How Do You Clean Stains Off of a Concrete Driveway?

by Team eLocal
Oil clean-up in a workshop. A man cleaning-up an oil spill on a workshop floor.  The man is wearing work boots and mechanic's clothing.

Concrete driveways get treated pretty roughly during their lifetimes, but that doesn't mean they need to look cracked, stained or dirty. Mud, rust and the dreaded oil spill can all lead to driveway stains forming.

Fortunately, you don't have to spend a fortune to get rid of these stains. Common household detergents can remove oil stains from concrete driveways, especially if you catch spills quickly.

How to Clean Driveway Stains

Oil and grease are difficult to deal with. If oil spills onto a concrete driveway, it can seep into the concrete and leave a lasting mark behind. Treating driveway stains as soon as you notice them can reduce the risk of marks becoming permanent. If you notice an oil spillage, respond as soon as possible.

Oil is hydrophobic, which means it repels water. Attempting to wash oil away with just water won't work very well. Mop up as much of the oil spill as you can with absorbent cloths before you start trying to tackle any lasting stains. Dispose of the cloths carefully. Don't leave them somewhere that animals might get to them, as oil can be harmful to birds and pets if they consume it, or it gets into their feathers or fur.

If there's too much oil to clean up with cloths, use cat litter to soak it up. Leave the litter in place for at least an hour (longer, if possible), and then sweep it up.

There are several different stain removal options to try from this point. These solutions aren't mutually exclusive, either. Start with the simplest methods and only try the more expensive or high-effort options if your first attempts to remove the oil were not successful.

Break Out the Detergent

If there's still some oil residue left on the driveway, you can get rid of it using common household cleaners. Trisodium phosphate is a good choice. However, dish soap or a similar detergent can be effective too. Mix your chosen detergent into a gallon of hot water and pour the solution directly onto the blemish. Leave the solution to soak into the driveway for 30 minutes.

Put Some Elbow Grease Into It

Scrub the driveway with a stiff brush until it looks like the stain is gone. Finally, blast the area with a pressure hose to wash away the detergent. There's no need to purchase special cleaning solutions for an unfinished driveway. Dish soap is good enough to treat a small oil spill. For more stubborn stains, a paste made from laundry detergent and a small amount of water is an effective option.

Try Some Kitchen Solutions

Oven cleaner can help break down oil and make it easier to remove. Simply spray the cleaner directly onto the stain and let it work. Another popular (and inexpensive) option is Coca-Cola. Simply pour a can or two of Coca-Cola onto the stain and let it seep into the surface overnight. Then use your pressure washer to rinse the liquid away. If there's still some stain left, pour more cola onto the stain and wait 24 hours before rinsing it away.

Can Sealing a Driveway Prevent Oil Stains?

Oil stains occur because concrete is porous. The pores are too small for us to notice them with the naked eye, but they're big enough to absorb oil, which is what leaves a visible stain. Sealing your driveway covers those pores. This means any future spills or contamination should be easier to clean up and won't leave a lasting mark.

Before you seal a driveway, however, it's important to make sure it's completely clean. Scrub away any rust, paint or oil marks. Let the concrete dry and check to make sure no residual oil has seeped back up to the surface. Once you're satisfied the driveway or garage floor is clean, you can safely apply your chosen stain or coating.


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