Get rid of oil residue and pesky driveway stains with these easy cleaning tips.

By Alicia Chilton
November 02, 2020
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A little dirt on your driveway is expected, but the black spots from an oil leak are harder to overlook. Fortunately, you can remove oil stains with a few simple cleaning methods. Learn how to how to get oil off a driveway using common household products, such as dish soap and baking soda. Plus, read up on products specifically designed for tackling tough oil stains on concrete.

Credit: wattanaphob/Getty Images

Must-Know Tips Before You Get Started

An oil leak or spill is problematic not only for your vehicle, but it can also be a headache for your driveway. Those drips and splotches make for unsightly blemishes that detract from the beauty of your home and yard. Removing oil stains from a driveway starts with choosing the right cleaning solution. A variety of household supplies can be used to clean oil spills. However, you might need to call on a more powerful cleaner specially formulated to clean driveways or concrete.

For driveways on an incline, start at the highest point and work your way down so any dirty water and residue doesn’t flow over portions you’ve already cleaned. Keep an eye out for plants and landscaping when using cleaners. Some cleaners provide instructions for protecting plants from runoff and errant sprays. The manufacturer might recommend saturating the surrounding plants, grass and vegetation with water before using the cleaner.

Remember: Oil is flammable. Be diligent with cleaning up spills, and safely discard any materials that have been in contact with the oil.

How to Use Household Products to Remove Oil Stains from a Driveway

Common household products such as cat litter ($10, Amazon), baking soda, dish soap ($4, Target), and even laundry detergent are prime tools for tackling oil stains. Here’s how to use household supplies get rid of oil stains on a driveway.

  1. Absorb Excess Oil: Start by absorbing any oil sitting on the surface of the driveway. The ultra-absorbent properties of cat litter make it an ideal material for this task. Sprinkle cat litter over a fresh stain and let the cat litter absorb the oil. Scoop away and dispose of the cat litter. Rinse off any remaining residue with water.
  2. Scrub Stain: Once the cat litter has absorbed any excess oil, give the stain a good scrubbing with a paste of baking soda and water, then rinse with clean water. Baking soda is a mild alkali that's effective at dissolving dirt and grease.
  3. Lather and Rinse: Formulated to cut grease, dish soap is another effective solution for treating oil stains on a driveway. Squirt some dish soap onto the oil stain. Scrub the stain with a heavy-duty brush. Then rinse away the soap with water. Repeat the process until the oil stain fades.

Keep in mind that tough driveway materials like concrete and asphalt can withstand heavy scrubbing. Don’t shy away from using a little elbow grease and a heavy-duty brush to remove the oil stains.

How to Clean Oil Off a Driveway with Laundry Detergent

If you have powdered laundry detergent ($14, Target) on hand, try this method for treating oil stains on a driveway.

  1. Apply Detergent: Sprinkle powdered laundry detergent over the oil spill. Carefully apply enough warm water over the laundry detergent to form a paste.
  2. Scrub Stain: Scrub the spot with a stiff nylon brush for approximately two minutes, then let it sit for 15 minutes.
  3. Rinse: Scrub the spot for one additional minute, then rinse away the laundry detergent with clean, warm water.

Best Tools and Cleaning Products for Removing Driveway Oil Stains

Tough or old oil stains might require something a little more potent than dish soap or laundry detergent. Hardware stores, big-box home improvement retailers, and even auto shops carry a variety of cleaners designed to treat oil stains. Some concrete cleaners and oil stain removers ($10, The Home Depot) are formulated to be diluted before application, but can also be used full-strength for difficult stains. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper usage.

Power washing is another method for cleaning oil stains on a driveway. If you don’t own a power washer, check your local hardware store or home improvement retailer for rental options. Use a concrete and driveway cleaner ($10, Walmart) formulated for use with a pressure washer. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure the best results.

A good deck scrub brush ($6, The Home Depot) is also a must-have for cleaning stains on a concrete driveway. Wear work gloves to protect your hands as you scrub to avoid scraping your knuckles on the concrete. You should also wear proper safety gear, according to the product's instructions.

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