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How to Clean Brick: Interior and Exterior Brick Cleaning Guides

A brick wall makes for a really cool standout feature inside or outside a house. The raw texture and earthy tones are impossible to recreate using a manmade material which is why brick is sought after and often left unfinished. While the great thing about brick elements incorporated into architectural design is that they look stunning, the bad news is that they are not always that simple to clean. 

While regular wipe downs will help keep surface debris to a minimum, over time, you will likely have to deal with algae, stains, and dirt that drag down the beauty of your brick; this is especially the case with exterior brick walls that are exposed to the elements and therefore, prone to mould and other types of fungus. On the other hand, interior brick that is used for a fireplace will get covered in soot which requires an entirely different cleaning process to successfully remove. 

So, if you want to know how to clean interior and exterior brick, Maid For You has got you covered with two comprehensive cleaning guides to follow! Read on. 

How to Clean Interior Brick

Brick veneer is commonly used in new homes while older houses often have brick fireplaces or brick elements around a mantel. Regardless of where or how the brick has been incorporated into your interior design, you are going to have to clean it at some point. Fortunately, interior brick is much easier to clean than exterior brick; all you need are a few household products and this simple step-by-step cleaning method below.

Step One: Clean Off Surface Debris

This is very important because, if you skip this step, the debris will turn into sludge when the cleaning solution is applied. There are multiple ways to remove dirt from the surface of interior brick; you can sweep the brick with a broom, wipe it with a dry dust cloth, or vacuum surface. Among these options, vacuuming is highly recommended as it cleans out debris trapped inside the nooks and crannies of the brick, including the grout lines. 

Step Two: Apply the Cleaner

The first rule of cleaning brick with any product or cleaning solution is to avoid direct application. Due to its porous nature, brick absorbs liquid cleaners which can lead to discolouration over time. Therefore, in order to safely clean brick with a cleaning solution, you must first mist-spray the surface with plain water. This layer of dampness actually acts as a barrier between the pores and cleaning agent.

Next, make a gentle DIY brick cleanser consisting of water and a mild dish soap; you don’t want to make it too soapy so just 2-3 drops in a 1 litre spray bottle of water will suffice. Alternatively, you can also use a 90%-10% water-vinegar solution to clean indoor brick. Dampen a masonry sponge with your chosen DIY cleaner and scrub the brick to remove dirt, grime, and stains. Rinse the cleaning tool out when needed and continue scrubbing the rest of the bricks.

Step Three: Rinse Off the Cleaner

As gentle as the cleaning solution may be, it is not advisable to let any cleaning agents or products sit on brick for too long. Therefore, immediate rinsing is a must after scrubbing interior brick with a DIY cleaner. To do this, dampen a clean sponge or dust cloth and wipe over the brick to remove traces of the cleaning solution. With that out of the way, allow the brick to air dry completely and it will look as good as new!

How to Clean Exterior Brick

Now for the more challenging cleaning process. Exterior brick cleaning is most effective when a pressure washer is used. This powerful machine practically does all the work for you; of course, it will take some practice and knowledge on how to use it safely and efficiently before you can achieve those desirable brick cleaning results.

It should also be mentioned that pressure washing outdoor brick is not advisable if it is very old or cracked in places. This is because pieces of brick can easily be blasted away if the material has succumbed to weathering over several years. For newer outdoor brick elements, on the other hand, a pressure washer is your best bet for cleaning off mould, algae, and dirty stains. In fact, learning how to pressure wash house exteriors is a fantastic way to increase curb appeal and refresh these outdoor elements of your home.  

Before you begin, however, here are a few important tips to keep in mind when pressure washing exterior brick:

  • If you are unsure of how old the brick is, consult with a professional for advice on how to clean it
  • Relatively old brick can still be pressure washed on a low water pressure (100-800 PSI)
  • Do not pressure wash painted or whitewashed brick
  • Avoid wired brushes/scrubbers and other abrasive cleaning tools
  • Inspect the brick/mortar for cracks; make necessary repairs before pressure washing
  • Seal windows with plastic and protect electrical outlets, lighting fixtures, etc with waterproof coverings
  • Protect plant beds, bushes, and shrubs with plastic
  • Wear safety goggles when operating a pressure washer

With safety tips above firmly in mind, let’s move on to the steps to pressure wash exterior brick.

Step One: Fill in the Cleaning Solution

It is advisable to stick with pressure washer soap as opposed to using homemade or other random cleaning solutions. This is because recommended detergents for pressure washing machines are specially formulated to treat common outdoor grime, fungi, and stains. Check the product label for dilution rates and refer to the machine’s user manual on how to fill the reservoir of the pressure washer.

Step Two: Apply the Cleaner

Now that the machine is loaded, set it to the lowest water pressure and spray on the detergent. Start from the top of the brick and work your way down to the bottom; spray 3-4 feet of area horizontally as you move downward. Clean one section at a time to avoid missed spots. Bear in mind that the application should be done in one fluid motion as opposed to stopping and focusing on one area. This is because continuous pressure to one spot can damage brick, especially if it has aged. Furthermore, the nozzle should be a few feet away from the surface or as recommended in the instructions manual. Let the cleaning solution sit for at least 5 minutes before moving on to the next step.

Step Three: Rinse the Brick

When you have finished applying the cleaner to the brick and allowed it enough sitting time, rinse out the pressure washer tank and refill it with plain water. Use this to wash off the cleaning solution again, starting from top to bottom, one section at a time. For rinsing outdoor brick, 50 PSI is advised. Be sure to rinse the brick thoroughly and allow it to dry before inspecting it for missed spots or stains.

Step Four: Spot Clean Stains on Brick

Only after the brick has dried completely should you proceed with spot treating stains. Fungus stains left by algae, mould, and mildew are common on exterior brick, and do not always come out with a basic pressure wash. To remove these stains successfully, follow the steps below:

  • Put on a pair of rubber gloves, a face mask, and protective goggles.
  • Use a shop vacuum or broom to clean off dirt and debris from the brick.
  • Make a cleaning solution consisting of 1 gallon warm water and 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach.
  • Mist-spray the stained area with plain water to dampen it.
  • Apply the stain remover to the affected area by dipping a sponge in the cleaning solution and dabbing it onto the brick.
  • Scrub the stain gently with a nylon brush using circular motions.
  • Once the stain has been removed, rinse the brick thoroughly with a garden hose or bucket of water.

When you think about cleaning brick, you have to think about a host of things including what tools, cleaners, and techniques to use, and the different cleaning methods required for indoor and outdoor brick. Fortunately, Maid For You has done all the thinking for you, and explained it in great detail in this very article! So, with that, you are armed with the crucial knowledge needed to safely and effectively clean interior and exterior brick.

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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