Concrete and Cement Repair and Care

A concrete walkway surrounded by green grass.
What You'll Need
Rubber gloves
Stiff long handled brush or broom
Shallow metal pan
Washing soda
Tri-sodium phosphate
Sodium citrate
Dry dishwasher detergent
Grease solvent
Whiting or fuller's earth

Concrete is an extremely strong, durable material made from cement and aggregate. Concrete is porous, whether used as a floor in garages, porches or patios, driveways, or walkways. Often porch or patio floors will have an extra smooth surface, but it will still absorb stains easily.

Protective Coatings

It may be sealed or painted. Concrete floors are sealed to prevent staining, since without sealing they absorb stains readily. The floor must cure and dry after it is laid before it can be sealed, with the time required varying with weather, temperature, building conditions, etc. Floors must be clean, and any remaining alkali in the concrete must be neutralized before sealing. Contact a good paint store or cement dealer for complete instructions and materials to use.

Painting concrete varies depending on its use. Latex floor paints react with rubber tires in garages, as well as with bicycle tires, lawnmower tires, etc. The result is peeling. Alkyd floor enamels are more moisture resistant, and normally hold up better under these conditions. But they are more slippery when they get wet. If there is moisture rising from beneath the surface of the floor, it may also cause enamel floor paint to peel.


To clean, wet with clear water. Apply a hot solution of 2 to 2 1/2 ounces washing soda or 1/2 ounce TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) per gallon of water. TSP can be found in paint, hardware and home center stores.

Grease Stains

In a garage, it is advisable to place a shallow metal pan under the car to catch dripping oil. Spreading the area under the car with sand or sawdust will help absorb dripping oil. Periodically saturated sand or sawdust should be scraped away and fresh, clean material put in place. This will prevent tracking oil to other areas of cement or into the house. If oil or grease is spilled on porch or patio cement, apply an absorbent powder such as fuller's earth, cornmeal, or sawdust to absorb as much oil as possible immediately. Leave it on stain for a few hours and sweep up.

Here are some methods to remove grease stains:

1. Using a stiff long handled brush, scrub stain with concentrated detergent suds. Rinse well with hose. Dry and repeat if necessary.

2. Sprinkle "dishwasher" detergent (dry) on wet concrete. Let it stand a few minutes; pour boiling water on area. Scrub and rinse. Use rubber gloves on hands.

3. Commercial products are available in paint/hardware home centers. Some can also be used on blacktop surfaces.

4. On wet oily surface of concrete, sprinkle with tri-sodium phosphate. Allow to stand 15 to 30 minutes, then scrub with stiff brush and hot water. Rinse with clean water.

5. Dissolve a cup tri-sodium phosphate in 1 gallon of hot water. Pour over stained cement surface generously and allow to soak 15 to 20 minutes. Scrub vigorously with stiff brush or broom. Rinse off with hose. Repeat if necessary.

6. Scrub the concrete with a grease solvent to remove as much as possible of the grease stain. Have good ventilation and avoid spark or flame as solvents are flammable. Naptha, often recommended, can ignite, just from a spark from friction or rubbing.

Mix 1 part sodium citrate to 6 parts water and 6 parts glycerin and add enough whiting or fuller's earth to make a thick paste. Spread paste on oil or grease stain. Let stand 1 week. Add new paste when it dries. Flush with water after brushing dry paste away. Repeat if necessary.

Rust Stains

Make a paste of 1 part sodium citrate crystals to 6 parts water and enough whiting or fuller's earth to make a paste. Spread paste on rust stains and allow to dry. Scrape off. Rust should be removed. Repeat if necessary.

It may seem impossible to clean cement and concrete surfaces. Use these techniques to keep yours looking good.

This article has been contributed in part by Michigan State University Extension.