How to Clean Oil Stains From a Concrete Floor

black dirty oil on concrete ground
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Ever change the oil on the lawnmower (or worse, your car) and the old oil somehow missed the catch pan and is now on the driveway or floor of your garage? Most heavily used driveways or garages will eventually get some oil stains, though you can minimize the damage by containing and soaking up the oil as soon as it's spilled. Follow this up by treating the stain area with a strong cleaner—the sooner the better. But even if you have deep oil stains caused by slow, gradual oil drips on your concrete, they can very often be removed almost completely by using one or more of the following methods.

Tip

To prevent oil spills from happening in the first place, experienced homeowners often lay down sheets of cardboard to catch and absorb spills when changing oil or mixing oil with gas for use in mowers and other equipment.

How Often to Clean Up Oil Stains

If you can, clean up oil stains on concrete as soon as you spot them. When this is not practical, a thorough annual cleaning, including oil stain removal, can be part of your maintenance routine.

What You Need

For Concentrated Soap Method:

  • Paper towels or rags
  • Concentrated soap
  • Stiff nylon brush
  • Garden hose

For Kitty Litter Method: kitty litter, broom, heavy-duty detergent soap, stiff nylon brush, bucket
For TSP Method: bucket, TSP, eye protection, rubber gloves, stiff nylon brush, hose
For Paint Thinner and Sawdust Method: paint thinner, sawdust, broom
For Microbial Oil Stain Remover Method: microbial stain remover, pump sprayer, stiff broom, hose

How to Remove Oil Stains Using Concentrated Soap

The right soap in the right concentration can be a miracle oil-stain remover—along with some serious scrubbing, that is. One soap that will truly remove oil from concrete is Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Multi-Surface Concentrate. It's a natural-ingredient liquid soap sold in big 32-ounce bottles and is usually diluted for general household cleaning. Other natural soaps may work just as well, but any product should be used in concentrated form when cleaning up oil stains. At full strength, Mrs. Meyer's concentrate is strong stuff, and the vapors may cause the user's eyes to sting a bit.

  1. Soak It up ASAP

    Start tackling fresh oil stains by blotting up as much oil as possible with paper towels or rags. Just lay the towels over the spill, let the oil soak in for a few seconds, and pick up and discard the towels. Don't try to rub the oil "out" because it'll only rub it in deeper or spread it around.

    Warning

    Oil is regarded as industrial waste, so consult your local authorities on instructions for how to dispose of oily paper towels or rags. In most places, these materials should not be added to household waste destined for landfills.

  2. Apply Soap and Scrub the Stain

    Apply the concentrated soap full-strength directly to the stain, Then, scrub vigorously with a stiff nylon brush, such as a heavy-duty tub brush with a handle.

  3. Rinse and Repeat

Rinse the area with a garden hose and nozzle, using a strong stream, if possible. Repeat one or two times, and chances are the stain will be gone. When the rinse water no longer beads or "rainbows" on the concrete surface, the oil is gone.

Alternative Methods

Cat Litter Method

If the oil stain is substantial, begin by sprinkling inexpensive absorptive cat litter on the stain, making sure to cover it thoroughly. Crush and grind the litter into the oil stain with your feet. Let the cat litter sit for an hour to absorb oil, then sweep it up and discard it.

For very heavy stains, let the kitty litter set overnight after crushing, then sweep it up. Wash the area with a heavy-duty detergent soap (or something like Mrs. Meyer's) and a stiff brush, then rinse. Repeat as necessary.

Using TSP

Add 1 cup of phosphate-free TSP (trisodium phosphate), also called "TSP-PF," to a gallon of hot water, and mix thoroughly.

Wearing eye protection and rubber gloves, pour the TSP onto the oil stain and let it soak in for 20 to 30 minutes. Then, scrub with a stiff nylon brush, and rinse with a hose. Repeat as needed.

Oil Removal With Paint Thinner and Sawdust

Mix sawdust with paint thinner until it is damp, then spread the soaked sawdust over the stain. Let it soak into the oil stain for 20 minutes. Sweep up the sawdust and repeat, if necessary. This can be a good first step for heavy oil stains, followed by a cleaning with concentrated detergent.

Microbial Oil Stain Removal

You can also use a biodegradable microbial oil stain remover, such as EATOILS BT200™, which uses micro-organisms to actually eat the oil and grease away. For large areas, apply the solution with a pump sprayer and simply wait for it to consume the oil. This may take a full 24 hours for serious stains. After the solution dissolves away the oil, the area can be cleaned with soap and water.