How to Clean Concrete

Concrete is not difficult to clean, but doing it properly is important. Are you doing it correctly?

Because it is long-lasting, low-maintenance, and cost-effective, concrete is a popular choice for basement floors, patios, and roads.

However, this does not mean that concrete is impervious to stains. It will need to be cleaned on a regular basis.

What is the most efficient way to clean it? The answer is not that simple, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The best method for cleaning concrete will be dictated mainly by the type of concrete finish you are dealing with.

Unsealed Floors

Concrete that has not been sealed is merely poured and set. It is the purest kind of concrete flooring, devoid of any chemicals. Although the concrete is physically durable, it can absorb liquids and stains.

This kind of concrete flooring is often seen in outdoor areas, unfinished basements, and garages.

The following are cleaning suggestions for unsealed concrete floors:

  1. Using a brush or vacuum, remove any dirt, dust, or debris from the surface. 
  2. Using a hose, wet the concrete. Scrub the surface with a stiff-bristled broom and a solution of water and trisodium phosphate. This step may also be completed with a pressure washer. 
  3. Thoroughly wash down the concrete floor with water.
  4.  Let the surface completely dry.

After leaving the floor to air dry, continue to remove any stains on the unsealed surface. Find the type of stain you have below to learn how to deal with it.

You can reduce the visibility of old stains that have sunk in deeply, but you won’t always be able to completely eliminate them. Cleaning the floor at least once a week aids in the detection of stains and the prevention of them becoming permanent.

Water pressure spray cleaning concrete

Mildew Stains

Trisodium phosphate is one of the greatest mildew removal methods, so follow the steps outlined above. You can make an effective cleaning solution by mixing two tablespoons of trisodium phosphate, two tablespoons of detergent, and one quart of water.

If this previous method does not work, use a mixture of water and bleach at a ratio of one cup of bleach for every gallon of water.

Rust Stains

For mild rust stains, add distilled white vinegar to the affected area and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then, using a firm brush, scrub it down before rinsing it with clean water.

A commercial rust remover containing oxalic acid is the best way to remove heavier or darker rust spots.

Tire Marks

Before attempting to remove tire marks, wet the area with a garden hose or pressure washer. The stained area should then be cleaned with a concrete degreaser. Allow the degreaser to sit for four hours before cleaning with a stiff-bristled brush. Remove any remaining residue with a hose and allow the area to air dry.

Sealed Floors

Sealed concrete floors are finished with epoxies, acrylic resins, urethanes, or penetrating silicates. As a result, the surface is very stain-resistant and non-porous. For this reason, cleaning sealed concrete is rather straightforward.

The steps for cleaning sealed concrete floors are as follows:

  1. Using a broom or vacuum, remove any loose dirt, dust, or debris from the concrete surface. 
  2. Combine two gallons of warm water and two tablespoons of dishwashing liquid in a big bucket. Abrasive cleaners should be avoided since they can damage the sealant. 
  3. Mop the floor with the dishwashing liquid solution. Mop the floor again with clean water to remove any residue from the solution. You want to completely remove the dishwasher solution so that it does not degrade the sealant over time. 
  4. Allow the surface to dry completely.

If the sealer has faded over time or due to harsh chemicals, request that your concrete floor installer reseal the surface.

man mopping concrete wet strokes

Polished Floors

Polished concrete floors have a glossy surface, depending on the sheen level chosen by the homeowner. It can also be stained to look more like granite or marble. This type of concrete flooring does not require recoats or waxing.

The steps for cleaning polished concrete floors are as follows:

  1. Using a dust mop or vacuum, remove any loose dirt, dust, or debris from the concrete surface.
  2. Mop the surface with a pH-neutral professional cleaner designed for polished concrete.
  3. Depending on the cleaner, you may need to rinse the floor with water. For specific directions, consult the cleaning product’s instructions.

How to Prevent Stains

Avoiding stains is always preferable to hoping that cleaning will remove them.

The following tips will help you avoid the most common stains on cement or concrete surfaces.


A sealant protects your cement or concrete floor from stains and keeps it looking like new. If you plan to sell your home within the next year or two, this method will impress buyers and potentially increase the value of your home.

DIY sealants should be replaced every 2 to 3 years. Penetrating concrete sealants can last up to 20 years and are frequently covered by warranties.

living room interior with concrete floor


The best way to protect your cement against stains is to use a waterproof, removable barrier. This includes using oil drip mats to protect the floor by keeping oil and other seeping substances away. I recommend looking for mats that are non-slip and easy to clean.

To avoid stains and corrosion, patio furniture should be kept on floor mats or rugs. To prevent water damage, invest in a rug that is specifically designed for outdoor use. If water is trapped beneath outdoor rugs and mats, mold and mildew can grow.

Flower pots should not be placed on a patio or front step. Drip trays should be placed beneath planters to prevent dirt and runoff from staining surfaces. Mosquitoes are drawn to the trays after heavy rains, so pour out any standing water and keep the trays clean. 

Manage the Moisture

Moisture, which can etch and discolor cement, should be avoided. Use downspout extensions to redirect rainwater away from the foundation to save your concrete surfaces from flooding.

During the autumn season, clean up leaves and other debris left by storms. If you let leaves pile up on your patio, they may create a breeding ground for mold and mildew.

Caitlyn Koch
Caitlyn Koch has been working in interior design for over 5 years. Caitlyn believes that interior design is more than just making a space look pretty - it's about creating an environment that people will enjoy living in.
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