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How To Remove Oil Stains From Driveway

18 January 2022

One of the biggest pains for driveway owners is oil stains. While most people will be happy to accept a little bit of dirt now and again, oil stains are a whole different story. Not only do they look pretty unpleasant but they can also affect the integrity of the driveway itself. And they can't be removed with just a hose. But don't despair. Removing oil stains isn't an impossible task after all and you can even get the job done using common household products.

Why Does Oil Cause Stains On a Concrete Driveway?

Unsightly oil stains are different from other types of stains. And it's not just driveways that it can stain. Most people have had the experience of getting oil on a piece of clothing that won't come out even when it's been put through the washing machine. So why does oil leave such permanent stains? It boils down to it being hydrophobic (repels water) so it won't be lifted away with normal cleaning with water. So this can make it seem like removing oil stains is impossible but it isn't always.

How To Remove Oil Stains From Driveway

Photo Credit - Adobe Stock

So the worst has happened. You've had an oil leak from your car or your lawnmower and it pooled onto your concrete driveway or garage floor. There is no need to panic! Read on to find out what you need to grab from your house to fix the problem as quickly as possible.

Before You Start

Some of the cleaning products that you might use to deal with oil spills could damage your plants or grass, so it can be a good idea to soak them with water before starting to remove oil stains. If your driveway is on an incline, it can be a good idea to start from the top. If you start from the bottom when you get to the top, dirty water and oil could flow down to the area you've already cleaned, and no one wants to have to do it twice!

And remember that oil is a highly flammable substance, so if you use a method that requires rags or paper towels, you should make sure to dispose of these as soon as possible after you're done.

Method 1 - Laundry Detergent

Photo Credit - Adobe Stock

This method works best on newer, smaller oil stains so if you happen to be lucky enough to catch the spill as soon as it happened, this can be enough to stop the problem before it starts.

Laundry detergent (including powder detergent) is a good option for removing oil stains because it contains surfactants and often a mild alkali. These are molecules that increase the ability of water and other substances to mix which makes it effective at dissolving dirt as well as oil. Remember that oil is hydrophobic so a surfactant can help to lift it even when it wouldn't naturally.

If you are using powdered laundry detergent, you should mix it with warm water to create a paste which you can then apply to the oil stain. Leave it to sit for 30 minutes and then scrub it with a stiff wire or nylon brush to remove any remaining residue.

If you are using a liquid laundry detergent, you can directly pour the solution onto the stain and then go through the same scrubbing process with a bristle brush. Finally, you should rinse the excess oil and laundry detergent off with a hose. Once it's dry, you'll be able to see if there is any oil residue left and whether you need to treat the oil stain again.

Method 2 - Cat Litter

If you happen to own a cat, you'll probably have a couple of bags of kitty litter lying around the house. What you may not know is that, as well as being useful for cleaning up after your feline friend, cat litter can also help you with treating oil stains on concrete.

It works because kitty litter is designed to be a highly absorbent material. This can be achieved in a variety of different ways using different materials. The cheaper cat litters use absorbent clay, sometimes with baking soda and other ingredients included. More expensive cat litter sodium bentonite (which clumps) or silica gel pearls.

For getting rid of oil stains, you are actually better off using the cheaper absorbent clay because you don't want it to clump up. You can sprinkle cat litter over the oil stains on your concrete driveway and leave it to soak up the oil for 30 minutes for a small stain or overnight for a larger oil stain.

Next, use a sweeping brush to clean up the litter and then get stuck in and give the area a clean with a hard scrub brush and some detergent or dish soap, then rinse. You may need to repeat the process for more difficult stains.

Method 4 - Baking Soda

Photo Credit - Adobe Stock

Baking soda is a go-to for getting rid of oil stains from clothing but it can also be an effective method of removing oil from a concrete surface. Baking soda works to remove oil because it has ultra-absorbent properties. It is more effective for oil leaks that are still wet.

The first thing that you need to do is create a paste of baking soda and warm water and apply it to the oil stain. Leave it for 30 minutes or let it sit overnight if it is a particularly large stain, then get in there with a stiff brush and some dish soap or even laundry detergent and give it a scrub. You may need to put in some elbow grease to remove the stains from your driveway but if you do catch it soon enough and it's a fresh stain, it shouldn't be too difficult. Finally, rinse with clean water.

Method 5 - Oven Cleaner

Oven cleaner is designed to clean oil and grease from your oven and there's no reason at all why you can't take it outside and use it to clean the oil from your driveway. Oven cleaner can be a great option for porous concrete because it will effectively be absorbed into all the little holes.

Simply spray the oven cleaner onto the stained area and make sure that it is completely saturated. Then leave it for 15-30 minutes and get to work with a scrub brush and some dish soap or detergent to get rid of as much oil as possible (you may need to use some pretty heavy scrubbing). Finally, use a hose or pressure washer with clean water to rinse the area. Remember to use eye protection when working with chemicals.

Method 6 - Poultice

If you've had no luck using the previous methods in this list, you may need to take things up a notch and use something a bit more heavy-duty to remove the oil stains from your driveway. One effective solution is to create your own poultice.

The most common poultice to make to remove oil stains from a concrete driveway is sawdust and paint thinner. The sawdust works by absorbing the oil in the same way as cat litter. The addition of the paint thinner (lacquer thinner would also work) adds an extra element to tackling oil stains. Paint thinner is used to remove or dissolve oil paint, so the logic behind using it to remove oil stains on concrete makes sense.

Mix the sawdust and paint thinner together to create the poultice and then carefully apply it onto the oil stain and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Then use a sweeping brush to remove the sawdust and hose off the area with water. You can then go back in and use a stiff nylon brush and dish soap or detergent to clean it thoroughly, then rinse.

Method 7 - Commercial Oil Cleaner

Sometimes stubborn stains require you to go in with something a bit stronger and there is a range of commercial concrete cleaner options on the market to use as oil stain removers. You can pick these up online or from a local hardware store.

These cleaning solutions are usually made of a concentrated alkaline soap that works by overcoming oil's hydrophobic qualities. This helps to remove oil stains from even tough driveway materials like concrete, so are perfect for stubborn oil stains as well as large stains. You should always follow the manufacturer's instructions when using a commercial cleaner like this. Don't forget to rinse thoroughly afterwards.

Method 8 - WD-40

Photo Credit - Adobe Stock

This is another stronger method for larger oil spills that could cause tough stains and it works better while the oil spill is still wet. The first thing you need to do is use some paper towels to soak up as much excess oil as possible.

Next, you should spray the area with WD-40 and let it sit for 5 minutes then wipe it back up with some old rag. Finally, use dish soap and a heavy-duty brush with stiff bristles to scrub the area and then pour boiling water over it to rinse off any excess.

How To Remove Oil Stains From Driveway - The Bottom Line

Needing to clean oil from your driveway is a common problem for many householders and it can feel very disheartening when a stain is difficult to remove. Thankfully, you can easily clean oil from even tough surfaces like concrete using nothing more than common household products and a heavy-duty brush (with a good scrubbing), as well as a bit of hot water.

While you are here why not visit our growing blog section and read some of our fantastic pieces covering the Pros And Cons Of Sealing Concrete Driveways and When To Seal Stamped Concrete!

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