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Introduction to Efflorescence

  • The migration of a salt to the surface of a porous material, where it forms a coating, is known as efflorescence (which means "to flower out" in French). The most important step entails dissolving an internally held salt in water or, on rare occasions, another solvent. The salt is now kept in solution in the bath, which migrates to the surface and evaporates, leaving a salt coating.

  • Water is the invader in "primary efflorescence," and the salt was already present internally; "secondary efflorescence," on the other hand, is a phase in which the salt is initially present externally and then brought inside in solution.

  • Efflorescences can be present in both natural and man-made environments. It can often indicate internal structural weakness (migration/degradation of component materials) on porous construction materials, but it can also present a cosmetic outer issue (primary efflorescence causing staining). As seen in the spalling of brick, efflorescence can clog the pores of porous materials, causing internal water pressure to destroy the materials.

  • In this article, we will study mineral efflorescence, masonry efflorescence, brick efflorescence,  white efflorescence, anti efflorescence and efflorescence treatment in detail.

Efflorescence Treatment

  1. Cleaning the wall with high-pressure water has long been a popular method for removing efflorescence. However, since the salts are water-soluble, there's a chance they'll seep back into the wall and reappear as crystals later. As a result, the first line of protection should be to clean the walls with a stiff brush to eliminate the rest of the white. Water pressure washing can then be used to remove any remaining salt from the walls.

  2. When calcium carbonate or calcium sulphate is the source of efflorescence, it is more difficult to remove. It sticks to the wall very firmly and is difficult to scrape with a brush. In this scenario, an acid-based treatment is recommended.

Masonry Efflorescence

Brick Efflorescence

In efflorescence, magnesium sulphate, calcium sulphate, sodium sulphate and carbonate (and sometimes chloride and nitrates) are commonly found. These salts have been connected to the brick itself, construction sand, base soil, groundwater, construction water, and loose earth left in contact with brickwork. Bricks containing more than 0.05 per cent magnesium sulphate should not be used in building. Sand should have a soluble salt content of less than 0.1 per cent (chloride and sulphate combined).

Efflorescence in Cement

As water percolates into poorly compacted concrete, cracks, or poorly constructed joints, the lime compounds in the concrete leach out, resulting in efflorescence (the formation of salt deposits on the concrete surface). Calcium hydroxide Ca(OH)₂, one of the hydration products that is slightly soluble in water, migrates to the concrete surface through the capillary mechanism, causing this. 

The solid Ca (OH)₂ reacts with atmospheric carbon dioxide CO₂ to form calcium carbonate CaCO₃, a white layer on the concrete surface, after evaporation.

Efflorescence on Walls

White marks on internal walls can be caused by efflorescence on plaster, which can occur behind paint and wallpaper.

These white, fluffy salts are "crunchy" to the touch, and the crystals that form underneath wallpaper or paint are strong enough to force these coatings off the plaster, or "pop" the plaster. This type of sulphate crystal formation can occur in any building, regardless of age, where water enters the structure. Evaporation would cause the water to leave the wall, leaving the salts behind. While the salts can be rubbed off, they often reappear and cause more harm to the décor.

Efflorescence Plaster

Efflorescence on plaster surfaces is caused by the presence of salts in lime, cement, sand, bricks, and often even water used in building. The soluble salts dissolved by moisture are drawn to the surface through pores after the plasterwork is completed and fully dry. These soluble salts absorb moisture from the air and store it in patches as a white crystalline material when it dries. The surface is marred by unsightly efflorescence patches. This weakness allows the structure to deteriorate over time. It is usually of a transient type, as it vanishes in rainy weather and reappears in dry weather.

Efflorescence on Stone

Efflorescence will cease in all but the most severe cases as crystallised salts block capillaries in the stone. The white deposits will slowly wear off with use and exposure until the process has stopped. Water and a stiff-bristled (non-metal) brush will always suffice for clients who are in a hurry to get rid of it. The haze will resume if the efflorescing process is not stopped or the factors that cause it are still present, and it will need to be cleaned again.

Examples of Efflorescent Salt

  1. By the process of homogeneous nucleation, a 5 molar concentration aqueous droplet of NaCl can spontaneously crystallise at 45 per cent relative humidity (298 K) to form a NaCl cube. The initial water is freed into the gaseous state.

  2. Gypsum (CaSO₄.2H₂O) is a hydrate solid that will give up its water to the gas phase and form anhydrite in a sufficiently dry environment (CaSO₄).

  3. When exposed to sunlight, copper(II) sulphate (bluestone) (CaSO₄.5H₂O) is a blue crystalline solid that steadily loses water of crystallisation from its surface, resulting in a white layer of anhydrous copper(II) sulphate.

  4. When exposed to sunlight, sodium carbonate decahydrate (Na₂CO₃.10H₂O) can lose water.

Did You Know?

Three key factors contribute to the formation of efflorescence on concrete and brick masonry walls. The following are the conditions:

Soluble salts could be present in concrete and brick masonry walls, and the salts could be found in masonry brick, mortar, adjacent dirt, and backing material.

Water must be present in the concrete and brick masonry walls, and it must come into contact with soluble salt in order to dissolve it.

The pore structure of concrete and brick masonry walls must allow soluble salt to migrate to the surface, where water can evaporate and leave the salt.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Question: Is Efflorescence a Permanent Condition?

Efflorescence can also fade away on its own over time (usually after the first year of a paver or retaining wall installation). Special cleaners, such as the Gator Efflorescence Cleaner, may also be used to eliminate efflorescence. One can wait around 60 days before using an efflorescence cleaner on average.

Question: What are the Causes of Efflorescence?

Efflorescence is caused by vapour passing through the slab and adding soluble salts to the concrete's surface. On unsealed concrete surfaces, efflorescence is usually rubbed off or washed away.

Question: How Do You Prevent Efflorescence in Brick?

Pure water should be used. Do not drink chlorinated drinking water, and do not use rainwater (risk of algae formation). Use clean sand rather than sand that has been polluted with sea sand, salts, or other contaminants. Sulphate-containing cement and additives such as curing retardants can induce efflorescence.