Tips for Removing Oil Stains from Your Garage Floor

removing oil stain on garage floor

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 sponsors).

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.

cleaning garage floorBe 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, add more degreaser and a little water and scrub again.

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 overnight.  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 or brake cleaner 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 week 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 and sealers.  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 to protect it from anymore spills or drips.  You can also elect to put down a garage oil mat as well to make your concrete that much easier to keep clean.


  1. Benny D. says

    My two cents? As someone who works with cars in his free time I honestly decided it’s easier to just purchase professional oil cleaning materials. Why put twice as much work into scrubbing my floor as I put into my actual hobby? Investing in real absorbent products has been worth every penny. Stuff like SpillFix works really darn well – cleans up the spill AND practically eliminates the oily leftovers that leave slippery stains. Highly recommended for anyone who deals with oily or liquid spills on a regular basis!

    • Shea says

      Hello Benny. We have to agree that when it comes to cleaning up an oil mess, absorbents work wonderfully. Being proactive with a probable oil stain is so much easier. The problem however is that not all absorbents like these work well at cleaning up oily messes that may have been in the concrete for a long period of time. We are however currently testing a new product that is a great absorbent and degreaser at the same time. So far we are highly impressed and hope to be releasing an article on this product soon.

  2. Mark Barnes says

    I recently found a product that removes oil stains at Auto Zone. Oil Vanish Oil Stain Remover. It is simple to use and works fast.

    • says

      I am in process of coating my concrete garage floor that
      oil is embedded in areas of the floor. I have applied the
      kerosene along with the portland cement to get rid of
      the oil,I plan to leave on the floor 7 days. My question
      can I add additional kerosene to the portland cement.
      after one day it does not appear to doing any good. thanks for any help

      • Shea says

        Hi Lester. That is why it is recommended to leave the portland cement on for days. It takes time for it to work. The idea is to soak the spot with the kerosene first so that it has a chance to seep into the concrete. Once it’s been on for a while and while it’s still wet, apply the portland cement and then cover it up. Make sure you apply enough that it doesn’t all turn wet. If you feel you didn’t apply enough kerosene initially, sweep up the cement first and then repeat the process.

  3. Laurin says

    I’ve tried many types of cleaners but had the easiest fix with kitty litter BUT, with a little different application. I soak up what will come up over night, the next morning clean it up and then take a little more, drop it on the spot and with my work boots I stand on it and grind it into the spot. The littler powders and presses into the oil. I wait for a bit and clean up with a little water. It’s cheap and easy- don’t knock it till you’ve given it a go!.

  4. Greg says

    I work as a Surface Prep Specialist for a major equipment distributor. I’m looking at a job for a customer and have encountered a lot of oil on hard trowel concrete. What are your thoughts on enzyme treatment to remove oil that has penetrated deep?

    • Shea says

      Enzyme treatment can work well Greg if you have the time for it as it takes a while to do its work. Generally oil on a hard troweled surface does not penetrate very deep unless it has sat for years. If you are grinding the surface, many times cleaning the oil with a strong degreaser first and then grinding will eliminate most of the oil.

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