Concrete gets dirty gradually, and it’s nearly impossible even to notice the change in appearance. However, with simple cleaning applications, you can make a dramatic improvement to your patio. The best time for a deeper clean is during springtime or early summer when it is warmer, and you can add cleaning the patio to your list of spring cleaning jobs. Cleaning your concrete patio so that you can get outdoors to take advantage of the good weather becomes a top priority as the days lengthen. In this article, you’ll learn how to clean concrete patios without a pressure washer.
Table of Contents
The first thing you will want to do is to remove everything that might be in your way. Move furniture, grills, any decorations or plants. Once clear, use a stiff-bristled outdoor push broom to sweep off the dirt, leaves, and debris from the patio, making the surface as clean as possible before you begin. This helps you avoid spraying any big chunks into the yard, making it harder to clean up later. It is a good idea to put a tarp over any delicate plants and anything else that might get damaged from the spray. Also, cover any electrical cords and outlets.
You will also need a heavy-duty scrub brush, some heavy-duty rubber gloves, eye protection, old clothes and waterproof shoes, a large plastic pail, and a larger stiff nylon-bristle block brush with a handle. If you have grout to clean, it will be handy to have a soft or medium toothbrush. A spray bottle and a hose with a suitable spray nozzle so that you can adjust the water sprays are also essential.
What To Use To Clean Concrete
Be careful with the concrete cleaning products you use as some cannot come into contact with paint, and you also want to make sure that run-off does not go into your garden. Some chemicals can be harmful, especially to animals and children, so maybe a natural cleaning solution is best. A conventional concrete cleaner that used to be favored is trisodium phosphate, which has a very strong base and can cause skin burns, blisters, coughing, sore throat, and burning red eyes.
Similarly, chlorine bleach irritates mucous membranes, can cause eye and skin irritations and is hard on the lungs. Hydrochloric acid is probably the most common chemical for cleaning concrete. However, it is corrosive to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. That being said, you can get your concrete clean with a variety of environmentally friendly, homemade products without the use of harsh chemicals and hired equipment such as a power washer.
DIY Homemade Cleaners
The patio cleaner you choose has quite the job to do to restore your patio to its original, just-laid look, and much will depend on the state of your patio to begin with and what particular marks or problems you need to deal with.
Mildly dirty cement can be cleaned with mild laundry detergent diluted with warm water.
Vinegar is an excellent patio cleaner because of its acidic nature. For a basic concrete patio cleaner, mix distilled vinegar and water in a squirt bottle. The stronger you need it, the more vinegar you add. You could even use straight vinegar if necessary. If you want to make it smell a bit better, try adding several drops of your favorite essential oil.
It is best to work in sections, especially when you have a large patio to clean. Pour enough of your cleaner over the cement you’re working on to get it thoroughly wet.
If the patio is small or not very dirty, spray the cleaning solution over the entire surface and wait for about 20 minutes (but do not let it dry too much) and then scrub with the broom. Spray it off with the garden hose or mop it up with clean water.
More Difficult Marks
Sometimes materials like tar or other thick viscous materials may be quite challenging to remove from the patio. If you have access to a heat gun, this may offer a good alternative to at least remove the offending material. This heat cleaning should be accompanied by a scraping tool that can remove the material while it is being heated up.
A more abrasive choice of homemade cleaner for your concrete patio is using a baking soda mixture. You’ll need two parts baking soda and 1 part bleach. This bleach solution can be made into a paste for smaller stains. Just spread it over the stain, let it sit for a few minutes, and then scrub it with the brush or broom. For bigger stains and high traffic areas, mix equal parts of baking soda, salt, and water. Spread mixture over the entire concrete patio area, let it sit for a few minutes then spray with vinegar. The vinegar increases the effectiveness of all ingredients. Then scrub with a broom. Once you are done scrubbing, rinse thoroughly with water.
There are a couple of good ways to clean concrete stains if a complete clean is not necessary.
Unwanted marks can be tough to get out of concrete since it’s a porous material. The aim is to draw the marks out of the concrete. While kitty litter, sawdust, and other absorbent materials remove fresh surface spills, they do very little to absorb what sinks below the surface. To remove tough stains, you will need some specific concrete cleaners. This may involve making a thick paste of your chosen cleaner (perhaps baking soda and water). The paste should be the consistency of peanut butter. Spread the paste mixture onto the stain and let it sit for a few hours.
Rust Stains On Your Patio
If the rust marks on your concrete surface are not tough, then you can easily use lemon juice as a cleaning agent. There are even lemon concentrates you can purchase.
Oil Stains On Your Patio
The size of the oil stain and its age will determine how difficult it is to remove. Cleaning oil from concrete may take some trial and error to find the best method for your situation. One option is to wash away the oil with a strong detergent and a scrub brush or sponge.
Alternatively, you could use a concrete cleaner or degreaser to loosen and remove the oil. This involves scrubbing a strong alkaline soap into the surface.
You could also apply a poultice that will break down the oil and suck it from the concrete. Used primarily on small stubborn marks, a poultice is made by saturating an absorptive material such as sawdust with a strong solvent such as acetone and then smearing this over the mark. The solvent will break down the oil, and the absorptive material will suck it out of the concrete. Use the hose to rinse everything off.
If you feel inclined, you could let unique single-celled microorganisms eat up the oil. This most recent advancement has the enzymes and oxygen digest the oil and turn it into carbon dioxide and more microorganisms. When the food source (oil) is gone, the microorganisms die, leaving the patio clean and oil-free.
The Clean Patio
Let the area dry naturally before adding any further treatments to it. You may wish to apply an anti-fungal treatment designed for fighting algae. There are plenty of pet-safe options on the market.
Once your patio is clean, protect from future stains and weather by sealing it with a concrete sealer. Use a paint roller to apply the sealer. Make sure you consult a professional before doing so as sealants may change the appearance of your patio. A professional will be able to recommend the best protection for your outdoor area. You can use the phone number or email address of professionals registered with your local trade shop.
When applying the sealant, start from the middle of the patio and roll the sealer out to the edge. Once it’s dry, you’ll have a sparkling clean patio that’s ready for outdoor entertaining.
It is a myth that only pressure washing gives perfect cleaning of your concrete patio. Concrete patios can be cleaned easily without pressure. There are many DIY methods available, including baking soda, vinegar, bleach, and single-cell microorganisms to produce a beautifully clean patio ready for summer use. Sometimes doing things the old-fashioned way is still the best way to do it. Scrubbing away dirt and grime with industrial soap or household remedies, with regular hoses and a lot of elbow grease, will provide an excellent result without the expense of hiring equipment.