How To Clean Retaining Wall Blocks

Retaining wall with stone steps in the middle leading to a home

When you look at your retaining wall you are proud of how straight and plumb it is.  Nothing to fix related to bulging or structural deficiencies.  It looks good but not great.  So what can you do to clean the wall?  You may be wondering how to clean retaining wall blocks. In this article, we answer this how to clean the blocks. We will also provide tips on how to prevent the wall from getting as dirty in the first place.

How To Clean Retaining Wall Blocks In Cold Climates

First, you should take stock of where the wall is installed.  If you live in a freezing climate, is any of the staining on the wall from salt?  If your wall runs along a salted driveway and your wall has white staining, you have salt stains.  Unfortunately, there is not much hope of cleaning off the salt.  You can try using a lot of water to dissolve the salt. If lucky, the salt will run it down the side of the wall, but salt staining is pernicious.  

How To Prevent Salt Stains On Retaining Wall Blocks

However, if you have recently installed your wall and know there will be the potential for salt staining in the future, you can consider using an impregnating sealer like Dry Treat Stain Proof to protect the wall.  This is a great product to prevent salt staining. It can also be used around salt swimming pools to protect stone work.  A good impregnating sealer gets expensive. You’ll have to weigh the price per square foot in mind as you consider the value of preventing the lion’s share of salt staining.

How To Clean Retaining Wall Blocks With Dirt From Top Of Wall

Next, if you notice your wall is covered in dirt and debris running down from the top of the wall, you may want to do a couple of things.  First, you can clean the dirt and debris by renting a pressure washer from Home Depot. Alternatively and less expensively, you can buy a great pressure washer. This will allow you to keep things sparkling clean around your property whenever you need to.  However, you do not only need to keep the wall clean. You should also consider where all this dirt and debris is coming from.

how to clean retaining wall blocks demonstration on dirt covered retaining wall

How To Stop Retaining Wall Blocks From Getting Dirty

Sometimes you need to add some crushed stone to the top side of the wall. This will prevent dirt from washing over the top whenever it rains. It can be a good idea to dig out the top six inches or so of the backfill at the top of the wall. Afterward, you can replace it with crushed stone. This prevents the washout over the top of the wall.  Be careful though, you’ll also want to make sure the grade causes the water to flow away from the top of the wall and around the sides of the wall.  You may want to include a new drainage pipe behind the wall if you have a serious issue with runoff.

Next, if you have specks of cement on the wall leftover from construction from a sloppy mason, you have a bit of an issue on your hands.  This will not wash off.  However, if you take a small chisel, and a hammer, you can GENTLY tap the edges of the cement chunks and knock them off the wall.  This is a delicate process and if you are too rough you could damage the wall further, so practice in some spots on the wall that are less visually obvious before tackling the whole wall.

How To Clean Retaining Wall Blocks Summary

Most of the time when considering how to clean retaining wall blocks, the answer is to use a pressure washer.  However, as we’ve shown above there are some additional methods which can be employed to clean retaining wall blocks depending on how they got dirty to begin with.  Keeping your retaining walls clean and presentable ought to be a part of your property maintenance plan, and hopefully now it’s not an overwhelming task.