How to Clean a Concrete Patio to Remove Tough Stains

Concrete patios are durable, inexpensive, and low-maintenance, but dirt, debris, and food can blemish these tough surfaces over time. We can help.

Many elements can stain your patio. Regular foot traffic can track dirt, grime, and grease over outdoor cement flooring. Plus, concrete patios are exposed to harsh weather and lots of use during warmer months. This can leave your walkway, cement deck, concrete pavers, and other patio features looking less than ideal. Regular cleaning and maintenance, however, can restore your cement patio and ensure it looks beautiful for years to come.

Whether you are spring cleaning or removing stuck-on stains, here's how to clean a concrete or cement patio easily—with or without a pressure washer.

cement patio black pergola
Paul Costello

How to Clean a Concrete Patio

What You'll Need

  • Broom or leaf blower
  • Sponge or mop
  • Tarp
  • Scrub brush
  • Garden hose
  • Spray bottle or bucket
  • Cleaning solution (see below for options)
  • Protective gear, including rubber gloves, safety goggles, and respirator (as needed based on cleaning method)

Step 1: Remove Loose Dirt and Debris

Remove any furniture, grills, or planters from the patio so that the entire surface is visible. Sweep away loose dirt, debris, or leaves. Cover any nearby plants or landscaping with a tarp for protection.

Step 2: Treat Patio Stains

Water stains, mold, and mildew: Use a garden hose or pressure washer to remove water stains or mildew. If this doesn't do the trick, mix a solution of 3/4 cup bleach and 1 gallon water. Wearing protective gear, including rubber gloves, scrub the area with a brush. Rinse thoroughly with clean water. Ensure the patio is fully dry before putting decorative items or furniture back in place.

Grease and oil stains: Sprinkle sawdust, cornstarch, or baking soda on the stain to absorb any spills. You can also mix baking soda with a bit of water to create a cleaning paste. Scrub it gently into the stain and let it sit for 30-60 minutes. Then wash away the solution or sweep away any remaining powder.

Remember: Concrete is porous. If the oil stain is old, it might have penetrated the surface. Try using a degreaser to remove old grease stains from a concrete patio, following the manufacturer's instructions.

Rust stains: White vinegar is a practical, eco-friendly way to remove rust stains from cement patios. Spray it directly onto the stain and let it to sit for less than an hour to penetrate deep stains. Scrub with a stiff-bristle brush. If the concrete was made to look like stone or designed with a grain, try to brush in line with the original surface to avoid any unsightly scratches. Rinse with water and let it dry. If the stain doesn't improve, repeat the process, or try a concrete rust remover.

Step 3: Clean Patio Floors

Dish soap and water: Dish soap is a degreaser, and it works well to clean oily and grimy concrete. Create a cleaning solution of warm water and few drops of dish soap and apply it to the surface. Let it sit for a while, then mop the patio and rinse it with fresh water. Repeat the process as many times as needed.

Vinegar or baking soda: These natural cleaners work well to clean cement patios with stubborn charcoal or rust spots. Mix equal parts vinegar and water, scrub the patio with the mixture, then give it a good rinse. If stains don't dissolve, try undiluted vinegar. Do not use vinegar and baking soda mixture in a power washer. And be sure to protect your hands, eyes, and nose to minimize any irritation.

Oxygen bleach: Wear rubber gloves. Use a cup to sprinkle the solution over the entire patio. Scrub it using a push broom or soft-bristle mop. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, then rinse it off thoroughly with fresh water from the hose. Never mix bleach with other cleaning agents.

Concrete cleaner or degreaser: These are typically made from concentrated alkaline soap to loosen oil. Although they can be effective for porous concrete, they might not work well on old stains.

Pressure washer: Pressure washers can effectively clean concrete patios and are widely available to rent or purchase. If you are unsure which pressure setting is best, test the power washer on a small area first to see the effects. If you choose to use a power washer, opt for a store-bought solution.

Muriatic acid: This substance is commonly used on driveways or garage floors where oil leaks from a car have stained the concrete. When used carefully, muriatic acid can remove mineral, oil, paint, and rust stains, while also brightening concrete. Be cautious as this acid is dangerous and can kill plants and grass. Use protective gear, including a respirator, to protect against dangerous contact and fumes. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for best practices.

Prevent Patio Stains in the First Place

A concrete sealer is the best option to avoid stains on a cement patio. If you're up for the challenge, apply them yourself using a paint sprayer or roller. Otherwise, call a professional.

Clean outdoor concrete floors annually. This is also a great time to inspect the deck for damage and make any necessary repairs before beginning the cleaning process.

If you're not sure what to use to clean your concrete patio, test a shaded or inconspicuous area to make sure that a cleaning solution won't discolor the patio or etch the concrete. Once you've perfected the method, use protective gear, and take all necessary precautions to finish cleaning the entire patio.

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