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Question DetailsAsked on 7/17/2014

How can I clean excess mortar and mortar residue from "repaired" brickwork.

Before I joined Angie's List I had extensive repair work done to red brick retaining walls and pavers. The work was very sloppily done with lots of excess mortar on the surface of the bricks. The brickwork was supposedly acid washed and then sealed. Will muratic acid do the cleanup after the mortar has thoroughly set?

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2 Answers

Voted Best Answer

Sloppy workmanship - should have been sponged clean after pointing the mortar.

Yes, but you have to be careful about getting into the mortar joints much, as it dissolves the lime in the mortar, so do not just splash or spray it on - you have to hand-dab with a sponge to wet the portion you want to remove, let sit, then wipe off.

For clumps, knock those off first by carefully using a chisel on the side of the clump - not right at the brick level, a bit out from that to just knock away excess amounts to reduce acid work you have to do.

For minor smearing of mortar on the brick white vinegar works well too and is less aggressive on the mortar.

Unfortunately, you will have to wash off and reseal afterwards or you will get spotty looking surface as it weathers - or remove all the sealant to make it all alike. That is what I would recommend, as exterior brick should be able to breathe or the brick starts coming off, and sealing it is generally not recommended.

Watch your safety equipment, and protect adjacent and underlying materials and plants as needed.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


Yes, muratic acid, you may have to use a very strong solution, or maybe even full strength. Only do a small section at a time so you can rinse it off with lots of water. You don't want to eat the morter between the bricks. You may want to use a wire brush also, since it's been there awhile.

Answered 6 years ago by TLD


If you use a wire brush as mentioned in other comment, be careful - can scratch the bricks very badly very easily. And, a wire brush will perforate your rubber gloves easily, letting the acid onto your hands. I use this for this kind of job (good for grout/tile cleaning too - the strap is nice on vertical surfaces so it does not fly away every time you catch it on a lip, and have to bend over to pick it up.

BTW - if using acid, especially if stronger than vinegar, you should be wearing goggles (not just glasses) and maybe a face shield too, keep your nose away from the fumes as they can damage your nasal membranes and lungs in concentration, and chemical gloves - you can get them at hardware, home improvement, some paint, some auto supply stores. Regular thin latex gloves will not cut it. Keep a bottle of fresh water (not used for drinking) in close reach, or better yet in a belt holsster, so in case you get acid in/on your eyes or arms or gloves you can flush it out/off immediately.

Personally, I would recommend a stiff horse or floor brush instead if you need to brush it - and be aware the bristles will shoot acid out 5 feet or more, so keep everything in that reach wet and hose off the surrounding acid-misted area when you hose you immediate work area.

BTW - don't get too carried away with the flushing of the wall surface - use a spray rather than heavy flow, because you don't want to flood your basement.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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