Having oil stains on your driveway can make it look unkempt and uncared for. Plus, those stains can also be slick in some cases, even if they have been there a while. Because of this, it is a good idea to know how to remove old oil stains from concrete.
You can remove small oil stains from concrete with detergent or vinegar and a scrub brush. If that doesn’t work, you can use an absorbent material like cat litter to absorb oil. Then, use a commercial concrete cleaner or degreaser and rinse thoroughly.
In this article, you will learn several methods to remove old oil stains from concrete. It also has advice about cleaning up new oil spills and ways to prevent oil stains from forming in the future.
- Are Oil Stains Permanent on Concrete?
- What to Do When Oil Spills on Concrete?
- How to Remove Old Oil Stains from Concrete
- Best Oil Stain Remover for Concrete
Are Oil Stains Permanent on Concrete?
You may have heard that oil stains can be a permanent blemish on your concrete, but that is not true. Sure, they can be hard to remove sometimes, especially if they have been there for a while, but they are by no means permanent.
In some cases, a homeowner may believe that the oil stains on their concrete driveway or in their garage are permanent because the strategies they used to attempt to remove the stains were not successful. However, if you know exactly how to remove the oil stains, it should not be too much of a problem with the right products, cleaners, and methods.
Furthermore, the best way to prevent oil stains from becoming a huge hassle is to clean them as quickly as you can. This will prevent them from setting, making it much harder to completely remove the eyesores from the surface of the concrete. Knowing how to respond as soon as oil spills on your concrete can help you effectively clean up the mess, whether a small spill from a lawnmower or a large puddle from an accident while changing your vehicle’s oil.
What to Do When Oil Spills on Concrete?
As soon as the oil spills on your concrete, immediately try to clean up as much of the liquid as you can. It is also easiest to remove the stain right after you clean up the oil spill before the oil seeps and sets into the concrete or spreads over a greater area of the surface.
If the oil spill is small, somewhere under 6 inches in diameter, it should not be very hard to use a rag to wipe the excess off the concrete. When doing so, just make sure that you do not force the oil down into the porous concrete. It can also be challenging to avoid spreading the oil, making the potential stain larger.
If a rag doesn’t work because the spill is too thin and you are only making the problem bigger, then you can also use a large scraper and place it at around a 45-degree angle with the edge of the blade lightly touching the concrete surface. Then, slowly force the oil in one direction. This can make it thick enough to remove using a rag.
If you want to completely avoid using a rag that could push the oil farther into the concrete or spread the spill, you can also use paper towels. Just lay doubled paper towels over the spill and they will soak up much of the excess fluid. It may take a lot of paper towels to do this, but it can be effective for reducing the thickness of the oil spill.
After this is done, you will still be left with a slick, wet stain on your concrete. The best method to deal with the remaining stain will depend on certain factors, so this article provides you with various ways that you can use to remove the rest of the oil and the stain left behind.
How to Remove Old Oil Stains from Concrete
There are a lot of effective methods to remove oil stains from your concrete surface. Some are better for wet spills, while others work with dried stains. In addition, some work better than others for the age of the stain, how big the stain is, and other elements.
We ordered this list of methods starting with the easiest and cheapest options. Many of the first strategies are done with everyday household items like detergent or vinegar. There are also options using other items that you may have already, like Coca-Cola or WD-40.
If the stain is too tough and resilient, there are some great products designed for concrete cleaning and oil stain removal. They contain degreasing chemicals or other compounds that work wonders on oil stains.
It is important to note that regardless of the method that you choose, it is best to try it in a location that is not easily seen. This will allow you to see if the method will change the color of the concrete or cause any other issues.
1. DetergentThere are two different types of detergent that you may find effective. The first is dish soap detergent. While dish soap may not be the first thing you think of when you hear the word “detergent,” it can use emulsification to mix with the oil and pull it away. Next, mix a solution using water and dish soap and then scrub it directly on the stain. Then, after cleaning it and washing it off with water, you may find that the stain is fainter or even eliminated.
The other detergent method utilizes powder laundry detergent. If you do not already have powder laundry detergent at home, just buy a cheap brand at the store. Sprinkle it generously over the oil spill. After you have a good layer of powder over the stain, apply a small amount of warm water over the powder to make a paste.
With the paste, use a scrub brush to work it around the stain. It may take a little while to be effective, so wait for 15 to 20 minutes before messing with it again. After that, scrub the spot one more time and rinse away the paste and any other remnants with water.
2. Kitty Litter
Cat litter is highly absorbent, which makes it an excellent choice for stains on your driveway that are wet or moist. While kitty litter is typically the best option for this method, you can technically use anything as long as it is absorbent enough, like sawdust or cornmeal. This can be used on large oil spills, but it is still best to remove excess oil first.
You can use a lot of cat litter on and around the area with the stain. After you have a thick layer of litter over the stain, use a short 2×4, brick or another solid object to grind down the litter pellets. This ensures that the granules are optimally absorbent and that more of the litter touches the wet oil to remove it.
After that, let it sit for around an hour if the stain is new. If the stain has been there a while, you may have to wait 24 hours for the litter to fully soak up the liquid. Finally, sweep or clear away the litter. This method can also be combined with another method if there are still remnants of a stain, but it is a good first method to try.
3. Baking SodaBaking soda works to absorb the oil, but it also acts as a cleaner. The effectiveness and the affordable cost of baking soda make it one of the most widely used options to remove a stain. Sprinkle the baking soda over the oil stain until there is a complete, thick layer over the affected area. Then wait a half hour or so.
Use a bristle brush to clean away the stain and work it around the center area. Wash off the rest of the baking soda. If you notice a difference in the darkness or color of the oil stain, then that means it worked some. This method can be repeated as necessary and may continue to fade the stain each time.
4. VinegarVinegar can also work well because it acts as a natural degreaser and is easily found at the store for an affordable price. It isn’t super aggressive for the most difficult stains, but it is certainly worth trying.
The best way to use vinegar to clean oil stains is to mix it with some other ingredients. Use 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 cups of water and ½ to 1 cup of washing soda and a small amount of dish soap. You can double or even triple this recipe if necessary. You can also work with the formula to see what works best for you, but the washing soda and vinegar will cause a chemical reaction that is fantastic for cleaning away difficult stains.
Pour the solution over the entire area and let it soak for 20 to 30 minutes. After a half-hour, use a scrub brush to work it around a little before cleaning off the remnants of the solution, as well as some of the dissolved oil that will no longer be an eyesore on your concrete.
5. BleachBleach is another household option that may be able to remove some stains from concrete as well as dirt and grime. Often, this is good because oil stains can sometimes attract contaminants, making it hard to clean on and around the stain.
It is best to make a moderately potent combination of bleach and water and put it into a spray bottle, but you can also put bleach and water directly on the concrete. A spray bottle will help you control the amount of bleach and prepare the area for a more powerful cleaning method like power washing.
Be careful not to get bleach on any plants or animals because it can harm or kill them. If you do not want to use a potent mixture of bleach, you can reduce the amount of bleach and add dishwashing detergent instead. The bleach and detergent together are often great for removing even very old and tough stains.
6. WD-40You may think that since your driveway is not squeaking, you should not use WD-40 on it, but the useful product can also be good for removing stains. This is because it has solvent properties that help to dissolve oil and pull it away from the concrete. It also has water-displacing qualities that help it to get in between the oil to loosen the stain.
Spray a lot of WD-40 onto the spot with the stain. Wait 20 to 30 minutes to ensure that the compounds and chemicals penetrate the oil and seep into the pores. Then, just wipe the area with an old rage. Keep in mind that it can be very slick, so be careful and try to remove every last drop of WD-40.
7. Coca Cola
Since Coke and any other cola drink is highly acidic and carbonated, it can be good for losing dried oil that stains concrete. The cola needs to be at room temperature to be most effective and it can take quite a bit of the delicious sugary drink to remove a stain.
For smaller stains, a single 12 ounce can of cola is probably sufficient, but it can take two or even more cans of Coke to do the trick for larger stains. Just be sure that the coke stays on the oil stain and does not thin out and flow away from the area.
Coke will take a while to work and it is best to leave it alone for at least a couple of hours. When you clean it up, you can use a scrub brush to work it a little more before using a mop to soak the remainder up. Be sure to remove every last drop because the sugar can attract flies, bees, and other pests.
8. Pressure WasherA pressure washer can remove some stains, especially if you use it after using one of the other scrubbing or degreasing methods. However, the pressure washer does need to be relatively powerful and we recommend using one that is 1700 psi at the very least. 2000 to 3000 psi is preferred.
Put a small amount of detergent into the pressure washer before you begin to spray the stain. Move in a linear direction at constant pacing. The nozzle needs to be the same distance from the surface of the concrete and the location of the stain the entire time that you are spraying. This will prevent streaking.
You can allow the detergent and water to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before using plain water to scrub it off. You may find that the area looks newer than the rest of the concrete because it is much cleaner. If this is the case, you can either leave it or choose to pressure wash the rest of the concrete driveway.
9. PoulticeThis is one of the most effective mechanisms for getting oil stains to come out of concrete and you can either buy poultice or make your own. There are different ways to make a poultice, but it involves using an absorption compound and liquid chemicals and agents to pull the oil out of the concrete pores.
One way to make poultice is to use sawdust or diatomaceous earth (other absorption agents may also work). First, make sure that you have eye protection before beginning. Dissolve trisodium phosphate into the water using 1 cup of TSP per gallon of water. Then, mix the TSP and water solution into the absorption agent until it is thick and pasty. Next, spread it over the stain and wait at least 12 hours while it dries. Then, sweep away the dried poultice and wash the area.
You can also make the poultice solution using baking soda or flour. Combine it with acetone and spread it evenly across the stain. Again, after waiting for 12 to 24 hours when it is fully dried, sweet it up and rinse it off.
10. Concrete Cleaner or Degreaser
For the most stubborn stains, there are plenty of products designed specifically for cleaning and degreasing concrete or for removing oil stains. Each one has its directions for dilution and use, but many of them are quite aggressive and can remove even the most difficult stains that have been there for years.
Typically, you will want to wash off the area with water first; then you can scrub in sections using a soft bristle brush and the product you bought (you can find some of our favorites later in the article). You want it to soak for around 5 minutes for each section without letting the cleaner dry. Then you can rinse that section and move on to the next until you have thoroughly cleaned the entire area.
You can also use a pressure washer with these concrete cleaning products. Make sure that you dilute it correctly before putting it into the chemical tank on a pressure washer. Work in small sections, always keeping the nozzle the same distance away from the stain and the surface of the concrete. Then rinse away any residue or grime.
How to Prevent Oil Stains on Concrete
The easiest way to prevent oil stains is to not spill any oil at all, but that isn’t reasonable and if you change the oil in your car, lawnmower, or other tools, then you are bound to spill at least some oil at some point. You can use a tarp under you when changing the oil to prevent any contact with the concrete.
Also, cleaning the oil up as soon as it spills can help you prevent oil stains. However, you may still have to use one of the methods to remove the fresh stain but have wider options to choose from when it is wet (like cat litter, for example).
The best way to prevent oil stains on your concrete is to use a concrete sealer with oil-repelling properties. There are many options to choose from, like acrylic sealers, epoxy coating, and urethane coatings. The best will provide a complete seal and never allow even a minuscule drop of the oil to make contact with the concrete underneath.
Best Oil Stain Remover for Concrete
If you need to remove stains from your concrete, but the household methods are ineffective, you need to know what products are the best for removing those difficult and old oil splotches.
Oil stains on a driveway or other concrete can look trashy and decimate your home’s curb appeal. There are plenty of methods that you can try to exterminate those stains. For example, household items like baking soda, detergent, and WD-40 can all help remove the stains. Still, there are also products designed for this specific purpose that can remove even the toughest stains from the face of your concrete.