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Brick Efflorenscence - White Stuff On It

Q. I removed a framed painting from the brick wall above the fireplace and discovered the brick had white stuff and clumps of something attached. What is it and how do I get rid of it? I have only used the fireplace 3 times in 25 years. The outdoor area looks fine.

A. What you are experiencing is efflorescence. Efflorescence is a white crystalline or powdery, often fluffy/fuzzy deposit on the surface of masonry materials like concrete, brick, clay tile, etc. It's caused by water seeping through masonry or cement based material. The water dissolves salts inside the material while moving through it, and then evaporates leaving the salt on the surface. It can be relatively easy to remove compared to some other stains.

Often these salts are water soluble and, if outside, may disappear of their own accord with normal weathering.
The solution for this is looking for the leak and repairing it or having the brick sealed if no leak is found. Brick is a sponge - not a barrier - against moisture.

Start at the top of the chimney and work your way down looking for missing mortar, cracks, bad or reversed flashing, etc. If everything is OK then it is probably moisture coming in through the brick and the brick will need to be sealed to lessen the amount of moisture penetration.

Muriatic acid is the cleaning material used to remove this white powder. You can get this material at a hardware store. Place 1 part muriatic acid into a plastic bucket and add 10 parts water. This mixture gets brushed carefully onto the brick area. Protect yourself with rubber gloves, long sleeves and eye protection from this acid. Other cleaning products may clean this powder off the brick like CLR, Lime Away and other bathroom cleaners used to remove mineral deposits.

You can lessen this problem but sometimes you cannot stop it from occurring without replacing the whole chimney.

Learn more about Mosby sealing services.

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