Have you noticed white marks on the walls in your basement or on the first floor of your home? These unsightly marks are most likely saltpeter, a mineral compound that can be hazardous for your health. It’s important to remove saltpeter from your walls as soon as it appears.
Find out more about saltpeter efflorescence, methods for treating saltpeter on your walls and ways to prevent it from appearing in the first place.
What is saltpeter?
Saltpeter is a mineral salt deposit. It forms when the potassium nitrate in your home’s building materials (brick, lime, cement, water, etc.) comes into contact with oxygen and excess moisture.
3 types of moisture can cause saltpeter
- Moisture in the foundation: This type of moisture is caused by a lack or failure of insulating layers that are supposed to stop water from rising towards the foundation. If water is allowed to reach the foundation, it can cause saltpeter to appear on the walls. Our team will be able to deal with the water leak in the concrete floor to prevent the efflorescence from appearing again.
- Moisture due to water infiltration: This phenomenon occurs when rain comes into contact with porous exterior walls and penetrates the masonry.
- Moisture due to water leaks: This occurs when there is a defect or hole in a pipe.
If you want to find out where the humidity is coming from, our team can conduct a water infiltration test. That way, the source of the problem can be resolved to ensure that the saltpeter won’t reappear after being removed.
Why do you need to treat saltpeter on the walls?
The appearance of white marks on concrete walls is more than just a cosmetic problem. Saltpeter can pose a threat to your health and the condition of your home.
There are a variety of risks related to saltpeter efflorescence. It is caused by excess moisture in the walls or foundation, which can also lead to mold and fungus. Humidity in your home can also result in the proliferation of dust mites, which can cause allergies and other respiratory problems.
In addition to the health risks, saltpeter can have negative effects on most building materials in a home, such as causing paint and plaster on the walls to flake and crumble.
Saltpeter efflorescence treatment in 4 steps
When you find saltpeter in your home, you should act fast. Cleaning saltpeter efflorescence is not overly complicated, but it requires a small investment and needs to be done safely.
1. Use the right equipment
To give yourself the best chance of success, equip yourself with:
- A stiff-bristle brush
- A scraper or sander
- Hydrochloric acid
- Protective gloves and goggles
- A bucket
- A plastic sheet to cover the ground
2. Clean the surface of the wall
First, brush the affected parts of the wall with warm water. Brushing should remove the crust that has formed on the surface. Using detergent or soap may help with the cleaning process.
If the saltpeter is truly encrusted and doesn’t come off with brushing, you can use a scraper or sander to remove it. Rinse the wall afterwards with clean water.
3. Wash the wall with hydrochloric acid
Hydrochloric acid can be purchased at the hardware store. We recommend diluting the acid with water in a bucket, using a ratio of 1:10 (1 part acid for 10 parts of water).
Mix well and apply the mixture to the affected area with the brush. Then, let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes to give the acid time to remove the saltpeter.
4. Rinse with hot water
To finish your saltpeter treatment, rinse the wall with hot water. Use your stiff-bristle brush and lots of water to eliminate any traces of saltpeter and acid left on the wall.
What to do if the saltpeter reappears
If the saltpeter reappears a few months after treatment, it’s due to persistent moisture in the walls or foundation, which can threaten the integrity of your structure. What should you do in that case?
Check for cracks in the walls and foundation
The first step towards getting rid of saltpeter for good is checking for cracks in the walls and foundation. Cracks let moisture in, so they need to be found and eliminated.
If you notice little fissures that you suspect might be the cause, call a professional service. Foundation Crack Expert can conduct a and assess whether or not your fissures are likely to cause problems.
Waterproof your home
In addition to repairing any cracks, you might want or need to waterproof your home. If the structure is old or adverse weather has affected your foundation, moisture can enter much more easily.
If you hire an expert to assess the problem, they can suggest solutions that are tailored to your situation, such as installing a waterproofing membrane around the outside of your foundation.
Treat saltpeter efflorescence before disaster strikes
You should never leave a saltpeter problem untreated, because it is often accompanied by other issues and can threaten both your home and your health. The best way to deal with the efflorescence permanently is to get to the root of the problem by having the cracks and water infiltration in your home assessed. Surface treatments will only solve the problem temporarily.
The Foundation Crack Expert Group is well-versed in this type of situation and will be able to offer treatment that is tailored to your saltpeter efflorescence problem. Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.