How to Remove Paint from Exterior Brick

Remember how we had that list of DIY TO-DO tasks?  And remember how we were oh-so-grateful-thanking-our-lucky-stars for being chosen to be on the True Value DIY Blog Squad?  Yeah.  We still can’t believe it either.

Well, do you happen to remember the very first thing on our list?

No cheating.

Okay.  You can cheat.

It was exterior clean up.  Well cheaters cheaters Tiger beaters, we began with finishing our yard renovation but there were more things to do.  One major project was paint removal.

You see, when we bought our house, it had these giant bushes that blocked the view of where the brick met our siding. 

And being rookie first-time home buyers, we only had stars in our eyes about the fact that the previous owners recently painted the house.  It didn’t come to our attention that they oversprayed the exterior paint all over the roof, gutters, and brick foundation.  That is, until we ripped out all the plants – MAJOR BUMMER DUDE.

So for a while now, the house has sat like this…

…with gray/white faux finished brick.

It’s like the 80’s are back with their sponge-painting and their crazy bangles and crimped hair. 

(Confession: I still like to crimp my hair.)

Anyhoo, so when it came to removing the paint from the brick we did a little research and came up with a plan.  And here is the play by play just in case you wanna do it at home (or you just want to celebrate our success with us…which is totally cool by the way because nobody likes to party alone). 

1.  BUY SUPPLIES AT TRUE VALUE

First thing we bought was a bunch of muriatic acid.   DANGER WILL SMITH…THIS STUFF IS CAUSTIC.

And we bought a garden sprayer.  You know the type.  With the pump handle and the little sprayer rod thingie. 

And we also looked into renting a pressure washer.  We didn’t know this prior to walking in the doors but some True Value’s rent tools…really cool tools like log splitters and pressure washers and chainsaws.  Boy toys.  At really reasonable prices too.  Although we ended up borrowing a family member’s pressure washer, this would have been our next place to stop to get the right thing for the job.

Lastly we picked up a stiff bristle scrub brush and some safety gloves and goggles.  You will also need a mask for this job and some rubber boots…and a water source with a hose to hook up your pressure washer. 

2.  PREP THE AREA

We only had to drape a few tarps over our newly planted bushes to prep our area.  We heard that sometimes the muriatic acid can splash up onto the plants so if you care about your leafy friends, this step takes two seconds. 

Don’t be a fool, coverings are cool :)

3.  POUR YOUR ACID INTO THE GARDEN SPRAYER

We made sure that Jeremy was wearing a mask, rubber gloves, splash googles and was fully clothed before attempting to do this step.  He poured the muriatic acid into the garden sprayer and diluted it 3 to 1.  On the back of the container, it stated to do 4 to 1 but we are rebels.

4.  SPRAY A SELECT FEW BRICKS WITH MURIATIC ACID SOLUTION 

Using the garden sprayer, apply the muriatic acid solution to a small section of the bricks.  The first time we attempted to spray the bricks, I sprayed a huge section with only a small amount of solution.  It would dry almost before we could go on.  So we decided that less bricks-more acid would be the better route.  We were right.

You can see that when we focused on a smaller zone, that the solution would actually bubble and drip some of the paint right off.  Plus it gave us more time for the next step.

5.  SCRUB THE BRICK WITH A STIFF BRISTLE BRUSH

This is the part that I was glad I had a strong man in my life.  After I sprayed the brick with the solution, Jeremy went to town scrubbing the bricks one by one until the paint started breaking up. 

He said that his key to success was to brush the brick longways – extending the stroke over both ends with a lot of elbow grease. 

6.  PRESSURE WASH THE BRICK

Using the maximum pressure setting, Jeremy used the pressure washer to remove any leftover paint and residue.  If there was paint that was still not loosened enough to come off, then we would go back and repeat steps 4, 5 and 6.

Basically that’s how it is done. 

And since we had the borrowed pressure washer, we decided that it was high time to clean our front porch and steps. 

We honestly didn’t realize how gross they were until after they were cleaned.  It was like a cow-patty porch.  in a dumpster.  on Planet Disgusting. 

BEFORE:

AFTER:

So now that I got you in the before & after mood…do you wanna see some more? 

Specifically brick that looks shiny and new?

Minus the shiny?

Well, ok.  You don’t have to beg like Rosie O does for work. 

Here’s the white-washed before:

And the fabulous after:

And one little corner before:

And one little corner AFTER:

In the end, the paint removal on our brick was well worth the effort.  Now we just need to pray for hail damage to our roof :)  Kidding.  Sortof. 

So what about you guys?  Do you have one of these strange brick foundations/siding all around kinda houses too?  Have you ever had overspray issues?  Or ever attempt to remove paint from brick before?  I have heard good things about different methods of removal…never tried them though.  Any “Peel Away” product users out there?  Or how bout anyone try the cooking oil method?  I have heard the way we chose was the most dangerous…which scared us a bit…but then we felt like it was good to go straight for the gold.  We also loved, LOVED with a capital L, the pressure washer.  It was so instantaneously gratituitous.  If only I could use it on the bathrooms :)

“I was one of five bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program and my DIY project as well as my posts about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.”

Comments

  1. Laura C. says

    Good job – looks great

    Our home’s previous owner attempted to stain the fence and deck using a sprayer – and got it ALL over the vinyl siding. Have not yet found anything that would get it off.

  2. says

    Good job, it looks great! :) I have fun hearing your home improvement adventures, it makes me excited for when we finally have our forever house that is all our own, and not a standard issue military housing (although they’re free!) Keep up the good work girl!

  3. says

    I actually have a question. I see you mentioned that the previous owners painted the house. Do you happen to have aluminum siding? Because I’m wondering how long a paint job lasts on aluminum — that’s what we have. Ours could use another coat . . .

    Looks GREAT, though! It’s all these little things make really make a difference. Maybe not the most glamorous, but gotta get ‘em done!

  4. Lesley says

    Nice work it looks great! And the boyfriend is looking good again with the Boston hat. For a while I was afraid I would never see it again.

  5. Cassie says

    I l-o-v-e our pressure washer. Its the one “yard work” task that I volunteer to do. Gotta love the instant gratification.
    And like you, I did not realize how gross our porch and sidewalks were until we got that baby going. Deeee-sgusting

  6. says

    Katie Bower what in the heck are you doing playin with ACID when you’re with child?!? Are you crazy(-ier than I already thought)??

    And you are so right about pressure washers… Total Instant Gratification. Your porch before and after was stunning.

  7. Jessica H. says

    We inherited a pressure washer from my hubby’s grandfather (strange things get doled out after a death in the family) and I LOVE it. Ours has an attachment that goes into soap so you can wash your car/deck/etc. But the best thing we’ve used it for so far was cleaning the concrete walkway and driveway. What a HUGE difference!

  8. angela says

    Do you know how to remove candle wax from brick? Last month, I blew out a candle and was accidently knocked it over and hot wax got all over my fireplace! Yikes! My hubby had to use a screwdriver to scrap it off…wasn’t sure if you knew of a better method? Thanks!

    • says

      Angela –
      hmm…definitely use a screwdriver to scrape off any excess wax first and vaccuum it up. Then I would use a small propane lighter to burn any bits that got into cracks. See if that works first and let me know :)

      XO – KB

  9. Katie says

    Katie – I just bought a house & the previous owners painted the fireplace white. I know that this seems to be the trend but in rural Connecticut, it just looks out of place. What happened to the traditional fireplace? After spending close to $200 on Peel Away (both the environmentally friendly and regular) which didn’t work AT ALL, we were ready to give up and pay someone to rebuild a new fireplace. But a friend of a friend is a masonry and had some brick cleaner that did the trick (it was stinky and awful but worked within a few minutes). We still have to do the entire outside chimney and I think we will use your method for the outside. Thanks so much for the post!

  10. tara says

    Wow, five out of five stars for looking a
    world better. Look how shiny and pretty your
    brick is now. I am sure you were thrilled.
    Looks fabulous.

  11. says

    Oh gosh! I hope you guys really did do the research. I work in historic preservation, and often using caustic chemicals and power washing brick can strip the first “hard” layer off of the brick, exposing the softer interior material. This can cause water to get into the brick, creating spalling and damaging the brick.

    I trust the guys at ACE… but I’m skeptical of anything other than soapy water and elbow grease!

  12. Ashley says

    We have a similar situation but it is on the interior of our house. The people that we bought the house repainted the whole inside before we moved in. We thought it was great initially until further inspections showed that the painters got paint all over the windows, wood trim, etc. Do you have any ideas that will take the paint off those surfaces? Thank you for your help!

    • says

      Ashley – BUMMER! We had a similar experience – they sprayed everything antique white – thank you sucky previous owner. As for paint removal – your best bet for getting it off wood trim is with paint stripper and a whole lotta sand paper. Just follow the instructions and if you have any other questions – let me know. As for scraping paint off the windows – here’s a post with some tips on how to get it off.

      Hope this helps!

      XO – Katie

  13. says

    One note: you mention that you poured the acid into the sprayer and THEN diluted it. That is very dangerous. Always add acid TO water, not water to acid.

    Another note: I see in your photos that the trees are bare. Using a pressure washer after applying acid to the bricks means the bricks absorbed moisture, which can take months to dry. If it freezes inside the bricks (back to the bare trees), you could be looking at bricks cracking, mortar damage, etc.

    My own experience is that I used a Citrus-no toxic paint stripper to get latex paint off bricks. This left me with a white “wash” look similar to what you had. I’ll be using some muriatic next to see if that will get the bricks clean.

    Thanks for the post!

    • says

      Good tips Bob! We did have bare trees but it barely ever freezes down here in the deep south so no worries – our bricks and mortar are doing fine but it’s a great tip for those living in colder climates!
      xo – kb

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