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Efflorescence

When water evaporates from concrete, brick, or stone, it leaves a crystalline deposit on the surface called efflorescence.

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Have you noticed white or grayish stains on your walls? That is efflorescence, a crystalline deposit that can be seen on concrete, brick, or stone surfaces. When water evaporates from these materials, it leaves behind a trail of salts. These deposits can be seen both on floors and walls. Although these salty stains won’t cause any damage themselves, they can be a sign of underlying problems, so they should not be ignored. If you wish to find out what causes efflorescence and what problems could lay behind it, keep reading.

efflorescence on wall

What Causes Efflorescence? 

Crystalline deposits pop up on building materials as a result of excess water in the concrete mix. When this water starts to evaporate, it carries dissolved salts to the surface where they pile up, creating a white or grayish deposit. So how did this unwanted moisture end up in the concrete? It can be due to the sprinklers, underground seepage, as well as roof runoffs. When the materials are denser, water can have a much harder time reaching the surface, so efflorescence rarely shows. 

When seasonal weather changes occur, efflorescence can appear. However, it occurs much more often during the rainy months, when rainwater ends up in the porous concrete. In addition, high humidity levels slow down the evaporation, so salts slowly build up on the surface. 

Three factors that will affect the appearance of the efflorescence are salt, water, and channels. Different kinds of salts such as sulfates and silicates are present in masonry materials. On the other hand, alkalis form salts when they get in contact with air. 

Primary vs. Secondary Efflorescence 

The difference between primary and secondary efflorescence is, simply put, timing. Primary efflorescence appears when the building is still new. After construction, the water from the cement evaporates, leaving behind salty trails. This type of efflorescence is benign and will be washed away by rain over time. It also doesn’t reoccur. On the other hand, secondary efflorescence can be a problem. It is more persistent, it won’t disappear so easily, and it is usually a sign of a moisture problem. 

How to Remove Efflorescence 

If you have efflorescence on your garage floor, the best thing you can do is wait. It will go away on its own due to the foot traffic. Efflorescence on the walls might be washed away by the rain. However, if you are annoyed by the white powdery deposit on your house and you wish to get rid of it as soon as possible, there are several ways you can do this. 

A Simple Washing 

Sometimes, all you need is a bucket of water and a mild detergent to fix the problem. If efflorescence is still fresh, the powder is still very soluble, so you can just scrub it off the floors or the walls. You will need a stiff brush to remove the efflorescence of the masonry materials. However, if the stains won’t go away, you might need to use elbow grease. When you have removed the deposit, rinse everything thoroughly so the salts are completely washed away. If you don’t do this, salts will just build up again and you will have to deal with efflorescence in a couple of months. 

Power Washing 

If you have a pressure washer or you can borrow one, use it to remove efflorescence. Pressurized water is useful in a battle against efflorescence and can remove those white stains very quickly. However, be gentle. Use only the widest-angle tip so you don’t damage the surface and create even more pores, leaving your brick or concrete even more susceptible to efflorescence. 

Chemical Cleaning 

If you have already tried the two options we already mentioned and nothing seems to be working, you need to turn to heavy artillery. In this case, that would be acidic cleaners. These chemicals should do the trick but remember to soak the surface beforehand. Otherwise, the cleaner might damage the surface and create new pores. Also, make sure you follow the instructions thoroughly. Apart from these cleaners, you can use diluted citric acid, vinegar, and muriatic acid. It is important to remember to neutralize the acid with a baking soda solution after you have removed efflorescence. In the end, rinse the whole surface with water. When using chemicals, be sure to wear protective gloves and goggles; otherwise, you could hurt your eyes and damage the skin on your hands. 

How to Prevent Efflorescence 

Dealing with efflorescence can be a pain, especially if it keeps coming back. Luckily, there are ways to completely avoid this problem. However, if you wish to prevent efflorescence, you will need to contact waterproofing experts in Michigan. Here are some of the methods they might recommend: 

Architectural Adjustments 

Efflorescence appears when there is excess moisture, so you need to fix this problem first. One of the best ways to do this is to install a gutter system that will keep the water from pooling near your home’s perimeter and entering your foundation walls. 

Landscaping Adjustments 

Observe what happens when it rains. If the rainwater rushes toward your home, you have a problem. Your yard needs to be graded in a way that directs water away from your home, so it doesn’t cause foundation problems as well as efflorescence. In case you have flower beds near your home that need to be watered very often, consider relocating them. 

Surface Sealer 

Another option is to use a hydrophobic sealer that will prevent moisture from penetrating the walls. 

Encapsulation 

Encapsulation is a great option in case you have a crawl space under your home. A vapor barrier will protect your foundation from moisture and keep it dry and clean. 

Grout Admixtures 

Grout admixtures are used to reduce the porosity of materials. This way, the concrete becomes less prone to salt absorption and you can avoid dealing with efflorescence. 

If you wish to waterproof your home in Michigan, contact the professionals in your area. FSM experts can get to the bottom of the problem and recommend reliable solutions, so don’t hesitate to reach out to schedule a free inspection today.

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