Concrete Stain Removal: How to Remove 15 Common Outdoor Stains

by Katie Dillon

How to Remove Concrete Stains
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Even the most well-maintained concrete slab patios, driveways and garage floors suffer the accidental stain.

If you entertain outdoors or just use your house like the average person does, making a mess on the concrete is a fact of life whether nature, your guests or you are responsible.

Take a deep breath and don’t stress.

We’ve identified the most common household concrete stains and removal methods to try before turning to more drastic measures.

Before You Begin

1. Don’t scrub concrete with a wire brush as it can scrape it.

2. Be mindful of rinsing oil and other chemical stains into plants and other sensitive areas.

3. Spot test whatever you do on a small, hidden area of your concrete to make sure no further damage will be created by any of these methods.

4. Think about wearing protective clothing and gloves, depending on which method you choose.

5. Concrete countertops require extra precautions, so consult your manufacturer prior to using any of these stain removal tips.

6. Be careful using bleach or other chemicals on colored or stained concrete as it can discolor. Concrete is often colored in shades of grey so check to make sure yours isn’t.

1. Red Wine

If the spill is caught early, blot or wash it into a drain right away.

Add a few drops of tea tree oil and glycerin (can be purchased at a drugstore) to a few quarts of water in a bucket.

Scrub and let sit on the wine stain for 20-30 minutes.

Don’t let it dry too quickly–apply more if necessary.

Scrub again and rinse.

Increase the amount of tea tree oil and glycerin if the stain isn’t lifted.

Alternatively, after rinsing or blotting the initial spill, apply a 1:1 ratio of water to white vinegar and scrub with a sponge soaked with water and dish soap.

Rinse and blot dry.

Apply glycerin with a damp sponge on any remaining stain and repeat the cycle.

2. Potted Plant Stains

How to remove potted plant stains
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They’re so pretty, but moving potted plants around often leaves behind a stain from water getting trapped beneath the pot.

These can be tough to remove so we offer you options ranging from simple to severe.

Using water and dish soap, scrub the stain and rinse.

If this doesn’t work, sprinkle dry detergent over the wet area and let sit for 10 minutes.

Pour hot water (be careful not to burn yourself) over the detergent and scrub well.

Repeat.

Stain still showing?

Cover it with distilled white vinegar and leave for a few hours without allowing it to dry.

Next, try a 1:2 ratio of oxygenated bleach to water.

Apply and let it soak for 10 minutes.

Scrub using more hot water.

Lastly, if this fails, try trisodium phosphate which can be bought at a hardware store, however, keep kids and pets away from it.

Mix 1 cup of trisodium phosphate with 1 gallon of water and leave on the stain for 20 minutes.

If you can, blot it up versus rinsing as it will kill plants.

3. Mildew

It’s unattractive and causes respiratory issues.

Aside from being a health hazard, it’s also slippery.

Mildew often results from moisture trapped by plants covering areas of concrete.

Make sure to keep plants pruned and away from the concrete.

It’s important to kill the mildew and sometimes the sun and ventilation is enough to do that.

Otherwise, you’ll need a mildewcide.

This mildewcide was developed by the U.S.

Department of Agriculture’s Forest Products Laboratory and can be mixed up at home.

Pour 1 quart of chlorine bleach into 3 quarts of water.

Add 1/3 cup of powdered laundry detergent.

Apply with a brush to mildew stains.

Let it sit until the black or green stains turn white, but don’t let it dry.

Rinse off.

4. Moss and Algae

Moss and algae can spread rapidly if not controlled.

Using Simple Green, a scrub brush and a hose can help small areas.

Or, try distilled white vinegar and a scrub brush.

For larger areas, homeowners report success eliminating algae by attaching a liquid fertilizer delivery device to the end of a garden hose and filling it with pool chlorine.

5. Sidewalk Chalk

Clean Sidewalk Chalk Off Concrete
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Even chalk that’s meant to be used on the sidewalk can be difficult to remove.

Using a brush and water, rise off as much sidewalk chalk as possible.

Next, apply Soft Scrub and work in a circular motion.

Rinse.

6. Coffee

You let the dog out first in the morning and trip over the door sill– launching coffee all over the concrete patio.

It happens to the best of us.

Coffee is tannic, like wine, so use a 1:4 ration of glycerin to water on a sponge to scrub and remove it.

Rinse.

7. Crayon

Washable crayons will probably remove with soap and water.

Non-washable crayons are a different story.

Try using an oil-based lubricant or cleaner like Goo Gone or WD-40.

Use a scrub brush or toothbrush to get the crayon out.

Wipe away the crayon and cleaner.

If there’s an oil-like film remaining, use dish soap and water to remove it.

8. Rust

Patio furniture, garden tools and other metal objects can leave a dreaded rust stain.

To eradicate, mix unsweetened Kool-Aid lemonade with hot water.

Scrub and rinse.

Or, pour distilled white vinegar over the stain and let it soak in for a few hours.

Repeat.

Then, scrub the stain with a brush.

Blot occasionally while scrubbing to absorb rust.

Rinse well.

9. BBQ Grease

How to remove oil and grease stains
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If your juicy steak splattered grease on the concrete patio, make a paste of powdered laundry detergent and water.

Cover the stain with 1/4 inch of paste and securely tape plastic wrap on top.

Leave for 24 hours.

Scrub and rinse.

Repeat, if necessary.

10. Oil And Grease

If it’s a fresh stain, grab paper towels and mop up the excess liquid.

Make sure to dispose of them safely.

From here,  you have several options.

Scrub with some dish soap and water using a old towel or nylon scrub brush.

Blot up the excess liquid as it’s not the best thing in the world to rinse it elsewhere.

Another strategy that seems to work well is using kitty litter to soak up liquid.

Cover the area with kitty litter and grind it in wearing old shoes.

Consider wearing a mask to avoid inhaling any kitty litter dust.

Sweep up the kitty litter and rinse the area.

Spray a generous amount of WD-40 over the stain.

Blot up and make sure to rinse the liquid off of the area.

Spray a generous amount of oven cleaner on your grease stain.

Let sit 5-10 minutes and use a high-pressure hose to rinse off.

Repeat if necessary.

11. Berries and Other Dark Fruit

Remove berry stains from concrete
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The sun can dry stepped-on berries into an unsightly stain.

In this case, using soap will actually cause the stain to set.

Mix flour and hydrogen peroxide to form a thick paste similar in consistency to peanut butter.

Cover the stain with the paste in a layer that’s about 1/4 inch thick.

Securely tape plastic wrap over the paste and let sit for 24-48 hours.

As the paste dries, it will lift the stain.

You may need to repeat this a few times to achieve victory.

12. Commercial Salt Stains

This is a stain prevention tip.

If you live in an area where it snows, instead of using commercial salt to melt the snow in your walkways and driveways, use baking soda.

The commercial salt can stain whereas baking soda doesn’t.

13. Leaf Stains

How to remove stains on concrete pavers
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 As pretty as foliage is, the compounds that give it gorgeous color can actually be absorbed into concrete.

Scrub a mixture of dish soap and water on to the stain and rinse it off using high pressure from hose.

It this doesn’t work, try using OxiClean.

Let it sit on the wet stain for about 10 minutes or so, then scrub in a circular motion.

14. Pet Urine

How to remove pet urine stains
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Fortunately, most pet stores carry safe, enzymatic urine removal products and if you have a pet, it’s wise to keep some on hand to tackle urine stains and odor.

First, scrub the stain with dish soap and water in order to remove as much urine as possible.

If you catch the stain early, this might be all you need in addition to some sunshine.

Odor can be further reduced by an application of distilled white vinegar, however, the pet store products are most effective.

Did you know that you can identify pet urine on concrete with a black light?

15. Cigarette Stains

The person who tossed that cigarette butt on to your concrete had better have brought washing soda as a hostess gift.

You can buy washing soda (it’s different than baking soda) or turn your baking soda into washing soda by sprinkling some onto a half-sheet pan (or similar) and bake it at 400 degrees until it loses luster and becomes grainy.

Or, just buy washing soda.

Use a mixture of washing soda and water along with a brush to scrub the stain out.

Your best bet is to diligently power wash and seal outdoor concrete regularly because it is so porous.

The other reason why keeping liquid from absorbing into concrete is important because it puts stress on the concrete, leading to  cracking.

Final Thoughts…

If the above stain removal measures don’t work, contact a professional.

And, don’t panic–concrete stains are a part of life so no one expects it to look flawless forever.

Do you have a common stain & solution that we missed?

Share it with us below…

Katie Dillon

Katie writes La Jolla Mom, a lifestyle site focused on parenting, luxury travel, cooking with kids, home management and local happenings. When not traveling, she lives in the seaside community of La Jolla, CA with her 5-year-old fashionista, dog, and husband. Follow Katie on TwitterPinterest and Google +.

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Comments

  • JH
    August 15, 2013

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I have stained concrete in my bedroom and my shower pan leaked in my bathroom. The moisture seeped up through the concrete in my bedroom a little. How can get the white moisture/water stains up?

  • Tiffany
    August 18, 2013

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I had newly poured concrete and that evening someone spilled champange
    On it. They rinsed it off but in the morning there were stains all I over.
    Will a colored stain cover these Marks?

  • Jerry Hillgartner
    May 26, 2014

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I have a bag of salt for melting ice that leaked
    All over my garage for due to extreme heat and
    I don’t know how to properly remove it.

  • Sharon
    June 15, 2014

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Your article was really informative. My concrete patio has a faux flagstone finish in a light tan. Really heavy leaf drop is a problem I can’t correct as the tree is on common ground. The sprinkler system waters the patio heavily in areas of the leaf drop, causing rust looking stains. Dish detergent and water have helped, but large areas remain stained. Can your suggestions above be used on a faux finish?
    I really appreciate your response, as the expense of the faux finish was significant for a senior on a fixed income. Thanks!

  • Sandy Nrown
    June 22, 2014

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    My side walk concrete is discolored. The area is in a
    very shaded spot. And it gets very little sun. I cant say it is mildew. The spots appear to be very dark. Can you tell
    me what to use to get the concrete looking good. The side walk is about 7 years old, otherwise in great condition
    with no breaks.

  • mike
    June 29, 2014

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    my contractor over spilt some cement on the new driveway they just laid, and now it does not match the new cement. how can we remove the overage as the color is different as is the finish. thanks.

  • Silvana Brescia
    July 1, 2014

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I hope you can help me Katie. I spilled bleach on my new patio and it turned dark. Did the bleach take off the natural finish of the concrete block? What do you suggest I can do?

  • Jason Horrell
    July 23, 2014

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    How to get permanent marker off concrete

  • Donna Busacca
    September 4, 2014

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    please help! tape from an outdoor carpet is stuck on my pavers what do I do to remove it? thank you

  • Diane Duffenbach
    September 13, 2014

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    After removing rust stains on my patio from metal patio furniture I am left with darker areas where the CLR product washed the concrete. Is there any way to lighten these areas?

  • Dave
    September 16, 2014

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I need to remove chlorine spots (pool) from stone patio and from cement
    Thanks

  • Linda Britton
    September 27, 2014

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    we stained our deck and have red-stain drips and a big blob on our concrete pavers….do you know what we could use to get rid of the stains?

  • jim
    September 28, 2014

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Remove stain on concrete driveway left by using Roundup weed killer.

  • jean
    October 17, 2014

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I beed to find a safe way to remove new concrete slopped on old concrete sidewalk.the concrete company was careless in pouring a new concrete sidewalk.

  • Becky
    December 20, 2014

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Can you suggest a means to clean a pool chlorine stain?

  • Coleen
    January 6, 2015

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Hi,
    We bought a home in SW Florida. The driveway pavers are stained a rusty brown. We found out that the water from the irrigation system has high tannin levels and low iron levels. Do you know what I could use to clean this? I suspect that the stains have been there a long time as the previous owner did not clean them. Thank you.
    Coleen F.

  • Steve Richardson
    January 23, 2015

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I have a hard surface cleaning company
    Today I was asked to remove stains on a driveway from the Magnolia tree berries
    I had minimal success , I started with my tile and grout cleaner and agitation with my grout brush. It lighten slightly but did not break it down, It looks kind of like rust, Do the berries contain iron? I even tried wd 40 on a spot. I have a water extraction unit which can product 200+ hot water and 200 psi or more.
    I want to find someting that will react to the stain itself and break it down so the extraction will be more effective
    I have probably 100 stains or more

  • Sam
    January 27, 2015

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I’m going to build a 15 by 25 patio area lakeside at our Lake of the Ozark home. I want to place a portable fire pit there most of the year. In late fall I want to remove that and use the area to burn a great amount of oak leaves we have to deal with. If I have it stained and stamped will the burn residue be removable with a pressure washer?

  • Sharon
    March 24, 2015

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    My very orange soil is soaking up through my patio and creating dull orange spots all over it. The patio is 5 years old and this is coming up through from underneath rather than from above.

  • Diane
    April 8, 2015

    Yes…we have actual stain on our concrete porch from staining logs on our home. What would be the best solution?

  • Dianne
    April 14, 2015

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I have been told to clean my pavers which there is a lot with 1 part chlorine and 10 parts water and broom on wait for 1 hr and hose off. Is this correct and save and will it strip any sealer I have previously put on 6 weeks ago.

  • Hawk Concrete Floor Coatings
    May 25, 2015

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Thanks for sharing 15 tips to remove outdoor Concrete Stains. We also offers Concrete services throught the Westren Australia.

  • Perparim
    June 18, 2015

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Hi! I work in a restaurant as a nighttime cleaner and we have an outdoor concrete floor with concrete tiles. Some of the workers there spilled vinegar into the floor and its hard to come off. The concrete color is orange and i used bleach soap water(hose) and scrubing machine for floor but the stain didnt come of any help please? Shoul i let the bleach soak up for a few minutes, if so how long? And will bleach discolor the concrete?

  • Linda Kotchou
    June 19, 2015

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Yes! I dripped big spots of Miricle Grow Bloom booster on our garage floor and it left big like bleached spots, so I poured white vinigar on it and it made a bigger mess! Is there anything I can do to straighten up this mess?

  • Munoz
    June 24, 2015

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I stained my concrete patio, then used a sealant-wet look and let it dry for 3 days…..as soon as it got foot traffic, it retained all the dusty footprints! I don’t want to be constantly washing my patio…even then, if I wash it, once it dries it has white (dirty) dull spots. if I could post pics I would love to!! help!

  • Peter
    July 11, 2015

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Katie
    Have you ever tried to remove dried-in birdlime (the black stain, not the white) from porous concrete paving and swimpool edging? I do not want to use bleach if possible as the pool is near a stream and a wildlife pond..

  • Shayna
    September 7, 2015

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    We used the vinegar and water method to remove a hard water station on our grey concrete. Now, we have a white stain from the vinegar. Any thoughts on how to reverse the whitening to make the concrete evenly grey again?

  • Joanne
    October 15, 2015

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Yes I unfortunately had some dog poo stains on my new concrete around our new pool & decided to pour distilled white vinegar on it. Well that was dumb! I now have white splatter stains everywhere from pouring onto concrete! Please any advice on how to remove????

  • FABIO GIACOMELLI
    April 12, 2016

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Do you have any tips to remove vinegar stain from concrete?

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