Brick walls can look haphazard when covered in excess mortar if the bricklayer is inexperienced or lacks professional technique. While brick and mortar provide a beautiful facade in architectural projects and have done for centuries, mortar is a very stubborn substance that can be challenging to clean and remove. If you have brickwork on your property that you’d like to clean up, keep reading for the best methods for how to clean mortar off bricks without damaging your exterior cladding.
Mortar is a sticky, adhesive material used to bond bricks together to create a wall. It dries rapidly and can end up smeared on your pristine architectural bricks if not applied correctly. Luckily, its alkaline nature lends itself to being dissolved by highly concentrated acid cleaners. When it comes to cleaning mortar off brick, it’s normal to wonder whether it’s safe to clean off without dissolving the structural integrity of the wall. The best way to avoid any mishaps with your brick facade is to contract a professional bricklayer to build the wall in the first place. However, if you’re already dealing with a messy brick wall, there are some safe methods to clean mortar from brick and retain your structure.
First, it’s important to tidy and remove any nearby objects that could be affected by cleaning chemicals. Window sills and door frames can be marked off with masking tape. You can use a tarp to cover the ground or any nearby plants. Then, apply plain water to the brick surface using a hose or spray bottle for more precise spot cleans. This is going to lubricate the wall and make it easier to spread the cleaning solution without it absorbing into the brick.
When the wall is still damp, apply the cleaning solution to the brick. If you’re looking to remove mortar, a standard commercial cleaner that is perfect for the job will contain hydrochloric acid. Be sure to remove any vanadium stains (yellow-green discolouration on brick) before using an acid cleaner to prevent an unsightly reaction that is harder to remove. If you’re cleaning a whole wall, you should start from the ground up to ensure an even application. Apply liberally to every brick and let the solution rest for 3 minutes. Check your specific brand of cleaning acid for directions as to how long it should be left on. During this time, the cleaning acid will make the mortar softer and more manageable for manual scrubbing.
Using a fibre brush, manually scrape the mortar from areas of the brick that need cleaning. Make sure no metal comes into contact with the cleaning solution as it will create an adverse reaction. If one area is particularly difficult, you can scrape and then go back over with another layer of cleaning solution to do a more effective spot clean.
Once you’ve achieved desired results, wash off your brick wall to remove any excess cleaning solution. This step is crucial to maintaining the integrity of your brick facade. Rinse with a hose or pressure cleaner from the bottom up and ensure the waste is efficiently drained. Depending on the location of the wall, weather and climate, it may take just over a day to dry completely. Remove the tarp and masking tape, and enjoy your freshly cleaned brick wall.
If you’ve found it helpful learning how to clean mortar off brick, you will find similar tips and resources in our news section. We offer advice that is applicable for anyone, from project managers to people tackling their first home renovation. Need a brick wall built correctly the first time? Get in touch with the professionals at Solutions Built for decades of combined experience in architectural brickwork and expert design. From heritage-listed restorations to extensions or new builds, we can offer a reliable quote today.