Concrete Efflorescence: Cleaning It Off Basement Walls

Cleaning Ugly Basement Walls & Sealing Them To Prevent White, Flaky Powder Residue

efflorescence building up on the concrete walls and floors of a basement

White, flaky powder coating concrete walls and floors is caused by a naturally-occuring mineral salt called "efflorescence".

This is a powder that's left behind as water vapor passes through the concrete walls and floors. This same science will also apply to brick and stucco surfaces.

Over time, these mineral deposits build up in layers so thick that it's sometimes mistaken for mold . Of course, the added moisture will contirbute to fungal growths of many kinds.

If you notice an ugly, white, powdery buildup forming on the concrete walls and floors in your basement, you can be fairly sure it's concrete efflorescence.

Efflorescence is a messy problem, but the problem is cosmetic only: it won't stain, and there are no known health issues connected with it.

What is Efflorescence?

Despite its solid form, concrete is designed to allow water to pass through it freely. If it wasn't, then wet concrete would never dry!

That's great for newly placed concrete, but what about afterwards? When concrete is in continuous contact with damp, wet earth, a portion of that moisture is continually going to enter the concrete, making its way through the micropores in the concrete.

As water passes through the concrete, it brings minerals with it. The moisture then evaporates into the basement, leaving these minerals behind. Over time, the buildup on the concrete creates the efflorescence that you see.

efflorescence buildup on a brick surface that's so thick you can wipe it off onto your fingers

Efflorisn't is designed to take the efflorescence particles below the surface with it as it is absorbed. It's easy enough for anyone to use, and works for both concrete and brick surfaces that have efflorescence buildup.

Removing Efflorescence

efflorisn't easy to use efflorescence remover

If the eyesore of efflorescence is something you'd rather not live with, we offer a product -- Efflorisn't™ -- that makes cleaning your walls a breeze.

Along with basements, Efflorisn't can also be used outdoors on walls, walkways, patios, and any other cementitious surfaces.

Coverage is 150-300 square feet per gallon, depending on the absorbency of the surface, as well as factors such as material density, the age of the material, and the amount & type of efflorescence present.

Four Steps To Applying Efflorisn't

1. First, you'll want to make sure the pores of the concrete are exposed, so that a deep clean is possible. Accomplish this by cleaning away any loose dirt, dust, or debris. Brush away any excess efflorescence as well to maximize how effective the product is.

2. Using a pump-up garden sprayer (at low pressure), spray the concrete to dampen the surface. Do not apply so thickly that it pools, drips, or runs off the walls.

3. After the surface has soaked for an hour, clean with a hard-bristled brush. For heavy cases of efflorescence, steps 2 and 3 may need to be repeated.

4. Using a constant water source (hose, power washer, etc), rinse all scrubbed areas thoroughly.

What Does Efflorescence Mean For Your Home?

For a homeowner, this efflorescence is a symptom with two associated problems:

1. A Damp, Musty Basement: Water and water vapor passing through the concrete is one of the main reasons that basements have that clammy "basement" feeling. This moisture can also be trapped behind wallboard and studs, leading to mold and rot.

2. Mineral Deposits On Concrete Surfaces: Efflorescence gives a basement an ugly, dungeonlike feel, particularly when it's present on both the walls and floors. It comes off to the touch as a salty white powder, coming off on hands, clothes, and anything else that casually brushes against it.

efflorescence showing up on a concrete block foundation wall in a basement

Waterproof paints, hydraulic cements, and other sealing agents rarely provide long-term solutions for damp basement walls.

Efflorescence builds up behind waterproof paint, breaking its seal on the concrete and causing it to blister and peel off the walls.

Like any latex-based paint used in a damp environment, these paints also have the potential to grow mold and mildew. Look carefully at the warranty for any waterproof paint you use -- you'll notice it's not warranted to resist mold or mildew growth on its surface.

Preventing Concrete Efflorescence

Once your concrete surfaces have been cleaned, you can prevent any further efflorescence from building up on the walls with an application of Concrete Treat: Concrete Sealer and Blanket.

This concrete sealer can be applied to the concrete with an air or airless sprayer, a roller, brush, or any other applicator. Once in contact, it reacts with the concrete, bonding deep within its pores to create a glasslike silicate barrier. This barrier prevents all humidity and efflorescence from coming through.

Concrete Treat is non-toxic and safe to use in a basement or crawl space environment. Unlike waterproof paints and hydraulic cement, it will not flake or chip away over time. It dries in 2-4 hours, and once dried, it can be painted over.

The Concrete Treat silicate seal also creates a vapor barrier on your concrete that will prepare it for basement finishing, or simply for creating a healthier environment in your basement. If you'd like to protect your concrete from efflorescence and humidity, we can help! Order Concrete Treat today!

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