During especially rainy or snowy seasons, you may notice a white powdery substance on your bricks. This is what’s known as brick efflorescence. Although this process is totally natural, it’s normal to feel some confusion (and perhaps anxiety) when noticing it for the first time.
Although it can be unsightly and sometimes difficult to remove, it isn’t dangerous or a sign of bad news to come. In most cases, efflorescence will resolve on its own.
If you’ve just noticed efflorescence on your brick, keep reading to learn more about what causes it, how to remove it, and what actions you can take to prevent it from happening in the future.
What Causes Efflorescence?
Brick is a porous substance; as moisture enters it, it forces the natural minerals inside to the surface. These minerals will eventually evaporate, forming a hazy coating. It’s a common, natural phenomenon that happens when water-soluble salt crystals are pushed to the surface of unsealed masonry products like concrete and brick. Aside from rain, snow, and dew, generally moist weather and low temperatures contribute to the formation of efflorescence.
There are some conditions necessary for brick efflorescence to occur, including:
- The masonry structure must contain water-dispersible minerals.
- There must be sufficient moisture present to liquefy those minerals.
- The liquified salts must have a path available to travel to the exterior surface.
When the water-dissolved minerals arrive at the outside surface, the cooler air removes the water from the minerals, leaving the crystalline efflorescence behind.
How to Remove Efflorescence
As mentioned earlier, efflorescence will most likely go away on its own. If you want to remove it, you typically can with dry brushing.
Before we discuss dry brushing, it’s important to note that online, you may see reports of homeowners using DIY efflorescence removal mixtures, typically including vinegar, muriatic acid, or industrial chemicals. We can’t overstate this enough—do not use acids or industrial chemicals because they will damage your brick pavers.
The most effective way to remove efflorescence is using a stiff, dry wire or nylon brush to gently scrub the powder from the surface. Dry brushing the surface is effective in most efflorescent situations. However, if the masonry structure is aged and the efflorescence has been accumulating for a long time, this technique may be less successful.
You may be tempted to use water to help remove the chalky substance, but it isn’t suggested because water is what contributes to the powdery formation in the first place. You should only attempt to brush away brick efflorescence when the weather is dry and warm. Attempting this task in wet or cold weather conditions isn’t advised.
If gentle dry brushing is ineffective, you should consult a masonry restoration professional. And remember—dry brushing is not a permanent solution. If bricks are exposed to wet conditions after dry brushing, efflorescence may form again.
Can It Be Prevented?
Yes and no. The only way to truly prevent brick efflorescence is to protect the bricks from exposure to common atmospheric conditions like snow, rain, condensation, and low temperatures. And in most cases, that’s just not possible because most masonry structures are exterior formations.
To minimize efflorescence formation on exterior masonry structures, ensure your home has adequate drainage to stop water from pooling in certain areas. You’ll also want to verify that nearby sprinklers do not directly target your brick in the warmer seasons. Likewise, avoid getting water on these surfaces with your hose when spraying off other exterior structures, like your patio or deck.
Some sources online may recommend using sealers or coatings to prevent efflorescence. We do not recommend using sealers, especially wet sealers, because they can cause damage to brick, especially if the pavers frequently effloresce.
Remember that brick efflorescence is a natural, harmless phenomenon. In most cases, it’s simply an aesthetic issue, and removal is optional. The only time you should really be concerned about efflorescence is if it’s accompanied by other issues, like brick spalling, which is indicative of a more severe water damage problem.
Learn More From All Brick
Founded in 2016, All Brick is a family-owned and -operated masonry company proudly serving homeowners throughout Southeast Michigan. We’re committed to being a reliable resource for you and your family. Whether you have questions about your brick structure or to repair or restore it, we’re here to help.