- Primary efflorescence is named such, as it typically occurs during the initial cure of a cementitious product. It often occurs on masonry construction, particularly brick, as well as some firestop mortars, when water moving through a wall or other structure, or water being driven out as a result of the heat of hydration as cement stone is being formed, brings salts to the surface that are not commonly bound as part of the cement stone. As the water evaporates, it leaves the salt behind, which forms a white, fluffy deposit, that can normally be brushed off. The resulting white deposits are referred to as "efflorescence" in this instance. In this context efflorescence is sometimes referred to as "saltpetering." Since primary efflorescence brings out salts that are not ordinarily part of the cement stone, it is not a structural, but, rather, an aesthetic concern.
- Secondary efflorescence is named such as it does not occur as a result of the forming of the cement stone or its accompanying hydration products. Rather, it is usually due to the external influence of concrete poisons, such as chlorides. A very common example of where secondary efflorescence occurs is steel-reinforced concrete bridges as well as parking garages. Saline solutions are formed due to the presence of road salt in the winter. This saline solution is absorbed into the concrete, where it can begin to dissolve cement stone, which is of primary structural importance. Virtual stalactites can be formed in some cases as a result of dissolved cement stone, hanging off cracks in concrete structures. Where this process has taken hold, the structural integrity of a concrete element is at risk. This is a common traffic infrastructure and building maintenance concern. Secondary efflorescence is akin to osteoporosis of the concrete.
- It is possible to protect porous building materials such as brick, tiles, concrete and paving against efflorescence by treating the material with an impregnating, hydro-phobic sealer. This is a sealer which repels water and will penetrate deeply enough into the material to keep water and dissolved salts well away from the surface.