How to Clean Discolored Brick
LESLIE: Now we’re going to go to Tennessee where Glen has a brick situation.
What’s happened over there?
GLEN: Well, I bought a 100-year-old house in Pennsylvania and the bricks look like they were put on by a drunken sailor. (Tom and Leslie laugh) They’re crooked and they’re just discolored. And I wanted to find out what I could do to maybe bring back some of the color.
TOM: And that’s not part of the charm, then. Is that what you’re telling us, Glen?
GLEN: Yep, that’s part of the charm. (Tom and Leslie chuckle) You know, the bricks are nice and wavy and everything and the mortar is all there but it’s all discolored and the same way with the bricks.
TOM: Well, I guess the first thing that I might suggest, Leslie, is for them to be cleaned, to gently power wash those bricks and see what’s underneath them.
LESLIE: Have you done that already?
GLEN: No, I haven’t. No, not yet.
TOM: I would give that a shot. But I must caution you that as you use that pressure washer, don’t get overly aggressive with it. You want to use just enough pressure to clean them but not so much to blast out the old mortar because the older the mortar gets, the softer it gets.
GLEN: Oh, OK.
TOM: And I would also recommend that you use a cleaning solution on there. There are a number of different detergents that are available from pressure washer manufacturers and, conceptually, what you want to do is spray it on there first, let it sit, and then pressure wash through that. And once you get through the grime that’s on there, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re having to deal with.
But I don’t think, as a practical matter, that you’re really going to want to do anything to them after you get them cleaned. I’ve never heard of anyone staining bricks, much like – you know, Leslie, you and I have talked about staining concrete before but I can’t imagine …
LESLIE: I’ve heard of this and I’ve also done this. I have a terracotta floor in the kitchen and it’s sort of aged in the color and it’s changed a little bit. And what I’ve done on some of the problem tiles – but certainly not with my entire house made of brick but it could be an idea to help you if you have some really troubling areas – is to just sand it down a little bit, which I did with the tile, to sort of just give you a fresh area. And have some exterior stain tinted to the color that you desire for the brick and even go and get like one or two different shades so that you can give it some shadowing areas. And apply some of that stain to that brick to sort of punch that color back up. It worked great on the floor, so it might do the same thing for you outside. But I wouldn’t go too crazy because the house is going to be, obviously, a huge undertaking.
GLEN: It’s all solid. It’s two stories, so it’s quite a bit of work.
LESLIE: Well, if you have some problem areas that are really driving you crazy and you want to punch that color back up, a tinted stain really might be a good way to go but make sure it’s exterior.
GLEN: What size pressure washer will I use; 1500 or 3500 pound pressure washer or …?
TOM: Well, you can use a larger, more – you can use either but the truth is you want to make sure you use the gentle sprays and work up from there. Don’t start on the real strong ones or you could blast some of that mortar away. Just pay attention as you’re doing it, OK Glen, so you don’t take away that mortar.
GLEN: Sure. Sure. Sounds good.
TOM: Alright, Glen. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.