Removing paint from bricks or peeling the paint off a painted brick wall is labor-intensive. Often contractors’ shoddy work leaves unattractive paint splatters on face brick walls or paved brick walkways. You might wonder if getting unwanted paint spills off brickwork, walling, and paving is possible.
From doing maintenance on brick walls and paving to a DIY interior revamp for a rustic farmhouse feel, getting paint off bricks doesn’t need to involve a powerful heat gun. Chemical strippers melt the paint, and you can show off an inside brick wall as a chic industrial interior.
- A chemical or brick acid paint remover (stripper)
- A scrubbing brush with bristles or the head of an old outdoor broom
- A plastic bucket
- A pair of industrial utility gloves
- Protective wear
- A pair of safety glasses or, preferably, safety goggles
- A mask
- A ladder
Step 1. Inspect Area You Want to Remove the Paint
Don’t despair over the eye-sore paint smears left on brickwork by paint contractors. You can tackle paint spills on bricks and get these off. You even can take off the paint on a brick wall to strip the wall for a fashionable rustic makeover. Stripping paint from an entire wall can take a couple of days, whereas taking tough layers off a brick is much less complicated.
Cleaning the paint off bricks is a regular chore for maintenance teams, especially when contractors and decorators leave smears from painting ceilings on brick passage walls and brick walkways. You know the scene, the paint job is done, and the mess sticks to the porous brickwork. Removing the paint must be done, whether an emulsion or oil paint.
The scenario is common to the DIY fraternity, with spills on bricks everywhere, from face brick walls to brick outdoor steps, terraces, porches, and paved walkways. Getting rid of the paint on the brickwork is best cleaned with a brick acid. The process does take effort, though, as the unwanted paint sticks tightly to the bricks' porous surface.
Though face brick has a surface treatment, shoddy paint jobs leave drips of paint stuck and hard to remove. The bricks are porous, and one doesn't want to ruin the mortar joins by blasting away with high-powered tools. Before you start, look at the bricks, and check for corrosion and damage, as you want to do the job carefully.
Face brick walls have a porous texture that soaks in the paint, with specks of paint even getting stuck deep inside. Paint left on a brick wall quickly dries and is tricky to remove. It’s not just the chemical paint removal process but not getting the bricks damaged that matters.
In some cases, you also want to ensure that the paint you are removing is lead-free. DIYers often have lead testing kits, as the lead in paint is toxic and should be stripped by taking precautions.
Step 2. Test Chemical Cleaner on Small Area
Whether you're part of a maintenance team or a DIY enthusiast, there are several ways to get the paint spills off exposed brick walls. But getting the paint off
takes elbow grease. The best thing to use is a chemical cleaner, a brick acid formulated as a stripping compound.
You must ensure that the stripper is suitable and safe to use and take precautions even when testing the paint remover. Wear the right gear and avoid contact burns on your skin and eyes. Also, work in a ventilated space.
Start by testing the chemical compound on a small area that's out of sight. In testing, you'll see that the paint often is stuck inside the porous crevices or tiny holes in the brick. You also can assess how many layers of the chemical paint stripper you'll need. You should likely use more than one layer to clean the bricks.
Large areas mostly stripped of paint are brick fireplaces or interior walls you want to give a rustic look to. These areas can take 2-4 days of scrubbing to show off the natural brick wall under a layer of paint. Also, ensure you don't damage the waterproofing or the grouting when cleaning paint off a brick.
And bricks used about a century ago crumble easily. These were made of lime and sand and are less durable than cement bricks. As you might need to take off as many as three or even more layers of paint, the bricks may crumble or crack. The degree of the porousness of bricks makes the paint sink in. And many stripping applications, and scrubbing, weaken the brick surface.
Step 3. Get Tools and Materials Ready
Before getting paint off bricks, ensure you have the right chemical paint stripping compound and know how much you will need. Also, read the instructions as there is a range of chemical strippers in the market and you have to use these with caution.
Some chemical paint strippers contain harsh ingredients like methylene chloride (DCM). Be aware that the US Environment Protection Agency has passed regulations on DCM. The Agency even prohibits the manufacturing and importing methylene chloride, a commonly known paint stripper. The reason is that the use of DMC has ended up in deaths.
Once you’ve looked at the chemical compound and are satisfied with the brick acid, ensure you have a plastic bucket ready to pour the acid into. Make sure you use a firm brush to wash the acid onto the area on the brick where the paint is stuck. You can use a wooden, peanut-shaped utility cleaning brush with dense and stiff bristles for scrubbing.
Or you can use an old broom head, one off a bristly outdoor broom. It won't matter that the bristles will get damaged, as you will likely not use the broom afterward.
It would be best if you protected your hands when you work with brick acid. You must wear industrial plastic gloves to avoid getting acid on your skin. You also must wear a pair of protective glasses or utility goggles. Brick acid is an irritant; you must avoid getting the acid on your skin or near your eyes. To avoid inhaling fumes, work in a ventilated area and wear a mask.
It’s good practice to have a drop cloth or plastic sheeting to put down on a floor, walkway, or surface where you’ll be working to remove the paint of a brick or bricks. The use of a drop sheet will help with the cleaning up of the flakes of paint. Also, work slightly below eye-level height and use a ladder to reach higher areas. Make sure the ladder is steady and on level ground.
Step 4. Pour Chemical Stripper Into a Bucket
Start out by reading the manufacturer's requirements for the chemical stripper. Follow what must be done. It's good practice to wear a pair of industrial gloves when you work with brick acid. Also, remember to wear protective glasses and a mask for the fumes. Put the protective gear on even before you open the brick acid and pour the chemical stripper into a bucket.
Ensure you have the drop sheet on the ground, the bristled utility brush, and are wearing a pair of glasses, gloves, and a mask. With gloves on your hands and wearing a mask and protective eye gear, carefully pour the chemical stripper into the bucket. Let it run down the side to the bottom. Pour enough acid into the bucket to cover the brush's bristles. Make the level manageable.
Ensure the bucket is on the drop sheet and near where you work. And have the ladder near-by should you need to work in-line or above eye-level.
Step 5. Scrub Paint off Layer by Layer
With the paint stripper in the bucket and wearing protective gloves, glasses, and a mask, you can start removing the paint layer by layer. The acid stripper gives off fumes. Ensure the space you are working in is ventilated if you’re indoors.
Place the bucket close to the bricks where you are removing the paint. The number of brick acid layers depends on the paint smear's thickness. You must put the paint acid or stripper on one layer at a time. You also could end up having to put on several layers.
Dip the bristled brush into the chemical stripper and brush the thick, gel-like stripper over the paint. Immediately brush to and fro across the paint splodge with the bristled brush. You'll notice it takes repeated action to break down the paint.
Stand steadily on your feet in a position that'll ensure you can exert full force when scrubbing the paint mark. You will have to clean hard. Scrub the brick till all traces of paint are removed. The bristles of a brush won’t damage the brick and will get to the stubbornly stuck paint in crevices or little holes on the brick.
Best to remove paint off bricks one area at a time. Removing paint one brick or a splatter of paint at a time is labor-intensive. And, if you're doing a larger surface, still keep the area that you're working on contained.
The actions are the same whether you work on a single brick or a larger surface. But the length of time the process will take is longer. Depending on the size of the wall you want to remove the paint, it can take several days of applying brick acid and then scrubbing.