How to Remove Oil Stains From Concrete

May 31, 2023

tools and rag next to oil stain on pavement

Oil stains on your pristine concrete driveway, garage floor, or other outdoor space can be quite an eyesore. Besides tarnishing the appearance of your property, these stubborn stains can become more challenging to remove over time.

If you’ve found yourself in this situation, don’t fret! This guide will help you tackle various types of oil stains using both commercially available cleaning products and DIY solutions, as well as provide you with prevention tips to keep your concrete stain-free.

Types of Oil Stains

As a homeowner, you might encounter various oil spills or stains, ranging from small spills from your car’s engine to bigger ones from garage mishaps. Some typical oil stains you might face include:

  • Motor oil
  • Cooking oil
  • Hydraulic oil
  • Transmission fluid

Each can leave a different type of stain, but the following removal methods can tackle them all.

Common Removal Methods

The methods for removing oil stains from concrete generally fall into three categories:

  1. Absorbents: This involves using an absorbent material like kitty litter, cornstarch, or sawdust to soak up the oil, then sweeping it away. This method might not be as effective for older, set-in stains.

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  2. Pressure washing: High-pressure water blasts the oil off the surface. Pressure washing concrete is a highly effective method for removing dirt, grime, and stains that have built up over time. It can help restore the appearance of your concrete surfaces and improve their longevity and durability.
  3. Commercial cleaning products and degreasers: Plenty of commercial cleaning products, including degreasers, are designed specifically for oil stain removal. These products contain powerful degreasing agents that penetrate and break down the oil molecules, making them easier to wash away. However, they can be more expensive than other methods and may contain harsh chemicals.

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Prevention Tips

While it’s crucial to know how to clean oil stains, it’s even more important to prevent them from happening in the first place. Here are some quick tips:

  • Regular maintenance: Keep an eye out for vehicle leaks and repair them promptly to avoid spills.
  • Use drip pans: Place these under your vehicles or machinery to catch potential leaks.

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  • Seal your concrete: Sealing can prevent oil from penetrating the surface.
  • Use floor/oil mats: Especially in high-traffic areas, mats can provide an extra layer of protection.

DIY Methods and Homemade Cleaning Solutions

If you prefer a more natural and cost-effective approach, try these DIY methods and homemade cleaning solutions:

  • Baking soda and water: Make a paste using equal parts water and baking soda, apply it to the oil stain, and let the paste sit for 30 minutes. Then, scrub the area with a stiff brush and rinse with water.
  • Vinegar and water: Mix white vinegar and water in equal parts, pour the solution onto the stain, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Scrub with a brush and rinse with water.
  • Dish soap and hot water: Mix a few drops of dish soap with hot water, pour it over the stain, and scrub with a brush. Rinse with water.

How to Use Power Washers

Pressure washing can be an effective method for removing stubborn oil stains from concrete surfaces. It works by using a high-pressure water spray to break down and remove stains that have set into your concrete. But to achieve great results without causing damage, it’s essential to use the pressure washer correctly. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Prepare Your Area

​​Clear the area of any objects that could be damaged by the high-pressure water or that could obstruct your cleaning. Cover nearby plants or shrubs to protect them from any cleaning chemicals.

Select the Right Pressure Washer

You will need a pressure washer with a rating of at least 3000 PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) to effectively remove oil stains from concrete. Ensure it has a detergent reservoir if you’re planning to use a cleaning solution.

Apply a Degreaser

Before pressure washing, apply a degreaser to the stain. This will help break down the oil, making it easier to remove. Spray the degreaser onto the stain, and let it sit for about 15-30 minutes (or according to the manufacturer’s instructions), but do not let it dry.

Set Up a Pressure Washer

Connect your garden hose to the pressure washer, ensuring all connections are secure. Fill the detergent reservoir with a pressure washer-safe detergent if your machine has one.

Apply Detergent

Start the pressure washer with a low-pressure setting. Apply the detergent solution to the stain, working from the bottom to the top to prevent streaks. Let the detergent sit for around 5-10 minutes, but avoid letting it dry on the surface.

Rinse Away the Detergent

Switch to a higher pressure setting (but not the maximum). Rinse the detergent off the concrete, moving the spray in a consistent sweeping motion from the top of the area to the bottom. Keep the nozzle at least a foot away from the surface to prevent etching the concrete.

Assess Your Work

Once the surface is dry, check the area. If the stain is still visible, repeat the process. Some stubborn stains may require multiple treatments.

Safety Precautions

Remember, pressure washers are powerful machines and should be used with care. Always wear protective gear, including safety glasses and sturdy footwear. Never point the pressure washer at yourself, other people, or pets. Also, be aware of any electrical outlets or fixtures – water and electricity are a dangerous combination.

Environmental Considerations

Ensure you follow any local regulations regarding water use and disposal of wastewater, especially when using cleaning chemicals. Some regions have strict rules about the runoff from pressure washing.

Poultice to the Rescue

A poultice is a paste-like cleaning agent that can effectively remove oil stains from concrete. It works by absorbing the oil out of the concrete’s porous surface. Here’s how to make and use a poultice for oil stain removal:

Materials needed:

  • Absorbent material (such as granular clay, sawdust, or even cat litter) 
  • Solvent (like acetone or a commercial oil stain remover) 
  • Plastic wrap 
  • Tape 
  • A plastic scraper 
  • A stiff-bristle brush

Step-by-Step Guide:

  • Prepare the poultice: Create a thick paste by mixing the absorbent material with your chosen solvent. The consistency should be similar to peanut butter—thick enough to adhere to the concrete surface but wet enough to effectively draw out the oil.
  • Apply the poultice: Spread a thick layer of the poultice over the oil stain. The layer should be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, and it should extend past the edge of the stain by at least one inch to ensure it covers the entire stain.
  • Cover with plastic wrap: Cover the poultice with a sheet of plastic wrap. This will slow the evaporation of the solvent, giving the poultice more time to draw out the oil.
  • Tape down the edges: Seal the edges of the plastic wrap with tape. This creates an enclosed environment for the poultice to work and prevents it from drying out too quickly.
  • Let the poultice work: Leave the poultice on the stain for 24 hours. This will give it ample time to draw the oil out of the concrete.
  • Remove the poultice: After 24 hours, remove the plastic wrap and use a plastic scraper to remove the poultice from the concrete. Avoid using a metal scraper, as it could scratch or damage the concrete surface.
  • Clean the area: Once you’ve removed the poultice, there may be some residue left on the concrete. Use a stiff-bristle brush and warm soapy water to scrub the area.
  • Rinse and dry: Rinse the area thoroughly with clean water and let it dry. Once the area is dry, you can assess whether the stain has been fully removed. If a stain is still visible, you may need to repeat the process.

Maintaining Your Concrete

Knowing how to remove oil stains from your concrete is a handy skill, but prevention is always the best approach. Regular maintenance and prompt attention to spills will go a long way in keeping your concrete surfaces looking their best.

Remember, each stain is unique. You might need to try more than one method or product before you find the one that works best for you. Don’t get discouraged! With patience and perseverance, you can remove those stubborn oil stains and restore the beauty of your concrete.