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Sandstone & Brick Cleaning

Sandstone, Brick and Stone Cleaning

Let’s Clean recognises that there is no one particular method that cleans and restores sandstone to its natural appearance.

In fact the key word is 'natural'; sandstone is a natural porous stone varying, in colour, density and porosity. Therefore the benefits of cleaning and the method of cleaning have to be adapted to accommodate:

  • The characteristics of the sandstone being cleaned, strong and dense or friable and excessively porous. The colour of the stone, brown, red or blonde and its different natural composites (irons etc.)
  • The nature of the soiling natural (algae and moss) or man-made (carbon, paint, failing coloured sand coatings, cement)
  • Heritage Requirements
  • Client expectations

We do not use harsh and environment unfriendly chemicals, High Pressure Sand blasting or High Pressure Water blasting!
At this time we believe that in Australia the chemical cleaning of sandstone may only be carried out by registered Chemical Stone Cleaning Contractors and with local council planning consent. If this is a route you are considering or have been offered, we suggest you check with your Local Authority Planning, Conservation Department and Heritage Architects, especially if you live in a “Heritage” listed property or building.

There are plenty of debates regarding the pros and cons of the chemical cleaning, high pressure sand blasting or high pressure water blasting of sandstone on the Internet; it is a subject upon which the jury still seems to be 'out'. They are lots of Heritage Architects who can advise you of damage that has been done in the past.
However, Let’s Clean is not using battery acid or soaps with too high a concentration of lye on the sandstones porous substance. We all know, certain soaps can effect certain human skin types in a different way, just as certain chemicals and certain concentrations of chemicals can effect certain types of sandstone in various ways.

The cleaning method we use depends on the characteristic of the stone and the coating to be removed; to this end we use five methods as the basis of our approach:

  • The BlueVac System, High velocity low pressure hot or cold water cleaning. Washing and vacuum at the same time so reducing spray and water flow to walls and floor.
    • The BlueVac System is also used for captive head-washing system of the Desalination of Salt reduction on all types of masonry. See our study on the subject at our website Blog.
  • The BlueVac System, High velocity high pressure hot or cold water combined with inducted mild abrasive cleaning aggregate.
  • .JOS System, Mild abrasive low pressure dry or wet for dust reduction cleaning system, that allows us to use something as soft as soda or crushed glass for the abrasive cleaning aggregate. The pressure and abrasive can be controlled to such an extent that the system is successfully used also for paint and tarnish removal on such soft substrates as pine wood and copper plate.
  • Encapsulated JOS, Mild abrasive low pressure encapsulated in a chamber with glass viewing panels to specialise in small cleaning completely dust free to the public.
  • “Heritage No1” an old fashioned, chloride free alkaline poultice to draw out any stains or removal of paint. After the application washed with the BlueVac system for a complete clean.

Sometimes multiple methods are used to obtain the desired result. In the case of multi-layered paint removal, we will start with our “Heritage No1” approved alkaline poultice type paint stripper or our Acrylic remover “Wonder Strip”. After we go with the BlueVac System or perhaps our JOS System for a mild abrasive and finally polishing to smooth the stone surface for a near new look.
Basically the object of cleaning sandstone is to remove the offending or detrimental coating on the stone with as little upset to the stone as possible. Cleaned and finished correctly this can greatly enhance the appearance of the stone and improve the stone's capability to shed water and 'breathe' as it should.

We strife to use the Burra Charter as our guide line to work with Heritage Buildings and there preservation, see details of the Burra Charter click here for details…
All too often we see methods employed such as sandblasters and high pressure washers. All these do; is break up the surface of the stone and increase the porous surface area of the stone. The damage is done, the water is retained on the surface, an etched surface has been provided for the promotion of the growth of algae and attachment of airborne pollutants etc. and the rate of erosion of the 'weakened' stone increased to an eventually detrimental outcome.

Carbon or black stain removal

Sandstone is a natural substance. Whilst most soiling can be removed where excessive amounts of carbon have been absorbed by the stone over the years, cleaning may not change the black colouring/staining of the surface of the stone. Experience has shown that this is a trait especially noticeable with red sandstone.
As previously noted, we do not use do not use harsh and environment unfriendly chemicals, so when we are satisfied that to further clean a particular stone to remove carbon staining is going to be detrimental to the stone, it is a case of what you see is what you get! Gentle and minimally invasive cleaning is to the benefit of the sandstone and the client.

Salts & Chlorides

Sometimes you will notice that a white effervescence appears on your stone. This is especially noticeable in red sandstone due to the colour difference (white on red).
Although unsightly, this is good news in the sense that it means a stone that was previously unable to 'breathe' due to a coating causing it to retain excessive amounts of moisture, is now able to dispel the moisture. To remove excessive salts or chlorides we use our BlueVac System with the Captive Head-Washing System and we are able to remove salt with multi passes of up to 10mm depth.
If the stone is not being continually and excessively saturated with moisture, over the course of a few seasons generally the staining will reduce as the sandstone dries.

The BlueVac Desalination Process

The unique vacuum-washing system can do more than conventional cleaning systems. It cleans every surface deep into the pores, gently and environmentally friendly. Cold water, sprayed and swirled by jet nozzles under vacuum, binds and washes the dirt from all materials, even in structured or rough surfaces - to a depth of 10 mm without residue.
A refined, but uncomplicated system, user-friendly, versatile and durable. For the cleaning of stone, sandstone, wall, wood, stucco. The Blue-Vac has been perfected over many years in function and design. They can be used flexibly on site, in the workshop or in the studio and makes very efficient cleaning possible.
The BlueVac completely and gently removes not just ordinary dust and dirt, but also fat, bacteria and toxins from surfaces of each material and each structure, without damaging material layers. The closed fresh and hot or cold water system in connection with the effective vacuum suction enables wet cleaning with virtually no water discharge into the environment.
The BlueVac vacuum washing system, in contrast to conventional steam or wet cleaners, limits the water contract and the time spent at the desired location. Surrounding, water-sensitive areas may be spared. The sprayed pressurized water is swirled with the jet and the vacuum nozzle will suck directly effective the water with the dirt. The surface is washed, but not soaked in water.
The Blue-Vac vacuum allows even overhead work on ceilings, vaults, on the scaffolding, etc., without drips or dirty water flows down.
Since Blue-Vac works only with cold tap water and without the addition of chemicals in the water (except for basic cleaning), there is no water pollution and no environmental pollution. Toxic dust and dirt is thoroughly removed from surfaces, bound in water and collected in water tanks, so they can be disposed of directly professionally.
The Blue-Vac vacuum washing system makes cleaning easier, environment friendly, reduces operations and helping to carry out large-scale purges also economic.

Practice Report    
As part of the DBU project "Development of a Kompressen systems for desalination of brick surfaces" at the Church of St. Mary in Stendal crystallized out in particular the issue of subsequent cleaning. Looking for appropriate technologies also Blue-Vac System technique should be applicable. Thanks to a cooperation with Deffner & & Johann the Blue-Vac vacuum washing machine stand for testing the object. Detailed results presentation took place at the colloquium on the aforementioned DBU project on 14 September 2011 in Stendal instead.    BlueVac Head-Wash Tool
If you want to know more about the application of Blue-Vac vacuum technology even more, then you surely the DBU-final report to the task "Exemplary application that is optimized for the underground brick  “Desalination Process” (Entsalzungskompresse) using the example of the Church of St. Mary in Stendal of interest.
Talk to our team at Let’s Clean for more information and availability to purchase or hire the BlueVac System. Contact us on the contact page for more details and questions you may have.