If you have concrete in your home or shop, and you are tired of looking at plain old grey concrete, you can change things up by staining it. Staining your concrete allows you to seal your concrete and change its appearance at the same time. Before you stain your concrete, you need to make sure that it is nice and clean.
Lots of Contaminants? Grind Down the Concrete
If your concrete floor has lots of contaminants in it, you may need to grind down the concrete. This is only necessary if the concrete has been used for other purposes for a long time. For example, if you have been using your garage space as a shop, and have years upon years of oil and other vehicle fluids spilled all over the concrete, grinding it down may be your best option to clean it up.
Grinding concrete also works well when you have lots of different contaminants to deal with. For example, if you have lots of oil spills, paint, drywall mud and glue on the floor, grinding it down is often easier than trying to find the right chemical cleaners to address the multitude of contaminants on your floor.
To grind off the top layer of contaminants from your concrete floor, you are going to need to purchase or rent a small 4-inch grinder for corners and hard to reach areas. You'll need a larger 8-inch grinder for the larger areas. You are only going to grind down a thin layer of your concrete floor to remove the surface contaminants.
You should wear a breathing mask and eye protection, as a lot of dust will be created during the grinding process. Then, grind evenly across the floor to remove the top layer of contaminants. Hook up your grinders to a shop vacuum to limit the amount of dust that is left behind for you to clean up.
Grinding away a thin layer of your concrete floor will leave you with a fresh new layer of concrete that will be much easier to stain.
Isolated Contaminants? Use Chemical Cleaners
If you only have one or two separate contaminants on your concrete floor, you can use a chemical cleaner on your concrete floor. The type of cleaner you use depends upon the contaminants you have on your concrete floor.
Generally, pH-neutral cleaners are used on clean or sealed floors. They are not used for cleaning up dirt or contaminates.
Acidic cleaners are used to get rid of any stain that can dissolve in acid. They are great at removing efflorescence from concrete. When using acid-based cleaners, you need to follow up with a clean water rinse to remove all the acid. If you don't rinse away the acid, it will continue to break down additional layers of your concrete floor.
Alkaline cleaners work well for cleaning and getting rid of oil and grease. They also work well on hydrocarbon-based stains. Alkaline cleaners are often used to clean up shop stains.
Finally, there are enzymatic or bacterial cleaners. These types of cleaners break down and eat away stains. They work on a wide variety of stains, including hydrocarbon-based stains, protein-based stains and also starch-based stains. They do not require any water and require minimal cleanup after they are applied to your floors.
Smooth Concrete? Keep it Basic
If the concrete is pretty clean already, you don't need to do much to clean it. For clean concrete, you can use basic dish soap and water to clean the concrete. Or you can use a mild pH-neutral cleaner on your concrete floor.
Talk to the concrete specialists at SBS Concrete Aggregate Supplies for advice on how to clean your concrete slab before you stain it. They can help you get the right cleaning supplies to ensure the staining process goes as smoothly as possible.