts of hydrochloric acid as well as wetting and buffering agents to improve the solution's action and to minimize deterioration of mortar joints and damage to surrounding materials.
Some of the most recommended commercial cleaning compounds include the following: Sure Klean 101, 600, and Vantrol; Superior 800 series; Goldblatt Brick Bath; Diedrich 200, 202, and 202 VanaStop.
The formulation of most commercial cleaners is complicated. Therefore, users should rely on chemical manufacturers’ recommendations as found on containers and recommendations from brick manufacturers for specifics.
Step 2 – Wait for Mortar to Harden
You should first wait for mortar to harden before attempting to clean the brick. While industry standards generally require masonry to be seven days old before cleaning, it is possible to start cleaning operations 24-36 hours after completion of masonry work, depending on the type of brick and weather conditions.
Step 3 – Remove Large Mortar Particles
Next, remove all large mortar particles with hand tools before applying water or cleaning solutions. Use a wooden paddle or the rough edge of a brick. If necessary, chisels may be used to remove hardened mortar or concrete. This is an important part of cleaning new masonry, and you should not expect cleaning solutions alone to remove large particles of hardened mortar.
Step 4 – Protect Adjacent Surfaces
Mask and otherwise protect adjacent metal, glass, wood, and other surfaces as recommended by product manufacturers.
Step 5 – Saturate Wall With Water
Next, you should saturate the wall with clean water. The area to be cleaned must be saturated as well as all masonry areas below. A Hose should be trained upon the wall until the brick is saturated. If the wall appears to be drying on the surface, reapply the water until a worker is ready to apply the cleaning solution.
Cleaning solutions containing dissolved mortar particles can be drawn into a dry masonry wall, causing future staining, so it’s important to complete this step thoroughly. Such staining from portland cement dissolved in cleaning materials is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to remove because it is insoluble in most masonry cleaning solutions.
Step 6 – Apply Cleaning Solution
Use a brush to apply the preferred cleaning solution to a saturated wall. Start cleaning at the top of the wall and work down. An architect or engineer, and the brick supplier should approve the solution before use.
The concentration and method of application should be used as recommended on the container or by the manufacturer. First, cover a small area using a long-handled fiber brush. Scrub the brick, not the joints. Allow the solution to remain on the wall 3-6 minutes, or as recommended on the label, as you or your workmen scrape and scrub vigorously.
Step 7 – Rinse Thoroughly
Rinse thoroughly as small areas are cleaned so that no cleaning solution is left behind. If the above procedures are followed, cleaning should be easy and trouble-free.
Information courtesy of GoBrick.com