Brick has been a popular and durable building material for thousands of years. In fact, it’s believed that the earliest fired bricks first appeared in Neolithic China around 4,400 BC. However, it does need proper maintenance to keep it looking its best and lasting its longest.
Should You Pressure Wash a Brick House?
Brick is a porous material that can be stained and weathered by the elements, smoke, and time. Masonry has a classic appearance that must be periodically maintained and regularly cleaned to look its best. Power washing, or pressure washing, is a solution for cleaning dirt, grime, mold, and mildew from an exterior brick surface.
Professionals agree that one should only power wash their exterior brick when necessary.
In colder climates, where brick is exposed to harsh and extreme winter weather conditions, pressure washing may have to be performed more often, not to exceed once per year.
If your masonry is new and void of any damage, it is probably a good candidate for power washing.
However, if your brick surface is chipping or has large cracks, the deficiencies will have to be repaired before it is safe to clean. Older brick homes, aged 75 years or older, should not be pressure washed due to the fragility of the masonry.
Many brick companies recommend using low pressure around 500-1,000 pounds per square (PSI) of water force when cleaning masonry and to never exceed 1,500 PSI.
For reference, a quality garden hose puts out a PSI between 40 and 80.
High pressure washing can cause scarring and other damage that may not be visible for a couple of months if not years.
Additionally, even a low-pressure power washer can cause a lot of damage if the wand is held only a couple of feet from the brick.
Remember to maintain an adequate distance from the masonry surface, not only to safeguard your masonry, but to protect yourself from backsplash.
Steps for Pressure Washing a Brick Surface
Step 1: Preparing for Pressure Washing
Power washers have different cleaning capabilities so it’s imperative to use the best pressure washer for your specific task.
Homeowners should thoroughly read the user manual for their specific machine prior to use. Learn how to prepare your machine for power washing and how to select the correct spray pattern for cleaning brick. The settings will depend on whether you are applying detergent as well as the surface you are cleaning.
Also prepare the work area by removing furniture, decorative items, and other obstacles that may hinder the cleaning process and create tripping hazards.
Trim back plants and bushes that touch the brick surface as brick cleaning solutions and solvents can be harmful to plant life.
Turn off power to external electrical outlets and cover them with plastic.
Finally, close all windows and doors in and adjacent to the cleaning area.
Step 2: Review Safety Procedures
Follow the safety instructions that came with your pressure washer. General guidelines include standing on a stable surface that provides balance and solid footing, wear eye protection specified by your machine’s manufacturer, and wear hearing protection if using a gas-powered power washer.
Do not use a gasoline-powered pressure washer indoors or when there is not proper ventilation.
If using an electric machine, be sure to keep all electrical connections dry and off of the ground. Never point the nozzle in the direction of people, animals or foliage.
Step 3: Select the Right Cleaning Solution
Not all brick is created equal so it’s important to choose the right cleaning solution for your project.
A brick cleaning solution’s effectiveness can vary greatly between traditional burnt clay bricks and sand lime bricks. A natural cleaning solution can be created by mixing one part water with one part vinegar.
Step 4: Saturate with Water
Using a garden hose, wet the masonry surface that is to be cleaned. Be sure to saturate the area from the top down to the bottom. Saturate the areas below the cleaning area to avoid unsightly streaks caused by the solution running down the brick surface.
Step 5: Apply Brick Cleaning Solution
It’s now time to apply the cleaning solution to the saturated cleaning area.
Test the pressure washer spray on an inconspicuous area prior to cleaning to ensure that the setting does not damage exterior surfaces.
Do not stand on a ladder while using a power washer.
Only use cleaning solutions that are intended for power washers. Use a low-powered spray pattern to apply the detergent.
Apply the cleaning solution at the bottom of your work area and move your way to the top.
Let the detergent remain on the brick surface for several minutes before rinsing it off but do not let it dry.
It’s important to note that water sprayed by a power washer should never be pointed directly towards windows or exterior vents.
Keep the water from being sprayed in gaps such as around the door and window trim.
Step 6: Remove Cleaning Solution
When the detergent has been applied to the brick, disengage the detergent supply.
Then, set the pressure washer to the spray pattern that is appropriate for your style and condition of brick as well as activate the nozzle to clean any residual cleaning solution from the system.
Spray off the detergent starting at the top and working downward. It’s also recommended to work in small sections.
Step 7: Finishing Up
After you finish power washing your home, flush the area around it with clean water in an effort to dilute the detergent residue.
And, finally, your user manual should include directions for relieving water pressure, draining liquid from the pump and how to properly store and care for your specific washer.
It is important to note that pressure washing can be dangerous if not done properly, so it is always best to consult with a professional if you are not confident in your ability to do it safely and correctly.
Cleaning Stained Masonry
BrickImaging is the country’s premier brick staining firm and it recommends a different approach to cleaning stained masonry.
- Wetting and rinsing of treated brick with a power washer should not exceed a pressure of 500 PSI.
- Brick that has been stained should only be cleaned using a diluted mild dish detergent such as Palmolive® or Dawn® and one should avoid using commercial detergents and solutions.
- Clean in sections so that the cleaner remains on the surface for no more than five minutes.
- Be certain to rinse thoroughly with large amounts of water at least three times. It is also recommended to not let the surface remain submerged or wet for more than 45 minutes.
- Mold and mildew can be removed using a mild detergent or a dilution of 1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water. Do not use a concentrated bleach solution.
- As before, wet the surface before applying the bleach solution. Do not allow the bleach solution to dry on the surface and be sure to rinse thoroughly.
To learn more about washing stained masonry, visit Care and Use of Stayntech® Stained Brick.