Our brick cleaning services are not limited to just cleaning brick buildings, walkways, stairs and other surfaces. We also clean buildings made from concrete, stucco, block, EIFS and limestone. Commercial Restoration uses professional grade brick cleaners to remove mold, mildew, Gloeocaspa Magma and surface dirt without damaging the brick surface.
Our Brick Cleaning Process For Buildings
After inspecting the brick building as closely as possible, Commercial Restorations will use man lifts, hot water pressure washers and professional grade environmentally friendly soaps and detergents to clean the brick on the building using our proven low pressure cleaning system to remove Gloeocaspa magma, mold, mildew, hydrocarbons, pollen and surface dirt using a special exterior building cleaning process that we designed over the last 25 years to ensure the best results.
- Locate exterior water sources on the building to replenish our tanks.
- Caution tape off the work area as needed.
- Wet down the building exterior and all adjacent areas with water and cover plants as needed with water proof tarps.
- Pre-treat stained areas with bio-degradable cleaners at 20 PSI – 25 PSI.
- Clean stained areas using 400PSI – 600PSI, 120 degree water at 8GPM with a stainless steel, 40 degree fan spray nozzles.
- Apply specialty brick cleaning products to surfaces as needed.
- Apply bio-degradable soaps and detergents on the rest of the surfaces to be cleaned.
- Clean all surfaces using 400PSI – 600PSI, 120 degree water at 8GPM with a stainless steel, 40 degree fan spray nozzles.
- Final rinse of the buildings with our SoSoft water conditioner and water softener to reduce streaks on the windows.
- Remove tarps, rinse down plants and surfaces adjacent to work area.
- Inspect the building for quality assurance and perform a final clean up of the area.
Our system for brick cleaning services are extremely detailed and will remove all surface dirt, mold and mildew. But regardless of the methods we use for brick cleaning, some stains may have penetrated the surface and they may not come completely clean or they might leave a shadow behind. Commercial Restorations will always attempt to remove all staining from the brick and in 99% of our projects the building owner is amazed at what we are able to accomplish.
Improper brick cleaning techniques can damage or destroy bricks!
Bricks can be easily damaged if you use high pressure or strong acids, just because it’s used in construction doesn’t mean that it can’t be damaged easily! A brick is a block or a single unit of a kneaded clay-bearing soil, sand and lime, or concrete material, fire hardened in a kiln at 2,000 degrees or air dried for use in masonry construction. There are Hundreds of different types and styles of brick used in construction today and if the brick cleaning service you hire doesn’t have experience cleaning and maintaining bricks, they could cause extensive damages to them. One of the common misconceptions in the brick cleaning industry is that if someone knows how to build with brick, then they know how to properly clean it. Unfortunately that’s not true, and Tens of Thousands of dollars in damages are done every year by brick masons that rely on high pressure and Muriatic acid for cleaning bricks.
Inappropriate cleaning and coating treatments are a major cause of damage to historic masonry buildings. While either or both treatments may be appropriate in some cases, they can be very destructive to historic masonry if they are not selected carefully. Historic masonry, as considered here, includes stone, brick, architectural terra cotta, cast stone, concrete and concrete block. It is frequently cleaned because cleaning is equated with improvement. Cleaning may sometimes be followed by the application of a water-repellent coating. However, unless these procedures are carried out under the guidance and supervision of an architectural conservator, they may result in irrevocable damage to the historic resource.
Blasting with abrasive grit or another abrasive material is the most frequently used abrasive method. Sandblasting is most commonly associated with abrasive cleaning. Finely ground silica or glass powder, glass beads, ground garnet, powdered walnut and other ground nut shells, grain hulls, aluminum oxide, plastic particles and even tiny pieces of sponge, are just a few of the other materials that have also been used for abrasive cleaning. Although abrasive blasting is not an appropriate method of cleaning historic masonry, it can be safely used to clean some materials. Finely-powdered walnut shells are commonly used for cleaning monumental bronze sculpture, and skilled conservators clean delicate museum objects and finely detailed, carved stone features with very small, micro-abrasive units using aluminum oxide.
Cleaning Bricks With Chemicals
Chemical cleaners, generally in the form of proprietary products, are another material frequently used to clean historic masonry. They can remove dirt, as well as paint and other coatings, metallic and plant stains, and graffiti. Chemical cleaners used to remove dirt and soiling include acids, alkalies and organic compounds. Acidic cleaners, of course, should not be used on masonry that is acid sensitive. Paint removers are alkaline, based on organic solvents or other chemicals.
Both alkaline and acidic cleaning treatments include the use of water. Both cleaners are also likely to contain surfactants (wetting agents), that facilitate the chemical reaction that removes the dirt. Generally, the masonry is wet first for both types of cleaners, then the chemical cleaner is sprayed on at very low pressure or brushed onto the surface. The cleaner is left to dwell on the masonry for an amount of time recommended by the product manufacturer or, preferably, determined by testing, and rinsed off with a low- or moderate-pressure cold, or sometimes hot, water wash.
More than one application of the cleaner may be necessary, and it is always a good practice to test the product manufacturers recommendations concerning dilution rates and dwell times. Because each cleaning situation is unique, dilution rates and dwell times can vary considerably. The masonry surface may be scrubbed lightly with natural or synthetic bristle brushes prior to rinsing. After rinsing, pH strips should be applied to the surface to ensure that the masonry has been neutralized completely.
Alkaline cleaners should be used on acid-sensitive masonry, including: limestone, polished and unpolished marble, calcareous sandstone, glazed brick and glazed architectural terra cotta, and polished granite. (Alkaline cleaners may also be used sometimes on masonry materials that are not acid sensitive–after testing, of course–but they may not be as effective as they are on acid-sensitive masonry.) Alkaline cleaning products consist primarily of two ingredients: a non-ionic detergent or surfactant; and an alkali, such as potassium hydroxide or ammonium hydroxide. Like acidic cleaners, alkaline products are usually applied to pre-wet masonry, allowed to dwell, and then rinsed off with water. (Longer dwell times may be necessary with alkaline cleaners than with acidic cleaners.) Two additional steps are required to remove alkaline cleaners after the initial rinse. First the masonry is given a slightly acidic wash–often with acetic acid–to neutralize it, and then it is rinsed again with water.
Acid-based cleaning products may be used on non-acid sensitive masonry, which generally includes: granite, most sandstones, slate, unglazed brick and unglazed architectural terra cotta, cast stone and concrete. Most commercial acidic cleaners are composed primarily of hydrofluoric acid, and often include some phosphoric acid to prevent rust-like stains from developing on the masonry after the cleaning. Acid cleaners are applied to the pre-wet masonry which should be kept wet while the acid is allowed to “work”, and then removed with a water wash.
Identifying And Removing Stains From Brick And Mortar Buildings
This photo shows Lime Run, otherwise known as Carbonate Staining. It is a hard white or gray surface crust concentrated along a mortar joint or running down from a hole or separation crack between bricks and mortar joints. When biological growths form on sealants they can break the bond of the material and allow water to enter. Once water enters the exterior walls of the building, two things happen. Mildew starts to grow inside the walls which is unhealthy for the occupants, and as the water penetrates back out to the exterior of the building, it brings mineral deposits with it, leaving staining behind on the exterior of the building as the moisture dries.
Uneven white or gray stain on brick face or mortar joints. Often appears as vertical run marks. Does not disappear when wet. Cause: Inadequate prewetting or rinsing when cleaning with muriatic acid or other acidic solutions. Mortar dissolved by the acid is absorbed by the dry wall surface to produce insoluble silicate salts commonly referred to as “scumming.”
If you see uneven yellow or gold stains on the brick faces and in mortar joints like in this photo, it’s probably Acid Burn This is caused by cleaning the surface with Muriatic acid. The impurities in the acid are rapidly absorbed by porous masonry and when they are not properly rinsed off, the acid attacks the mortar and bricks.
One of the most common problems we remove during brick building cleaning jobs are black stains like the ones in this photo. These black stains are usually caused by Hydrocarbons from vehicles and Jet Fuel, or from a Bacterial based algae called Gloeocaspa Magma. Gloeocapsa magma is a species of cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria are an ancient line of photosynthesizing bacteria, which photolyze water generating oxygen gas. Ancient cyanobacteria were ancestral to the chloroplasts of all plants on earth. Gloeocapsa magma has gained notoriety in the Southeastern United States, but, it is also spreading throughout the Midwest. This particular type of cyanobacteria is responsible for creating black stains and streaks on roofs. The bacteria accumulate over time as it feeds on moisture and calcium carbonate. This accumulation begins to show the black stains as the cyanobacteria develop their dark and hard UV-protective outer coating.
Loose, powdery surface deposit that disappears when wet and may reappear as drying continues. Cause: Water-soluble salts dissolved in rainwater, construction water or groundwater. As water evaporates from wet bricks, it leaves the crystallized salts on the surface.
Tan, brown or gray staining concentrated along mortar joints of brown, gray or other manganese-colored brick. Cause: Manganese dioxide dissolved in rainwater, construction water or Muriatic acid. As water evaporates, manganese reacts with the alkaline mortar joint to create an insoluble brown stain.
Yellow, green or green/brown stains in the heart of light-colored brick units common in new or water-saturated construction. Cause: Water-soluble vanadium salts dissolve in rainwater, construction water or muriatic acid. As water evaporates, salts form on masonry surface to create unsightly stains.