I saw an ad the other day by another manufacturer of new masonry construction cleaners. These specialized cleaners are used for the final cleandown of newly constructed masonry buildings.
Final cleandown is important, as you can see from the photo. It rids the wall of mortar smears and clarifies the mortar joints. Though it’s one of the least expensive parts of construction, final cleandown is crucially important to the building’s final appearance.
The ad contended that the product it promoted was all that you need to clean any type of new masonry – burnished concrete block to clay brick – one size fits all.
At PROSOCO, we recommend — and make — specific cleaners for nearly every type of masonry on the market – burnished concrete block to clay brick – the right tool for the right job.
As a PROSOCO employee, you might expect me to be biased toward my company, and so I am — a little. But as a writer on construction issues, I have to be honest.
The fact is, IF you can get to the masonry cleaning soon enough — within seven to 10 days of the masonry going up, before the excess mortar has had a chance to really harden, just about any masonry cleaner will do the trick.
And in any masonry cleaning job, you always want to use the gentlest cleaner possible especially with your more acid-sensitive masonries, like concrete brick or artificial stone. And you will want to clean early as possible. Not before seven days though — earlier than that and you risk damaging the mortar joints, which are still setting.
After 10 days, or so, the mortar will be harder and will need a tougher cleaner to break its grip on the masonry. So PROSOCO looked at the different types of masonry, and tested them to see what they could withstand.
Then we made cleaners that were tough enough to get the hardened mortar off, but without damaging the specific types of masonry. Because masonry varies so much, the cleaners also had to vary.
For instance, red clay brick is acid-insoluble. So we recommend our strongest cleaner for that — Sure Klean 600. On the other hand, many light-colored bricks take their distinctive appearance from the addition of vanadium — a metallic salt — within the clay.
Of course we all know what happens when acid meets metal; big trouble. And so the acid content for vanadium-containing bricks — most light colored bricks — must be specially harnessed and buffered.
The result — Sure Klean VanaTrol (Vanadium + Control).
IF you are really careful, and IF you do plenty of testing, and IF you have decades of experience with masonry cleaning — you MIGHT be able to get away with using a masonry cleaner on a substrate for which it isn’t intended.
But in most cases, your results will vary — from not getting the best results, at a minimum; to inflicting expensive damage on the masonry.
The point behind making precision cleaners for specific masonries is to eliminate that unpredictability. With today’s construction schedules, there’s barely time to do it at all, let alone to do it again.
When you use a cleaner that’s made for the specific masonry you need to clean, you’re already starting with a significant safety factor. And with the relatively unskilled labor that often does the cleaning — you NEED all the safety factors you can get!
It’s a fact — different masonries have different characteristics. There is no one cleaner suitable for all of them under most circumstances.
Whatever cleaner you use, though, you should always protect yourself by testing before you clean. Try the cleaner on an out-of-the-way area under the same conditions you plan to clean under — including dilution-rate.
You may have to do some adjusting of dilution-rates and dwell times, but in the end, you’ll have a beautiful, successfully cleaned building.
Short answer: In masonry cleaning, one size doesn’t fit all, and never has. And always test before you clean.
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