A reader wants to remove the white stains under the shutters. (Reader photo)

QMy son lives in a brick house built in the 1950s. There is some kind of white stain on the brick under each shutter. The shutters may have been white originally. (They have been repainted.) Many other houses in his Rockville neighborhood have similar stains. We’ve tried many things to clean the stains off the brick, but none of them has worked. Do you have any suggestions?

Silver Spring

AThe stains are probably “chalking,” or paint residue from shutters that were formerly painted white.

You might be able to get them off using a house wash product, such as M-1 House Wash ($9.97 for a gallon at Home Depot), which can be used in a pressure washer or even just in a hand pump sprayer after diluting it with water. At the recommended ratio of 40 parts water to one part cleaner, one gallon is enough to clean 8,800 square feet — maybe enough for your whole neighborhood.

If that doesn’t work, you might need a professional-caliber cleaner. Sure Klean Light Duty Restoration Cleaner from Prosoco is acidic and requires careful attention to safety protocols, but it’s less risky than some other professional-caliber masonry cleaners. You just need to keep in mind that anything that dislodges paint can also take off skin. The picture on the product page at the manufacturer’s website shows a worker wearing a face shield and respirator, a rain suit, gloves, and rubber boots.

This cleaner is sold only in 5-gallon pails, good for cleaning 375 square feet. Two places where you can buy it are East Coast Industrial Supply in Lorton (703-339-7554), priced at $135 but not always in stock, so call ahead, or Kenseal Construction Products in Beltsville (301-595-4044) or Chantilly (703-263-0730), where it is generally in stock, for $177. Since you mention that many houses on your street have the same problem, you might want to go in with your neighbors and do a whole-street facelift, with either a neighborhood hero or a hired handyman as the applicator.

One other product listed as effective against chalking is Dumond Chemicals’ Safe ’n Easy Ultimate Stone and Masonry Cleaner. The manufacturer says that it “does not contain any bleach, abrasives, caustic, muriatic or hydrofluoric acids or petroleum distillates, making it a user- and environmentally friendly cleaning product.” But if you read the manufacturer’s safety sheet, you will find this warning: “Causes severe skin burns and eye damage. May damage fertility or the unborn child.” The manufacturer doesn’t disclose the dangerous ingredients, claiming they are trade secrets. A 16-ounce sample bottle is available from the website for $8.99 (plus shipping).

We have a treadmill in a second-floor bedroom above a first-floor office that has recessed lighting. Using the treadmill often blows the bulbs in the recessed lights below. This happened first with incandescent bulbs, which we stopped using. We switched to compact fluorescent bulbs, but they blew, too. I have not tried LED bulbs, which cost around $20 each. Do you know if LEDs can take the pounding? If not, do you have any suggestions?


LEDs are the way to go, and the good news is that you don’t need to spend $20 per bulb.

Vibrations can break the delicate glowing filament in an incandescent bulb, and it can damage the electronics hidden in the base of a compact fluorescent. But LEDs are more robust because a tough, clear plastic encases the key components: a tiny semiconductor chip that lights up when a current passes through, and filters that create a more pleasing color.

Until LEDs went mainstream, “rough-service” incandescents were the best solution when vibrations were an issue. They have stronger construction inside as well as thicker glass. You can special-order these from Home Depot, where a 12-pack of 75-watt bulbs costs $22.97. But the shape is that of a traditional bulb — not one designed for recessed lighting.

It does cost about $20 for a retrofit recessed fixture with built-in LED lighting. But you can also buy screw-in LEDs designed for existing recessed fixtures. At Home Depot, a four-pack of 65-watt-equivalent bulbs is $29.91, or a little less than $7.50 a bulb. Or you can buy a single bulb for $9.97.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live, and try to include a photo.