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Old brick surfaces are beautiful and retain a classic appeal on any home or building. However, these surfaces can become dirty and weathered over time, leading many Washington D.C. homeowners to turn to power washing as a solution. While power washing can effectively clean various surfaces, it will likely cause significant damage to old brick.

Don’t power wash! Here’s more about how to safely clean a historic old brick home.

The Risks of Power Washing Old Brick

The high-pressure water used in power washing can easily erode the surface of old brick, causing it to become weaker over time. This erosion can lead to cracks, chips, and other damage that can ultimately compromise the structural integrity of the brick. Additionally, power washing can cause the mortar between the bricks to weaken and crumble, leading to further damage and potential safety hazards.

Another issue with power washing old brick surfaces is that it can cause discoloration and staining. The high-pressure water can force dirt and debris deeper into the pores of the brick, making it difficult to remove and potentially leading to permanent discoloration. This can be particularly problematic for historic or antique brick surfaces, which may be difficult to replace or repair.

How to Safely Clean Old Brick

If you have an old brick surface that needs to be cleaned, it is important to avoid using power washing as a solution. Instead, the best and safest way to clean old brick on a historic old home is with gentle hand washing using a soft-bristled brush and mild detergent. 

A natural, homemade detergent cleaner will be safer for old bricks and gentler on the mortar. Use these methods for cleaning the exterior or interior bricks of your historic home:

  • Mix equal parts vinegar and water and use a spray bottle to apply over a wide area. Let this solution sit on the bricks for several minutes. For really dirty bricks, gently scrub with a nylon-bristled brush. DO NOT use a wire brush – it can damage older bricks and mortar and even leave behind small pieces of wire that can cause rust stains. Apply the vinegar and water solution for general cleaning and gently rub with a sponge mop. Rinse sparingly with warm water. 
  • Another natural cleaning solution for old bricks is baking soda and dish detergent. Make a thin paste by mixing three tablespoons of dish soap with ½ cup of baking soda. Spread it on your brick, let it sit for 10 minutes, and then scrub it off with a soft brush. Rinse with warm water.
  • Some exterior walls are routinely shaded and can grow mold, mildew, or moss. To remove this, use a cup of bleach in a gallon of water and apply it to the wall with a sponge. Use a natural or nylon-bristle scrub brush to remove the growth. Rinse sparingly with water. 

Power washing can be tempting because it seems like a fast and easy solution for cleaning old bricks, but it can also cause significant damage. Use these safer methods to preserve the bricks on your historic old brick home in D.C.

Contact us at Renaissance Development for more expert tips or help to restore old brick homes or other buildings. 

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Post by Christina Wilson
Jul 13, 2023 8:15:00 AM