How to Remove Oil Stains from Concrete

One of the biggest challenges to acid staining garage floors, driveways and patios is oil stains in the concrete. Motor or vegetable oil and animal fats if the spill is around the barbeque can be very challenging to remove and unless properly removed will prevent acid stain, concrete stains or sealer from penetrating the concrete. Shawna Turner, General Manager, at Direct Colors joins us to talk about how to successfully dissolve oils in the concrete surface before staining and sealing.

You are listening to LISTEN.DIRECTCOLORS.NET podcast: episode 11. I’m Amie Nolen and today we’re talking with Direct Colors General Manager, Shawna Turner about how to remove oil stains from concrete. Let’s get started.

Amie Nolen: One of the biggest challenges to acid staining garage floors, driveways and patios is oil stains in the concrete. Motor or vegetable oil and animal fats if the spill is around the barbeque can be very challenging to remove and unless properly removed will prevent acid stain, concrete stains or sealer from penetrating the concrete. Shawna Turner, General Manager, at Direct Colors joins us to talk about how to successfully dissolve oils in the concrete surface before staining and sealing. Welcome Shawna.

Shawna Turner: Thank you.

AN: Now, tell us why it’s important to remove the oil stains in the first place?

ST: Well, oil can penetrate deeply into the concrete so it’s important to clean up a spill quickly. Once oil has entered the concrete pores, nothing else can penetrate or adhere on top of it. So basically the stain won’t take to the concrete and the sealer will likely bubble up or flake off after application. Not the desired outcome for sure.

AN: How do you know you have oil in the concrete surface?

ST: Water will often bead up over an oil stain or display a rainbow sheen when wet. That’s probably the best way to determine if you’ve got a stain that requires additional cleaning. Sometimes an old oil stain will still be visible but nothing remains in the concrete surface so it’s as ready to stain as it’s going to get at that point.

AN: So what’s the first step in the process?

ST: Clean the concrete with a solution of DCI Concrete Degreaser Cleaner and water. Observe after cleaning whether water is beading up over any oil spill area. If there is no indication of a spill that needs attention, rinse the concrete thoroughly, allow to dry and proceed with staining. If some evidence of beading or oil sheen exists, we recommend another cleaning step.

Purchase a bag of oil absorbent such as Oil Dri ™ and create a mound of the material over the spill area. Pour a solvent like Odorless Mineral Spirits or Xylene over the mound and leave until completely dry. Solvents can generally be purchased at your local Ace/True Value Hardware. Once the solvent has evaporated, sweep the oil dry away and dispose of responsibly. Clean again with the degreaser and water solution, rinse and look for beading. Success is unlikely to be a perfect concrete slab with no signs of the staining. In most cases, the oil stain may still be visible but if there is no beading or rainbow sheen, the concrete should stain and seal successfully.

AN: What if it doesn’t? What then?

ST: Sometimes it does take more than one application to completely remove the oil from the concrete surface. Repeat the steps until the beading and/ or sheen disappear. The process may need to be repeated up to 4 times if the oil stain is particularly large or very old. Vegetable oil, oddly enough, is one of the most difficult oils to dissolve and sometimes requires mechanical abrasion using a floor sander and a 50-100 grit pad to finally resolve. For outdoor concrete in general and garage floors specifically, I recommend the Sprayable Satin Finish Sealer for safety when wet, ease of application and fast repair should damage occur.

AN: What can customers do about unsightly oil stains that might be ready to color but can still be seen in the concrete?

ST: I would definitely complete the floor prep work before placing an order for product. Select acid stain or liquid colored antique colors that will help mask the appearance of the oil so it will be less noticeable overall. Keep in mind that with a few exceptions most concrete is covered with patio furniture, storage or other things that make oil stains less apparent when you begin living on the concrete.

AN: Thank you, Shawna, for joining us today and for the helpful DIY tips. If you have a specific project you’d like advice on, give us a call at 877-255-2656 to speak directly to a technician or complete a free online design consultation and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours.


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