How to Clean Concrete Floors

How to Clean Concrete Floors

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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 2 - 3 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10-$20

While concrete was once relegated to patios, sidewalks, driveways, basements, and garages, this building material has moved indoors to become a sophisticated option for floors and countertops. Concrete is prized as an exceptionally durable surface. However, it will still get dirty from time to time from dust, debris, and even sticky spills. Unsealed concrete, in particular, can break down faster over the years when rust or mold seeps into its surface. Thankfully, concrete floors are very easy to care for with regular cleanings.

If you have a newly resurfaced concrete floor, it is essential to practice proper care over time to maintain the floor. Whether you're cleaning finished concrete inside your home, refreshing unsealed concrete on your patio, or tackling stains in your garage, there's a simple solution to make concrete look brand-new.

Here, learn how to clean different types of concrete floors in a few quick steps.

How Often to Clean Concrete Floors

Clean interior concrete floors (sealed, polished, stained, or painted) about once every two weeks, or as needed when dirt and grime start to build up. In the garage and on patios or walkways, plan for deep cleanings of unsealed concrete about once a year along with stain removal whenever necessary.

Before You Begin

To protect your floors from damage and clean them effectively, it's essential to know what type of finish is on the concrete. Stains and spills should be cleaned and treated as soon as possible. The following concrete floor treatments are found in homes:

Sealed

Sealed concrete is coated with acrylic resins, penetrating silicates, epoxies, or urethanes, making it nonporous and stain-resistant.

Polished

Concrete can be polished wet or dry to a glossy finish that never needs to be waxed or recoated. The level of sheen can be chosen, and the concrete can be stained to look like marble, granite, or any polished stone.

Stained

If grey isn't your favorite color, there are stains in a wide range of colors to color newly poured or older concrete. The stains penetrate the concrete and are permanent. The finish can then be sealed or left unsealed.

Painted

While concrete accepts stains readily, it is more difficult to achieve a durable surface with oil-based or latex paint. If the surface has been polished or sealed, the paint will not adhere properly, and peeling will occur.

Unsealed

Poured concrete without any additional treatment is unsealed. This leaves the surface naturally porous and susceptible to stains (particularly liquid stains like oil).

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Broom, dust mop, or vacuum
  • Wet mop
  • Bucket
  • Garden hose or pressure washer (optional; unsealed concrete only)

Materials

  • Dishwashing liquid (sealed concrete)
  • Commercial polished concrete cleaner (polished concrete)
  • All-purpose cleaner (painted concrete)
  • Trisodium phosphate (unsealed concrete)

Instructions

How to Clean Sealed Concrete Floors

Since sealed concrete floors are nonporous, they are resistant to most stains, making cleaning very simple. You'll need a broom, vacuum, or dust mop along with dishwashing liquid, a bucket, and a wet mop.

  1. Remove Surface Dust and Debris

    Sweep, vacuum, or dust mop the floor to help prevent scratches from dirt and grit.

    Tip

    Using a robotic vac and mop system like the Yeedi Vac and Mop with Cleaning Station will make caring for indoor concrete floors quick and easy.

  2. Mix a Cleaning Solution and Mop

    Mix 2 gallons of warm water and 2 teaspoons of dishwashing liquid in a bucket or sink. Mop the floor with the solution.

    Warning

    Do not use harsh cleaners, which can break down and dull the sealant. Reseal as recommended by the installer.

  3. Rinse and Dry

    Go back over the floor with clean water and a wet mop to rinse away any soapy residue. Allow the floor to air-dry.

How to Clean Polished Concrete Floors

This type of concrete is the easiest concrete to care for, as it never needs to be resealed. To clean polished concrete, you'll need a broom, vacuum, or dust mop along with a commercial polished concrete cleaner and a wet mop.

  1. Remove Surface Dust and Debris

    Use a dust mop or vacuum to remove dust and debris from the floor's surface.

  2. Clean With Commercial Cleaner

    When soiled with dirt or spills, damp mop with a commercial polished concrete cleaner that is pH-neutral. Most cleaners do not require rinsing, but always read the product directions to determine if it's necessary.

How to Clean Painted Concrete Floors

Painted concrete floors can have sealed or unsealed surfaces. To protect the paint and the sealant, it is important to avoid harsh or acidic cleaners that may damage the finish. You'll need a broom, vacuum, or dust mop along with a mild all-purpose cleaner, a bucket or sink, and a microfiber mop.

  1. Remove Surface Dust and Debris

    Dust mop or vacuum the floors to remove surface grit and soil that can scratch the painted finish.

  2. Mix a Cleaning Solution and Mop

    After removing dust, mix a cleaning solution of warm water and an all-purpose cleaner like Whole Foods Market 365 All-Purpose Cleaner. Use a microfiber mop that is only slightly damp with the cleaning solution. Do not use excessive moisture, which can break down the paint and cause it to peel.

  3. Rinse and Dry

    Rinse the floor thoroughly with a mop dampened with plain water to remove any soapy residue, then air-dry the floor.

How to Clean Unsealed Concrete Floors or Exterior Concrete

Even though it is easy to care for, the unsealed concrete used for garage floors, sidewalks, and patios will look better with a good cleaning. You'll need a stiff-bristled broom or shop vac, rubber gloves, trisodium phosphate, and any necessary stain removers. A pressure washer is optional (and ideal), but the job can easily be completed with a standard hose or a bucket of water.

  1. Remove Surface Dust and Debris

    Start by removing any loose dirt on the concrete. Sweep away any debris with a stiff-bristled broom or use a shop vac.

  2. Pressure Wash or Scrub

    The easiest way to clean exterior concrete is with a pressure washer filled with a solution of trisodium phosphate and water. Wearing rubber gloves, follow the mixing directions on the product.

    If you don't have one, wet the concrete with a garden hose and use a stiff-bristled brush like a push broom to distribute the trisodium phosphate, then scrub debris away.

  3. Rinse and Dry

    Complete the cleaning with a good rinse, ensuring the cleaning solution is thoroughly removed from the concrete surface. Allow the area to air dry fully, which may take about three hours depending on the sun exposure the concrete receives (if outdoors).

Tips to Keep Concrete Clean Longer

Most sealed, polished, and painted concrete surfaces are very hardy and resistant to dirt. If your floors are particularly susceptible to developing a buildup from daily use, keep your concrete clean longer by sweeping them daily and planning for weekly cleanings with water and the cleaner of your choice. Most importantly, your concrete floors will stay clean best when air-dried completely before any members of your household walk on them.

Removing Stains From Unsealed Concrete

Unsealed concrete floors—like those found in exterior walkways, patios, and some garages—are more prone to developing stains than finished concrete. Stains can come from grease, food and beverage spills, tire marks, rust, and mildew. Thankfully, it's easy to remove several different types of stains with the following methods:

  • Grease stains: Remove grease or oil stains by sprinkling the stained area with a layer of cornstarch or dry kitty litter. Let it remain on the stain for at least three days to absorb the oil. It takes time because unsealed concrete is porous and the oil goes very deep. Vacuum away, then repeat if needed.
  • Food and beverage stains: Mix 2 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid with 1 quart of water. Using a stiff brush, apply the mixture and scrub well. If the stain is oily, apply the liquid directly onto the stain and scrub. Rinse well with plain water.
  • Tire marks: Wet the area first, then spread a degreaser over the stains. Let the cleaner work for at least four hours before scrubbing it with a stiff brush. Rinse well.
  • Rust stains: If the rust stains in concrete are light, pour distilled white vinegar on the stains and let it work for at least 30 minutes. Scrub it with a stiff brush and rinse. If the stains are large and dark, use a commercial rust remover that contains oxalic acid.
  • Mildew stains: Wearing rubber gloves, mix 2 tablespoons of powdered laundry detergent, 2 tablespoons of trisodium phosphate (TSP), and 1 quart of water. Scrub the mildewed area with a stiff-bristled brush and the cleaning solution, then rinse well. For extremely heavy mildew stains, use a chlorine bleach and water solution instead. Mix 1 cup of bleach per gallon of water and scrub the area with a stiff brush before rinsing.

Warning

  • Do not mix bleach with other cleaners, as the combination can be toxic.
  • Wear protective clothing (bleach stains cannot be removed) and only use bleach in a well-ventilated space.
  • Protect shrubs and grass from the mixture by carefully applying it away from them or covering them before cleaning nearby concrete.
Article Sources
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  1. Dangers of Mixing Bleach with Cleaners. Washington State Department of Health.