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How to Clean Concrete Patio

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Patios certainly see much wear and tear from grease, human traffic, moss, mold and mildew and other natural buildups. Unfortunately, as opposed to a blacktop, concrete patios show all wear and tear very clearly on the surface, resulting in an extremely dirty, stained, and unappealing patio.

Fortunately, there are countless products and DIY remedies to help you easily clean a concrete patio. Read on to learn how to clean your concrete patio using the best cleaning agents and easiest method.

The cleaning agents mentioned here range from inexpensive DIY products you most likely have at home to pricier brand cleaning products. Luckily, this process is simple and only requires the most basic of tools. 

scrubbing patio stones

Get Your Cleaning Equipment Ready

Concrete is an exceptionally porous material. So, when you have a concrete patio, it is much easier for the surface to soak up car oils, gasoline, organic matter, and other elements that could easily dirty and stain the surface. To combat these tough stains, we’re going to need some tough tools. 

To start, grab these items:

  • A friend, if necessary, for moving furniture
  • A regular kitchen broom
  • A stiff-bristle scrubbing brush with a long handle (avoid metal bristles)
  • Concrete or paver cleaning solution of your choice
  • Your garden hose
  • Cleaning gloves

In addition, these items are very helpful but not necessary:

Stiff-bristled Scrub Brush

The main piece of equipment you’re going to need is a quality scrubbing brush. Unless you plan to rent a high-powered pressure washer, you’re going to need to put some elbow grease into scrubbing out those tough concrete stains. 

For this task, you’ll want a long-handled, stiff-bristled scrub brush to help you really dig into all the pores and crevices in your patio. 

If you’re looking for a quality but affordable scrub brush, try MEIBEI’s 54-inch brush for a quick and easy clean.  

Garden Hose and Nozzle

The second piece(s) of equipment you should have for this task are a typical garden hose and a hose nozzle. You’re going to need a lot of water to cleanse your patio throughout this cleaning process, and the easiest way to do this is with a simple garden hose. 

However, the process will go much faster if you supplement this hose with a nozzle. 

If you want a versatile nozzle, choose a patterned garden hose nozzle that allows you to switch between various modes for different types of water flow. These patterns can be as light as mist mode or as powerful as the jet mode. For this project, we recommend Melnor’s metal, 7-patterned nozzle.

Alternatively, if you want a high-powered nozzle that will blast all that dirt and grime out of your patio as quickly as possible, you’ll want a high-pressure hose nozzle. 

These nozzles can fit onto any standard hose and are exceptional for heavy-duty tasks where you need a truly powerful stream. Our top recommended choice for a high pressure nozzle is MAXFLO’s brass nozzle

Bucket or Pump Sprayer

The last piece of equipment you’ll want for this task is a bucket or pump sprayer. These basic tools can help tremendously with applying or washing away your cleaning agent. 

Again, since concrete is a porous material, you’ll need large quantities of your cleaning agent to soak into your patio for an effective clean. The best way to apply this is either mixing it in a basic bucket you might use to wash your car or a nifty pump sprayer. 

Choose Your Cleaning Agent

Even more important than your cleaning equipment is your cleaning agent. There is a wide range of cleaning agents you could use on a concrete patio. Some can be acquired from esteemed companies, such as Rust-Oleum, or you can use DIY concoctions you can create from simple products found in any household. 

Listed below are our top recommendations for a cleaning agent for this task. Don’t worry; this guide will still apply to any solution you choose from this list, which means you can invest in some of the pricier but potentially more effective products, or you could opt for an inexpensive DIY solution.

Best Cleaning Agents to Clean a Concrete Patio

  • Rust-Oleum Cleaner and Degreaser
  • DIY white vinegar blend (mix a non-toxic, environmentally friendly white vinegar with equal parts water)
  • DIY baking soda blend (mix ½ baking soda and 1/8 cup liquid dish detergent with 1 gallon of water)
  • Basic liquid laundry detergent (mix one detergent cup with one gallon of water)
  • Clorox bleach (best for spot stains, not the entire patio)

Clear Your Patio of Any Objects or Debris

Before you start scrubbing away at the patio, you’ll want to remove any unnecessary obstacles or debris from the surface.

Clear the Space

When you get a warm sunny day, grab all the equipment mentioned above and lay it all out somewhere easy to reach.

The first thing you’ll need to do is clear the patio completely of all furniture, potted plants, or anything else that could get in the way of your cleaning. The patio needs to be completely clear, or it will slow you down considerably.

Start by Blowing and Sweeping

Once you’ve got a nice flat and clear space to work on, it’s time to start getting the biggest bits of dirt and debris out of the way. Otherwise, the later steps will be a much bigger headache than they need to be—and you might end up having to scrub the patio twice.

Use your broom or leaf blower to clear the patio of any larger dirt and debris, like fallen leaves and sticks. Pay extra attention to the corners since leaves and other debris will often pile up there. 

At this stage, don’t worry about the cracks between the concrete or pavers—we’ll work on those next.

Remove Weeds and Other Eyesores

Once you’ve got most of the bigger junk cleared off the patio, it’s time to give a little attention to the cracks between the tiles or slabs. This is an often overlooked step, but it makes a big difference in your end result. A clean patio with weeds and dirty cracks still just ends up looking dirty.

A 5 in 1 paint scraper works best but a kitchen knife will do in a pinch. Our goal here is just to remove as many weeds and dirt from between the cracks as possible. If you have too many weeds to remove by hand, a spray weedkiller can do the trick—but this has to be applied after you’re finished cleaning, or it will just be washed away.

This is also a perfect time to edge the grass around the patio. Do it now so you can wash all the grass clippings off when you clean in the later steps.

Loosen the Dirt with a Brush

This is another often overlooked step, but it makes a big difference in how easy the cleaning process goes.

Before you do any “wet” cleaning, you’re simply going to:

  • Grab your scrub brush
  • Apply medium pressure (enough to loosen dirt, but not proper “scrubbing” pressure)
  • Quickly do a once-over of the entire patio, focusing on spots where there is built-up dirt and gunk that didn’t blow away earlier

In this step, the patio may not begin looking that much cleaner, but that’s ok. You’re just loosening up the dirt so it can be more easily washed away later.

Protect Yourself and Your Yard

It is likely that your patio is bordered by your yard. If this is the case, you’ll want to take precautions to protect your yard from excess flooding and chemical damage. 

Although some of the cleaning agent list options are environmentally friendly, most consist of bleach or other harsh chemicals that shouldn’t seep into the soil of your lawn or touch your plants.

You can create a barrier between your lawn and your patio using towels and blankets, or you can lay down some plastic sheeting. Ultimately, we want the run-off water from this cleaning process to go down a gutter, not in the lawn.

To protect yourself, make sure to put on gloves, safety glasses, pants, and good shoes. Patio cleaners, by necessity, contain cleaning agents that can be harmful to living things, so always take proper precautions.

Not only will the gloves protect your hands from harsh chemicals, but they can also protect your skin from blistering during the scrubbing process. 

Mix and Apply Your Cleaning Agent

Prepare your cleaning agent according to the measurements we have provided. If you have opted for the Rust-Oleum Cleaner and Degreaser, mix this according to the directions on the packaging. 

If your goal is to remove spot stains with the Clorox bleach, coat the stain directly in the cleaner for this step. Alternatively, you can also opt to apply the laundry detergent directly rather than diluting it in water if you prefer. 

Once your cleaning agent is ready, fill it into your bucket or pump sprayer and heavily dowse your concrete patio in the mixture. Be realistic with your application. It is unlikely you will scrub a giant patio in one session, so be sure to apply in sections as you clean. 

Since concrete is such a porous material, this might take significant amounts of your cleaning agent, so keep this in mind when you’re choosing your cleaning agent, particularly if you need the most cost-effective choice.

Be sure that the concrete has completely absorbed the cleaning agent, and there is still a significant layer of liquid laying on top of the surface. 

Lightly Scrub the Cleaning Agent Into the Concrete Then Wait

You’ll want to ensure the cleaning agent is properly dispersed throughout the patio section you are cleaning and has seeped deeply into the material. The best way to do this is to lightly spread and scrub the cleaning agent into the concrete using your stiff-bristled brush.

This isn’t the time for you to try to scrub out any stains or mildew. Make sure you’re just giving the surface a light scrub, then wait 15-30 minutes for the cleaning agent to start working on the concrete. 

While you’re waiting, keep an eye on the section that is soaking. You don’t want the concrete to dry completely while the cleaning agent is working its magic. So, if you notice the patio is starting to dry, reapply and lightly scrub a little more cleaning agent into the concrete until the designated waiting time is over.

Scrub Like You Mean It

The time has come. This is the moment where you need to give that concrete patio all you’ve got to remove those pesky stains and that nasty mildew. Using your stiff-bristled brush, give the soaked patio a quality scrub. 

Depending on the cleaning agent you chose, you might notice some will require a little more elbow grease than others. Typically, the Rust-Oleum Cleaner and Degreaser doesn’t require as much scrubbing and repetitions of this process as the laundry detergent option. However, since laundry detergent is easily affordable and found in almost any home, it is entirely realistic to choose this option over a $20 cleaner. 

Giving the patio a quality scrub here is important, but don’t wear yourself out. Scrub the designated section for about 5 minutes, then move on.

Rinse the Cleaning Agent from the Patio

After scrubbing the patio, rinse it completely using your garden hose and nozzle attachment of choice. Again, remember to try to get as much of the chemically infused liquid down a drain or gutter system and away from your lawn or gardens. 

If you notice a section that is still covered in mildew or a heavy stain on the concrete, using a high-pressure setting on your nozzle here might help loosen this material further or completely clear it away. 

Let it Dry and Assess the Results

Now that everything has been soaked, scrubbed, and rinsed, it’s time to reap the benefits and see the results of your hard work. Although you might be able to tell that some sections of your patio are cleaner already, you won’t be able to fully realize the difference your efforts have made until the concrete has dried completely. 

On a hot sunny day, your patio will probably be dry within 15-30 minutes. So, until then, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show of concrete drying. 

Repeat the Process Where Necessary

Once the concrete is dry, you’ll be able to truly see how clean your patio is now. With any luck, there will be a significant improvement, and you can either store all your materials away or move on to the next section. Now would be the time to fix any cracks in your concrete patio.

However, some tough sections of your patio might require multiple applications of the cleaning agent and significant scrubbing. If this is the case, repeat this process necessary on your patio to remove as much mildew or staining as possible. 

Should I Pressure Wash My Patio?

If the idea of scrubbing all afternoon with a brush doesn’t particularly excite you, then there may be another solution. Pressure washers can be the perfect tool to clean the most stubborn dirt and grime from your patio, but they don’t come without downsides.

Pros of pressure washing your patio:

  • Pressure washers give the best and deepest clean, often leaving your patio looking brand new
  • Many people find them fun and satisfying to use

Cons of pressure washing your patio:

  • Some patios shouldn’t be pressure washed because they are too old and will crumble. If your patio concrete already has crumbling edges, then a pressure washer will only expedite that process.
  • It can be expensive to either rent or purchase a pressure washer
  • Pressure washing comes with some inherent dangers because the water is often being sprayed with such force that it can cut your skin or worse. You’ll need to wear proper safety gear and be aware of the potential dangers.

At the end of the day, a pressure washer is likely the absolute best solution for most patios, even if it’s pricier. However, you should still follow the rest of the steps, including applying the cleaner, and simply replace scrubbing with pressure washing. Be sure to check out our review on the Ryobi Electric Pressure Washer.

If your concrete patio still has some discoloration, you might try staining your concrete patio to make the discoloration blend in with rest of concrete. Another choice would be to paint your concrete patio since the paint will cover any imperfections.

Getting Your Patio Ready for Summer

A dirty patio full of dead leaves and spiderwebs is an instant downer for any summer BBQ. Thankfully, with just a little know-how and some elbow grease, you can have it looking good-as-new.

Just remember to follow our process above and wear safety gear when required. If your patio is made with pavers or bricks we discuss how you can clean patio pavers as well as how to clean brick patio, in separate articles.

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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