When you first put in a concrete patio, it’s normal to marvel at the result. An inviting patio becomes a favorite hangout for many, which is why it’s frustrating when dirt and grime buildup, staining, or discoloration occur. Once the look of your concrete patio degrades, figuring out how to clean a concrete patio is a priority.
How you need to clean your concrete patio depends on the type of dirt, grime, or staining you encounter. Options like baking soda and vinegar, bleach solutions, hydrogen peroxide, and others each work best in specific situations. Plus, a pressure washer is ideal in some scenarios.
However, the best in one case doesn’t work well in others. If you’re trying to figure out how to clean a concrete patio, here’s what you need to know.
- What Cleaners to Use on a Concrete Patio
- How to Clean a Concrete Patio
- 1. Without a Pressure Washer
- 2. With a Just Pressure Washer
- 3. With a Pressure Washer and Cleaner
- Does Simple Green Clean Concrete?
- Can You Clean Concrete with Pine Sol?
- Does OxiClean Clean Concrete?
- Will Baking Soda and Vinegar Clean Concrete?
- Is Bleach or Vinegar Better for Cleaning Concrete?
- How to Prevent Stains on a Concrete Patio
- What Is the Best Cleaner to Use on Concrete?
What Cleaners to Use on a Concrete Patio
As mentioned above, several cleaners may work well when cleaning a concrete patio. However, some work better on specific types of dirt, grime, and buildup than others. As a result, picking the right cleaner for the job is essential.
Going with the best possible option for your patio can reduce the amount of work involved. Plus, you may get a better overall result. Here’s a look at what cleaners to use on a concrete patio and where each one shines.
1. Baking Soda and Vinegar
Vinegar and baking soda are powerful but natural cleaners that can tackle a variety of stains and stuck-on dirt and grime. Vinegar – straight or diluted using a 50/50 white vinegar to water ratio – is especially effective when dealing with rust stains. Baking soda is excellent for charcoal stains or when you need an abrasive option to scrub off stuck-on dirt.
For rust stains, apply the vinegar solution and let it sit for several minutes. You can scrub a bit with a nylon scrub brush at that point. Then, sprinkle on baking soda, allow it to bubble a bit, scrub again, and rinse.
For other stains or stuck-on dirt, add a little water to create a baking soda paste. Apply the baking soda paste and scrub using a nylon brush. Let it sit, then follow that up with a vinegar solution before scrubbing again and rinsing.
2. Bleach SolutionFor mildew, mold, and water stains, a bleach solution is a solid choice. Add ¾ cups bleach to one gallon of warm water. Apply the solution with a mop and scrub with a nylon brush before rinsing.
When working with bleach, wear gloves. Also, choose clothing you aren’t worried about staining, as bleach can lighten many dyes significantly and quickly after contact.
It’s important to note that while straight bleach won’t harm concrete, dilution is better. It lets you get more mileage out of your bleach and is typically just as effective.
You also need to rinse. Even though prolonged exposure likely won’t hurt your concrete, bleach exposure is potentially harmful. Rinsing reduces the odds of a health issue for yourself, other household members, and pets.
3. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is a convenient, affordable option for cleaning a concrete patio and works particularly well on stains.
For a strong solution, take hydrogen peroxide and mix it with flour. Form a paste and apply it to the stain. Let it sit for a few minutes, then take a nylon scrub brush before letting it sit again.
Finally, rinse the paste off your concrete patio to gauge the results. If necessary, repeat the process.
4. Dish Soap Solution
Gentle liquid dish soap is a great option for oily stains and sticky grimy. Dish soap is a degreaser and doesn’t rely on harsh chemicals, making it eco-friendly and safer around children and pets.
In most cases, you only need one teaspoon of dish soap per each gallon of warm water. Get a bucket, add the warm water, and mix in the dish soap to create a solution.
Then, you can apply it with a mop, scrub a bit with the rough part of the mop, or a nylon scrub brush. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then rinse, repeating as necessary until the stain is gone.
5. Pressure WasherA pressure washer is most effective at removing stuck-on surface dirt and grime and moss. The high-pressure spray essentially loosens the material and allows you to wash it away.
You need to exercise caution when using a pressure washer, as too much pressure can lead to damage. Start with a lower setting and begin with a discreet test spot. Adjust the pressure until it’s effective without going any higher.
Once you choose the setting, you can clean the rest of your patio. Work in small sections and accordance with the manufacturer’s directions.
6. Commercial Cleaners
There are many commercial concrete cleaners on the market, each with its own strengths and weakness. Some are designed for oily or greasy stains, while others focus on discoloration, grime, and more.
Read the packaging labels and application instructions to determine if one of these options is suitable. Then, follow the manufacturer’s directions regarding use.
7. Muriatic AcidMuriatic acid is generally considered a last resort, and you should only use it if the options above fail. It’s highly acidic and can burn or harm your skin, lungs, and eyes. Plus, it can damage many materials.
Read the manufacturer’s instructions to create the right mixture, similar to one-part muriatic acid powder to four-parts hot water. After that, apply the solution following the manufacturer’s directions, going slowly to avoid splashes and drips.
Let the muriatic acid sit based on the manufacturer’s recommendations. Rinse the patio and neutralize the remaining acid by applying baking soda. Then, rinse again.
How to Clean a Concrete Patio
When cleaning a concrete patio, specific steps are required regardless of the cleaner you’ll use or whether you’ll try a pressure washer.
First, you need to get the right personal protective equipment (PPE). Generally, that includes gloves, eye protection, and a breathing mask. You may also want to wear clothing you aren’t worried about exposing to chemicals, and go with closed-toed shoes.
Next, remove all furnishings, grill equipment, potted plants, and other items from your patio. Then, sweep the concrete to dislodge loose debris. Finally, rinse the concrete with a hose.
After that, your approach will vary depending on your chosen strategy. Here’s an overview of your options.
1. Without a Pressure Washer
Prepare the Cleaner
Preparing the cleaner is a critical step, though exactly what you’ll need to do varies depending on the one you’re using. For vinegar, baking soda, bleach, dish soap, or hydrogen peroxide, you’ll need to create the solution or paste. With commercial cleaners or muriatic acid, follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Apply the Cleaner
Once the cleaner is ready, it’s time to apply it. Again, your process may vary slightly. However, it typically involves using a mop to apply the solution or applying a paste using a gloved hand.
With commercial cleaners and muriatic acid, review the manufacturer’s directions. Application instructions may vary, so you want to ensure you use the right approach.
Sit and Scrub
Once the cleaner is in place, it needs to sit. How long depends on the cleaner you’re using. For vinegar, baking soda, bleach, dish soap, and hydrogen peroxide, it may need ten to 30 minutes. For muriatic acid or commercial cleaners, review the directions provided by the manufacturer.
After the cleaner sits, you’ll typically need to scrub. Aside from commercial cleaners and muriatic acid, you can use a nylon brush to address stains or remove debris. If you’re using muriatic acid or a commercial cleaner, refer to the instructions.
Repeat Steps 2 and 3
If the stain or dirt isn’t gone after the first application, you can typically repeat steps 2 and 3 to get better results. For some cleaners, you may be able to extend the time it sits, too, though that isn’t recommended for muriatic acid or commercial cleaners with firm wait time recommendations.
You may also want to rinse in between applications. That lets you gauge your results fully before reapplying. However, depending on the cleaner and the results you can see, that may be unnecessary.
After you remove the stains, dirt, grime, and discoloration, it’s time to rinse. Generally, you can simply use a hose to remove the cleaner from the concrete. If you’re using a commercial cleaner, refer to the directions for rinsing recommendations.
With muriatic acid, you may want to neutralize it with baking soda before rinsing. However, refer to the manufacturer’s directions to ensure you use the recommended approach.
2. With a Just Pressure Washer
Prepare the Pressure Washer
First, you’ll need to prepare the pressure washer. What this involves may vary depending on the make and model, so it’s best to review the manufacturer’s directions.
However, what’s typically needed is connecting the spray wand to the washer and the water supply to the device. Select the right nozzle, make sure the washer is set to “off,” and then plug it into a power source.
Clean a Test Spot
If you want to ensure the pressure washer won’t cause damage, choose a test spot in an inconspicuous area on your patio. Start with the lowest possible pressure and keep the nozzle 12 to 24 inches off the concrete.
Sweep the nozzle from side to side steadily using overlapping strokes and gauge the result. If it isn’t removing any dirt or stains, increase the pressure slightly and try again. Continue until you find the right amount of pressure that cleans the surface without causing damage.
Power Wash the Whole Patio
Once you successfully clean a test spot, you can tackle the rest of your patio. When you get near your home or other structures, avoid spraying them directly. The pressure that’s suitable for concrete may damage specific surfaces, including painted siding, glass windows or doors, trim, and more.
Otherwise, use the same technique, pressure, and distance as you did with the test spot. Work on one small section at a time until it’s clean. Then, continue until you power wash the whole patio.
3. With a Pressure Washer and Cleaner
Prepare the Pressure Washer
Get the pressure washer ready for use by reviewing the manufacturer’s directions. Usually, you’ll need to attach the spray wand, choose a nozzle, connect it to a water source, and plug it into a power source.
Before you begin, make sure the pressure washer is set to off. That ensures it doesn’t start up suddenly when you plug it into the power source.
After that, pick a test spot. This lets you choose the right amount of pressure before applying the cleaner, ensuring the cleaner doesn’t sit on your concrete too long. Begin on a low setting, and slowly work up until you get results and are sure the amount of pressure won’t cause damage.
Prepare and Apply a Suitable Cleaner
In many cases, applying the cleaner before you pressure wash is best. It allows the cleaner to break down grease, grime, and dirt or start tackling deeper stains.
Create the needed solution or paste. Then, apply it using a mop, gloved hand, or following the manufacturer’s instructions (if you’re using a commercial cleaner).
If you’re using muriatic acid or potent commercial cleaners, pressure washing while the cleaner is on your patio may not be wise. It can cause potentially harmful chemicals to splash onto you, your yard, and nearby structures.
Review the muriatic acid or commercial cleaner manufacturer’s directions to see if using a pressure washer is safe. If not, use the process for cleaning a patio without a pressure washer.
Let the Cleaner Sit, Then Scrub the Patio
After the cleaning solution or paste is in place, let it sit for 10 to 30 minutes. Then, take a nylon scrub brush and go over the surface, especially to areas with staining or stuck-on grime.
For commercial cleaners or muriatic acid, read the manufacturer’s instructions regarding how long it needs to sit. Additionally, see whether scrubbing is recommended and which technique is best.
Rinse with the Pressure Washer
Once you’re done scrubbing, you can rinse with the power washer. Use an even side-to-side motion, keeping the nozzle 12 to 24 inches off the concrete. Work in small sections, starting near your structure and moving closer to the edge.
If you’re using muriatic acid or commercial cleaners, make sure you review the manufacturer’s directions to confirm that using a power washer to rinse is safe. If not, it’s better to rinse using a hose instead.
Does Simple Green Clean Concrete?Simple Green produces a product specifically for concrete: Simple Green Oxy Solve Concrete and Driveway Cleaner. It’s a potent degreaser that tackles oil, grime, stains, and discoloration. Plus, it’s safe for use with or without a pressure washer and is eco-friendly.
You do need to dilute Simple Green Oxy Solve Concrete and Driveway Pressure Washer Cleaner. The recommended ratio is 1.5 cups of cleaner to 2 gallons of water.
Once diluted, you’re ready to clean. Follow the process in the section above that discusses how to clean a patio using a cleaner.
Can You Clean Concrete with Pine Sol?You can use Pine Sol to clean concrete. Pine Sol is a degreaser, so it works well on oil and many other stains, dirt, and grime.
Pine Sol is a concentrated cleaner, so you need to dilute it before use. The recommended ratio is ¼ cup of Pine Sol per gallon of water, making that the best place to start.
After diluting, you can apply the cleaner, scrub, and rinse. Use the process outlined above in the section dedicated to using a cleaner to handle your patio for more details.
Does OxiClean Clean Concrete?
You can use OxiClean to clean concrete. Usually, the simplest way is to create a solution. Add four scoops of OxiClean to one gallon of warm-to-hot water, stirring to combine.
Once you have the solution, apply it with a mop or stiff nylon-bristled broom. Then, use the broom or a nylon scrub brush to clean the patio. Let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse to gauge the result, repeating the process as needed until the stains and dirt are gone.
Will Baking Soda and Vinegar Clean Concrete?
Baking soda and vinegar will clean concrete. Both work well in specific situations. For example, vinegar is excellent at tackling rust stains, while baking soda handles charcoal stains and can scrub up stuck-on dirt.
You can also use both together if you’re dealing with various issues. For example, you can tackle rust stains with vinegar, apply baking soda, and scrub to handle other dirt.
Is Bleach or Vinegar Better for Cleaning Concrete?
Both vinegar and bleach are solid choices for different situations. Vinegar is excellent for rust stains and general grime. Bleach works better for mold, mildew, and water stains.
If you’re dealing with basic dirt, stick with vinegar. It’s natural and won’t harm your lawn, pets, or household members. Plus, it won’t cause spots on your clothing like bleach.
How to Prevent Stains on a Concrete Patio
A concrete sealer is often the best option if you want to prevent stains on your concrete patio. It creates a protective layer over the surface, preventing materials from penetrating the porous material.
In many cases, you can seal your concrete yourself if you’re comfortable with the process. Clean the patio thoroughly, tackle any existing stains or discoloration, then follow the manufacturer’s directions. If sealing your patio feels like a challenge, contact a professional instead.
Regular cleaning is also critical for combating stains and removing dirt and grime. You can use the processes above if your concrete isn’t sealed currently. For sealed concrete, stick with gentler options like the dish soap solution or cleaners recommended by the sealant manufacturer.
What Is the Best Cleaner to Use on Concrete?
Which cleaner is best to use on concrete depends on the issues you’re addressing. The dish soap, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and pressure washer options above are often considered safer and highly effective. However, bleach, commercial cleaners, and muriatic acid have their place, particularly if you’re dealing with stubborn stains.
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