Bricks are robust materials and would seem to not require much maintenance at all, however, decades of exposure to both organic and inorganic pollutants begin to take its toll on brick façades, with these pollutants building up on the surface of the brick. If left untreated, these problems can become more serious and particularly in the case of inorganic build-ups, can dig into the membrane of the brick and cause permanent staining. To avoid this, a thorough brick clean is required, to lift off inorganic pollutants and kill algae and lichen growth.
Both residential and commercial properties can benefit greatly from a thorough brick cleaning service. Clean bricks enhance the image of the building, setting a tone of cleanliness and organisation, generating a great first impression on everyone who sees it, whether they are just passing by or have a more permanent capacity within the building.
On residential properties in particular, removing long-standing pollutants from the bricks can have a great effect on the value of the house, frequently much more than the cost of the work itself!
How to Clean a Brick Wall: Removing Stains, Moss and Algae
As mentioned, there are two types of pollutants that commonly affect bricks; the first is inorganic and this bracket includes mostly soot off roads and nearby areas. This effect materialises as a dark matte black stain on the brick, it is particularly common in areas that either did in the past, or still do host heavy industry and traffic, like Manchester, and is the result of carbon in the air settling on the bricks.
Carbon staining requires an intensive cleaning process, usually with a variety of specific detergents being applied to the face of the brick, combined with a scrubbing of the brick with commercial brushes. The detergents work to disrupt the membrane of the soot and weaken the attachment to the clay of the brick. This process requires a number of treatments to remove stubborn carbon staining and must be conducted in tandem with a power washing to lift and then remove the staining. In our experience, this part of the job displays the most dramatic results, with the removed carbon running down the walls, exhibiting a “waterfall effect”.
Organic pollutants do not require the same level of intensity in their treatment, instead, an adapted approach is taken. Algae growth is the most common type of organic issue related to brick and is usually seen in areas with a considerable amount of nearby greenery, whose spores are carried in the wind onto the face of a brick. Because bricks spend much of their life wet this further acts as a catalyst for algae growth and some brick facades are entirely covered by algae growth.
Lichen growth is another organic pollutant that regularly affects bricks, it usually takes longer to build up and appears as brittle circular growths on the face of the brick. They usually appear either lime green in more juvenile cases, and then turn turquoise or white in more developed colonies.
To deal with this we use a biocide solution, designed to kill the colony at the root, and one that consistently provides strong results. Using bleach or another solution that is not a biocide may not have the same effect, a biocide works to kill the organic growth at its root, destroying the membrane of the cells making up the growth. Bleach does not have this effect, not necessarily destroying the cell membrane and possibly just changing the colour of the growth. Particularly against brittle lichen, a biocide is much preferable.
Brick cleaning is an intensive process, and the best team will have access to a wide variety of tools to provide the best results. This would include water-fed poles to firstly apply the chemicals, and then provide a good brushing to clear away dirt after the chemical treatment. As mentioned, highly specific chemicals and detergents will also be needed, as well as a team that has the expertise to mix and apply the correct chemicals at the right times.
High power pressure washers are also essential, to provide a more intense option for brushing and is most effective at removing determined pollutants and grime. For jobs where height is an added consideration, the team should also have access to elevated work platforms (cherry pickers), from which the team can more accurately apply detergent and use power washers. Again, you should always ensure that the team you trust with your brick is certified to operate such machinery to guarantee health and safety.
Brickwork Cleaning FAQ’s
1. What is the best way to clean brickwork?
The most effective methods utilise a blend of great hands-on experience combined with the best possible equipment. Equipment such as chemical solutions, power washers, and water-fed poles are vital for any job to be tackled, but the experience is what allows us to provide the best outcome and gives us the flexibility to complete any variety of jobs.
2. Can I clean brickwork myself?
Very unlikely, as mentioned the equipment itself has a high set-up cost, as well as requires a highly experienced team to use the equipment in a safe and effective manner. Frequently, people damage their own brick facades by trying to do it by themselves.
3. Should you pressure wash brick?
Pressure washing brick is important because it is the best method to remove carbon staining after the solution has weakened the membrane of the stain. It acts to lift off the stain in a way that cannot really be replicated by anything else. Too much power and pressure can damage bricks and pointing, however, our team is experienced, and understand their machinery, meaning our method keeps your brick safe, whilst guaranteeing the best results.
Adaptability is crucial to a successful brick cleaning, a good team will always work to fit in with your schedule, keep you informed of the process and ensure that all work is conducted safely. Speed is of importance, whether the job is commercial or residential, efficient teams will work to cause minimal disruption to your schedule.