One of the drawbacks of working on your own car, or parking your car in the garage is the occasional spill of used oil or oil leak that causes a big stain in your nice garage floor. It doesn’t seem to ever come out no matter how much you wash it. I’ve struggled with this so I asked some mechanics that deal with this problem daily to find out how they get rid of oil stains in their concrete garage floors.
So, how do you get oil stains out of concrete? There are several tricks for getting oil stains out of your garage floor which include, brake cleaner and a scrub brush, cat litter, quick cement mix, laundry detergent, and muriatic acid. Some work better than others depending on when you catch the stain and how old it is.
Having a stained garage floor isn’t that big of a deal if you own your house or garage. But if you plan on moving out, and are renting your house, make sure to try these tricks first before losing some of your security deposit if you have a nitpicky landlord. One thing to keep in mind is it is much easier to prevent oil stains in the first place than deal with them after. However, I assume if you’re reading this it is too late for prevention!
There are several different ways you can take care of the many messes that oil leaves behind.
How Do I Get the Oil Stains Out of My Garage Floor?
You hear some crazy hacks about how to get oil stains out of cement floors. I’ve done some research to find as many as I can to help you get those stains out quickly and effectively.
There are five ways to get out the stains that are pretty commonly used methods and they’re all pretty simple to do. None of these take much money or time. If they don’t work out, you might just have to refinish the garage floor (if it bugs you that much). However, one of these methods should work, as long as there weren’t gallons of oil soaking into your cement floor for years.
If you just want the strongest and likely to be the most effective method then go to your nearest hardware store and buy some Muriatic Acid. Follow the instructions on the bottle for diluting with water, if it calls for that, and be sure to wear a respirator and other skin protection while using! The fumes are poisonous and will cause you harm. Make sure to have good ventilation.
Just soak the stains in the Muriatic Acid and then if need be use a stiff wire brush to scrub the oil-soaked stains. It’s really not that complicated. Muriatic Acid aka Hydrochloric acid is basically super strong stomach acid. Click here to read a full guide on how to use Muriatic Acid to clean concrete.
Be careful: Muriatic acid can “etch concrete” making it hard in the future to apply an epoxy coating. Do not sure Muriatic acid if you plan on coating your concrete floor in the future, use one of the other methods below for a less intense cleaning.
Cat Litter & Tide Laundry Detergent
Cat litter works great at soaking up any oil that is still on the surface of the concrete. If you catch the oil stain fast like right after doing an oil change, cover the oil stained area in cat litter and let it sit. Brush it up and then leave a strong laundry detergent (like Tide) covering the stain overnight. People also recommend using some quick concrete dry mix as a substitute for the cat litter. Let it sit overnight after grinding it into the stain with your foot (combine it with a cleaner of your choice to make a sort of paste).
Scrub the stain in the morning with a wire brush and some hot water. Check to see if it is gone when it dries. The longer you let the laundry detergent soak in and sit on the stain the better. People also recommend using powdered laundry detergent and adding a bit of hot water to it and scrubbing it into the stain and letting it sit. Whatever method you choose will work as long as you let it sit, and hopefully get to it quickly before it has time to really soak into the concrete.
Pro Tip: Always keep cat litter in your garage for those unexpected spills. Also, if you know your car has an oil leak and you park it in the same spot every night use a metal drip catch pan to keep the oil from ever getting on your garage floor. The cheap method? Some old cardboard (just change before it soaks through).
Dawn Dish Soap
You may think that this sounds funny, but Dawn Dish Soap is actually what oil spill cleanup teams use to get oil out of animals fur and help clean up oil spills. It is a good oil cutting agent, and cheap. You probably have it in your house right now, and as the first line of attack go hurry up and soak the oil stain in it.
All you have to do is pour some directly onto the oil stain. Let it sit overnight if possible, and work it into the stain with a wire brush or floor scrubber. I don’t know if you need to do it more than once, but it seems like it all depends on how long the oil stain has had time to soak deep into your floor.
There were a lot of people claiming that it works just as good as laundry detergent, however I imagine that these products typically only work if the stain is fresh and not deeply stained. For the deeper stains try something stronger like the Muriatic Acid.
T.S.P. Tri-Sodium Phosphate
TSP is a product you can buy on Amazon, at Walmart, or any paint store. It is a prep cleaner, but it is also safe to use on concrete floors and many people have raved about using it for oil stains.
It is specifically made to take oil and grease off walls before painting. Make sure to follow the instructions on the box for the proper mixing and diluting with water. Some people like to use TSP then hit the badly stained areas with a drill wire brush wheel to really work it into the concrete.
The DO NOT’S of oil garage/driveway stains:
- Do not let it sit before cleaning. Apply some soap, anything you can get your hands on quickly! Time is of the essence.
- Do not use Muriatic Acid if you plan on epoxy coating or sealing your garage floor in the future. Or at least know that you may have to grind off some of your garage floor first in order to get the epoxy to seal.
- Do not breathe in Muriatic Acid or get in on your skin. Use a respirator and coveralls. Click here to read more about how to use Muriatic acid safely.
How To Super Charge All Of These Garage Floor Cleaning Methods
Adding steam and pressure are the two best ways to supercharge any of the above cleaning methods. A good quality pressure washer is worth its weight in gold, especially if you are going to be cleaning your garage or cars often.
Just use any of the above methods and after letting the stains soak grab your pressure washer. Use the proper tip on the pressure washer for your floor finish (so as to not damage it) and get to blasting the oil away. If you can get a steam cleaner or a steam cleaning pressure washer, that would be the best of both worlds. Steam gives a boost to pretty much any cleaner allowing it to more easily break apart the oils.
Do NOT buy a cheap-o one because the second you don’t use it for a week or two it will have problems starting (trust me). If you don’t need it for anything heavier duty than cleaning your floors every now and again just stick with electric. Personally, I always prefer a gas pressure washer because they are the only ones that have the power to really clean the exterior of a house and underneath a really dirty oily car.
Preventing Future Oil Stains In Your Garage
Many automotive shops and home garages that people use regularly to work on cars are coated in an epoxy sealer. This means that the oil will never have a chance to soak into the concrete because it is no longer a porous membrane.
Concrete left unfinished, will be a constant battle to keep clean without an epoxy coating or some other method of keeping the oil off the concrete.
You can either hire a professional company to come and seal your garage floor, which can cost upwards of $3000+ depending on how big your garage is. Or, you can buy a DIY garage floor sealing kit. There are tons to choose from online and many people recommend this brand on Amazon if you want to tackle it.
Pro Tip: A lot of people add what are called “specks” to their epoxy coatings to give it that peppered look. Which is really cool, as seen above in the photo, but it can be a real problem if you’re a professional mechanic. Here is why. It makes looking for dropped parts 10x more difficult as they blend into the floor much easier. Stick with a single colored coating to make finding dropped bolts and nuts easier. Thanks to Jim for that tip!
The biggest problem is that if your garage floor is already coated in oil stains and you have been cleaning it with acid or other strong cleaners often the epoxy sealer may not actually take to the concrete. Meaning it would be a waste of money.
That is why preventing oil stains by coating your garage floor is extremely important. The methods above will work, but just remember an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you plan on working on cars in your garage make sure to coat it ASAP, or at least use some garage floor tiles made to keep oil stains off your concrete.
Why does oil stain garage floors? Concrete left unfinished, is a porous membrane meaning it will allow oils to penetrate and soak into it over time. It may not look porous but if you looked at it with certain microscopes you would see that it absorbs liquids over time. Oil left to sit on your floor will soak in and cause a stain. That is why it is so important with a lot of these cleaners to allow them to sit on the stain overnight.
How do I get oil stains out of my driveway? Muriatic acid, TSP crystals, Simple Green, Degreasers, Dawn Dish Soap, Tide Laundry Detergent, and a lot of scrubbing are all methods to try. To boost your chances of success combine the use of these cleaners with the help of a steam cleaner or power washer.
Is it possible to get oil stains out of my clothes? Sometimes. If it is a bad stain, the absolute best product on the market is Lestoil cleaner. Let the oil stain soak in Lestoil and hot water overnight and use a soft bristle brush to work the cleaner into the stain. Other people have great success using mineral spirits in the same fashion. The same rules apply, the faster you get to the oil stain the more chance you have of success. However, Lestoil cleaner is an old-school heavy-duty cleaner that still has Stoddard solvent in it which gives it a huge heads up over cleaners. Just be careful, it is high-powered! Read my entire guide with all the tips and tricks and different products you can try here.
Best tile system that is easy to install for garage floors?
Racedeck is SUPER popular with both the man-cave type shop guys and even professional shops. Why? They’re super easy to install and it doesn’t matter what your concrete looks like under the tiles. They simply snap together and one person can install a two car garage in less than a couple of hours. You can also do cool tile patterns if you like or just stick with one color for your entire garage.
Pro tip: if you are going to install racedeck or another similar tile system, install some type of floor padding (landscape cloth works as well) to deaden the sound of walking on the tiles. You’ll thank me later. Here is a link to for the best tile flooring system by race deck.