Oil stains on garage floors are an eye sore and the enemy to anyone that likes to maintain a clean garage or driveway. With all the technology available in cleaning products today, you would think that removing stains would be a thing of the past. Unfortunately though, concrete is a very porous medium and likes to absorb oil like a sponge. If allowed to sit for a while, it will soak into the concrete and do a great job of frustrating the efforts of even the most determined to remove it. Fortunately for us however, there are a few highly successful methods for removing even the toughest of oil stains from our garage floor.
If you have an oil stain that is fresh or fairly recent, one of the best cleaning agents to use is Tide laundry detergent. If you seem surprised, just watch the next Nascar race and see what type of product they use to clean up oil spills – it’s Tide ( well it used to be until they changed sponors).
Start by blotting up any heavy residue that may be on the surface and then wet the stain as well as the surrounding area. Oil that is freed from the cleaning process can migrate and cause a secondary stain if you don’t do this. Once that is done, mix a strong solution of the detergent with warm water in a bucket. Pour it on the area to be cleaned and then sprinkle more detergent directly onto the oil stain itself. Use a good stiff bristled nylon brush and start scrubbing away. Never use a wire brush. The metal in the brush can turn the concrete black and damage the surface.
Be sure to let the soapy solution sit for a few minutes but do not let it dry. Letting the mix sit allows it to penetrate into the pores of the concrete and emulsify with the oil. Once ready, use your garden hose with a high pressure nozzle to rinse away the solution. The water pressure helps to lift the emulsified oil out of the pores and remove the stain. This method works well for most oil stains in preparation for your garage flooring of choice.
For more stubborn oil stains or stains that have sat for quite a while, you will need to purchase a strong concrete degreaser and some kitty litter. These two products together work well at cleaning your garage floor by breaking down the oil, thus releasing it from the concrete, and drawing it up out of the concrete. Start by wetting the area to be treated and then pour the degreaser directly onto the stain. Do not dilute it beforehand. Scrub the area real well and then let it sit for at least 15 minutes. This allows the solution to work its way into the pores of the concrete. Do not let it dry. If it starts to dry before the time is up, repeat the process.
Now, while the area is still wet, pour a liberal amount of kitty litter directly onto the stain and start grinding it into the stain with the soles of your shoes. Kitty litter is a natural poultice and will work by drawing the solution out of the concrete and absorbing it. Let it sit for at least a day. Make sure that you have enough kitty litter on the garage floor to absorb it all. If it all turns dark from being wet, it will stop working. The next day just sweep up the kitty litter and your stain should be gone.
Sometimes for stains that have been in concrete for years you may have to take a tougher approach. This is only recommended if you have tried everything else. Using the above method, you will want to use a solvent like kerosene to pour onto the concrete. The solvent does a good job of soaking into the concrete and breaking down the oil. Fumes from solvents can be very flammable so make sure you turn off any pilot lights or open flames before you do this. Once it has soaked into the concrete, cover the stain with a coating of pure Portland cement. Do not use premixed concrete or mortar mix. Portland cement is a fine hygroscopic powder that will absorb the oil. It’s best to let it sit for a few weeks or more to work properly. You can cover it with a garage floor mat or cardboard if you like while it sits. When ready, just sweep it up.
Note: One method of removing oil stains that you will find on the internet is the use of muriatic acid. Do not do this! Muriatic acid is used to profile concrete by breaking down the top coat of the surface for epoxy coatings. If used to remove oil stains you will still have oil underneath and a weakened concrete surface that will look different than the rest of the garage floor.
One product that we can recommend that does a great job of removing smaller embedded stains is Pour-N-Restore. It’s made with a strong citrus degreaser and a non-leaching absorbent. You just pour it on the stain, let it sit till it dries to a powder and then sweep it up. It works real well for those spots on your garage floor where your car may have been dripping oil. What’s nice about it is that you don’t need anything other than a broom and dustpan to use it.
Just remember, any oil stains that have been on your garage floor for a period of time may still leave a faint shadow or outline of where the stain once was. If you are quick to treat them however, you shouldn’t have any evidence of a stain being there at all. Once all the stains are removed, now would be a good time to take some preventative measures to seal your floor from anymore spills or drips and make your concrete that much easier to keep clean.