No leaks or spills would occur during home repairs or construction in an ideal world. In the real world, however, accidents do happen and are inevitable. For example, wet cement may run over onto a brick surface when repairing a loose brick or doing repairs nearby. Now, the thing is, once it is set, it could be increasingly difficult to remove without destroying the brickwork. It’s possible that you’ll have to scrub the brick multiple times before the cement is fully removed.
The good news? It can be easily dissolved using a chisel and muriatic acid. Below, we will show you first how to prepare your wall and clean wet cement and then remove any dried mortar stains, so let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
Preparing your brick wall
Cleaning cement off brick walls it’s similar to cleaning mortar off concrete blocks. You need first to prepare the area and then proceed to the cleaning process. Here are the needed materials and tools and the steps to follow:
- Medium-soft brush
- Drop cloths or plastic sheets
- Light-bristle brush
Steps to follow:
Step 1: Use a trowel to even out the mortar with the wall face
Use the short edge of your trowel to smooth out the mortar with the brick’s face. Continue doing so as you lay new bricks to keep the mortar from bunching up and causing huge pieces on the bricks. To smooth out the mortar with the face of the bricks, you can also use a wide, clean sponge.
Step 2: Remove any leftover mortar with a medium-soft brush
Rather than wiping the mortar further into the brick, the goal here is to brush it away off the brick’s face. Wipe it away without pressing down on the brush, and then clean mortar dust from the face of your wall using a back-and-forth motion.
Step 3: To avoid mortar splatter, set up a scaffold 5 cm from the wall
To avoid mortar splatter at the base of your wall, erect a scaffold 5 cm away from it. Scaffold boards closest to the wall should be slanted away from the wall and slightly downward.
Step 4: Use a drop cloth or plastic sheet to protect the base of your wall
To prevent mortar drippings from staining the base of your wall, cover it with straw, fabric drop cloths, or plastic sheeting. These drop cloths should reach around 91.44 cm from the wall’s base. Plywood or oriented strand board can also be used. You can reuse any mortar that drops on the wooden planks as long as it is clean.
Step 5: Allow large clumps of cement to dry before you remove them
If you did all of the above steps and huge clumps of cement still appear on your wall, wait for them to dry before attempting to remove them.
How to remove dried cement with a chisel step-by-step
Do you know how to remove dry cement from paving slabs? It’s easy and almost the same as removing dried cement off bricks. Let’s see what you need to have and do.
- Hardwire brush
- Garden hose
- Scraper tool
Steps to follow:
Step 1: Wet down the brick using a garden hose
Before removing the dried cement, make sure it has had at least 7 days to dry. Using water to saturate the wall before chiselling can make removing the cement easier and safeguard your bricks from damage.
Step 2: To remove excess mortar, tap the chisel parallel to the brick
Hold the scraper tool at a 20° to 30° angle against the face of the wall, targeting spots with built-up mortar. Start breaking the dried mortar off bricks with a light tap on the chisel‘s end.
Work slowly and carefully until most of the mortar has been removed from the wall. Instead of removing big chunks of mortar all at once, break them up into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Step 3: Use a firm wire brush to clean up any remaining cement
Remove any broken up cement by moving back and forth across the brick’s face. Scrape away any tough chunks of cement that were not removed during the chiselling process. If you spend too much time in one spot, the brick in that spot may discolour, so be extra cautious and try to use minimal pressure when doing so.
Step 4: If your mortar is damaged or cracked, get a matching one
Remove a piece of mortar with a hard brush and carry it to the nearest brick supplier as they will be able to match the hue and uniformity. Mix your mortar and fill in any damaged areas using a mortar bag. Allow 20 minutes to harden before shaping it with a jointer tool.
How to clean dried cement off a brick wall with muriatic acid
Another way to clean dried cement off bricks is using muriatic acid. It’s a strong acid that’s why you need to protect yourself.
- Plastic bucket
- Medium-bristle scrub brush
- NIOSH-approved respirator
Step 1: Get the appropriate safety gear first
Because the acid is extremely toxic, it’s important to take all safety precautions when working with it. You will need to use acid-resistant rubber gloves, safety goggles, closed-toe shoes, protective clothes, eye protection and NIOSH-approved respirators with the necessary acid-grade filter. You can find all of this safety equipment available at your nearest hardware store or online.
Place plastic sheets at the foot of the wall to act as acid drop cloths. If you get acid on your skin, keep a package of baking soda on hand to pour on yourself as chemical burns might be caused by muriatic acid‘s caustic ingredients.
Step 2: Read and follow the instructions to the letter
Read the instructions and warnings that come with the acid you buy. Follow the instructions on the back of the package for dilution and processing. To make an acid solution, mix one part acid with nine parts water.
It is important to remember that the acid solution should never be mixed with other compounds. Avoid using acid on light-coloured or cream-coloured bricks as they may become discoloured and weaken their joints.
Step 3: Dilute the muriatic acid
Fill an acid-resistant bucket halfway with clean water and the other half with muriatic acid. This will prevent any splashes, resulting in you being sprayed with acid.
Step 4: Wet the brick with water
The wall must be completely soaked with water before applying the acid. If you apply the acid on a dry brick, it may cause damage to the wall.
Step 5: Use an acid-resistant brush to apply the acid
Get an acid-resistant brush so that the bristles don’t disintegrate when you’re applying it to the brick. Dip the brush into the cleaning solution you made and apply it in a thin layer to a small section of the brick that has to be cleaned. Apply the acid in a small area first to ensure that it does not react negatively with the bricks on your wall.
Step 6: Allow five minutes for the acid to sit
Allow the acid to sink into and break down the mortar on the bricks. When the acid comes into touch with the mortar, it will begin to bubble and fizz, indicating that it is working well. Don’t allow the acid to dry completely on the bricks, which can cause harm. Plus, stop using the acid if you notice any discolouration on the brick.
Step 7: Use a brush to scrub away the mortar
Scrub the face of the brick vigorously with a brush. Scrubbing in the brick joints can weaken the mortar that binds the bricks together. Scrape the sludge that the mortar and acid have generated onto your drop cloth. Continue doing so until all of the dried mortar has been removed.
Step 8: Rinse the acid away with a lot of water
Once you are done scraping away the mortar, get a garden hose or a bucket filled with water nearby to rinse away the acid. As soon as the acid has been properly wiped away, keep the remaining acid out of reach of children and pets.
- Muriatic acid is a form of hydrochloric acid and is a dangerous substance. It should be used, stored, and disposed of with extreme caution. Precautions and directions can be found on the label.
- Never scrub “between the cracks” of the bricks or grouts to avoid accidentally removing the mortar that you wish to maintain. A small steel brush can help you with this.
Now that you know how to clean cement off your wall, all you have to do is get started right away! As you clean bricks, make sure you are fully covered from head to toe and use the right safety equipment!