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How to Clean Mortar Off Bricks (6 Expert Tips)

installing bricks with mortar

Sloppy brickwork can be ugly and frustrating to look at. Bricks are a timeless building material that can be ruined by bad mortar. It can get onto the surface of bricks and ruin the look. Mortar can also be a huge pain to remove. Mortar sticks to brick very effectively and removing it can take some real work. However, there are some tips you can use to effectively clean your bricks. These tips will help clean your brick and completely remove the residual mortar, but the job can still take a long time to complete due to the tedious nature of the work.

Here are six expert tips on how to remove mortar from brick, plus a brief preparation guide to help get you started.

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Cleaning mortar off brick can be a very time-consuming job. In order to expedite the work and get the best results, you should take the time to gather the proper materials together. You will need some basic cleaning supplies to get started.

You also want to examine the area that you are cleaning to determine the scope of the job. Does a whole wall need to be cleaned, or is it just a few bricks? Is the mortar small, or is it very widespread? How raised is the mortar? Is the mortar fresh or old? Is the mortar crumbling? These are questions you want to ask and make note of before you get your supplies and start the job. Larger jobs will need tougher cleaners and more materials than smaller jobs.

What You Will Need:
  • A rag
  • Water
  • Vinegar (optional)
  • Muriatic acid (optional)
  • Mortar dissolver (optional)
  • A chisel
  • A wire brush
  • Gloves
  • Eye protection
  • A broom or drop cloth
Time: Multiple hours (will vary depending on the size of your job)
Complexity: Intermediate

The 6 Tips to Clean Mortar Off Bricks

1. Wipe Away Wet Mortar Before It Dries

Bricklayer wiping excess mortar from bricks
Image By: Sidorov Ruslan, Shutterstock

One of the easiest ways to remove mortar from brick is to do it before the mortar dries. This is not viable for everyone, but cleaning up mortar before it completely hardens is much easier than removing dried mortar. Cleaning up your brickwork as you are using mortar will save you a ton of time and headaches down the road.

The way to remove soft mortar is to simply use a wet rag and wipe it away. You can dab off small spots and wipe off thick globs of mortar to leave your bricks looking clean and professional. You can also use some warm water and vinegar to break up mortar that has started to harden.

2. Chisel Away Dried Mortar

The most effective way to remove mortar from bricks is to chisel it away. Using a small chisel and a hammer (or mallet), you can break off pieces of dried mortar from the brick. Any raised piece of mortar stuck to the surface of a brick should be easy to chisel off. This can be a cumbersome and time-consuming process, depending on how much mortar there is to remove, but it is very effective. If there is staining or residual mortar still stuck to the bricks, you can use a caustic cleaner to wipe the remaining traces away.

3. Use a Wire Brush to Remove Crumbling Mortar

brick cleaning
Image By: rigsbyphoto, Shutterstock

If you have crumbling mortar or cracked mortar that is coming out from between the seams in your bricks, you can easily remove it with a wire brush. Get a stiff wire brush and forcefully brush the areas where the mortar looks bad. If it is crumbling, the wire brush should break it up and knock it off the brick. Be sure to sweep up the pieces when you are finished.

4. Use Muriatic Acid to Burn Away Mortar

Muriatic acid is a very powerful cleaner that is designed to remove the strongest stains and messes. Muriatic acid is a very effective way of breaking up mortar so it can easily be wiped off. However, muriatic acid is dangerous, and precautions need to be taken before using it. Follow all instructions. Always wear gloves and eye protection. If you are working in an unventilated area, you might want to consider wearing a mask or respirator. Muriatic acid is caustic and poisonous and can be very hazardous to your health if you are not careful.

5. Use Vinegar

Image By: evita-ochel, Pixabay

If muriatic acid feels too powerful to you, you can also use white vinegar. White vinegar is not as powerful as muriatic acid, but it is a natural acid. It can work to help break down stuck-on mortar. Vinegar is cheap, easy to find, and safe to use. Use vinegar in combination with a warm rag, a chisel, or a wire brush to weaken the mortar and help remove it.

6. Buy Mortar Dissolver

A mortar dissolver is a special product designed to break down mortar. Many mortar dissolvers are designed and sold by the same companies that make the mortar, so they are very effective. These products use special chemical formulations that target the physical structure of mortar. Mortar dissolvers are more expensive than muriatic acid or vinegar, but it is more specialized and can be more effective. Be sure to follow all instructions and read each step carefully for the best results.

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These six tips will help you effectively target and remove any mortar from your brickwork. These tips can help remove stubborn mortar spots and provide a variety of options to try depending on the type and extent of the mortar you want to remove. Removing mortar can be a pain, but it can be done by a regular person. It just takes some time and effort to achieve.

Featured Image Credit: bogdanhoda, Shutterstock


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