Who says concrete is just for roads? Concrete has increased in popularity as a flooring choice because it’s more durable and affordable than other options.
You can stain or paint concrete, add designs with stencils, or even polish it for a stunning high-shine floor.
As well, for anyone who doesn’t like to clean, they’re easier to maintain than other floor types (especially carpet). However, just like every other type of floor, people will walk all over it, so it’s bound to get dirty.
Concrete is hard enough on its own—who wants a complicated cleanup, making it even harder? We’ve developed this guide to take the guesswork out of cleaning for you. Read on to see how we clean concrete floors at RBC Clean, and how you can do it yourself.
Is your floor sealed?
Before you begin tackling a mess on your concrete floor, you have to know whether it has been sealed or not. A properly applied layer of sealer protects and extends the life of your floors while maintaining their appearance.
You can find out if your concrete floor has been sealed with the water-drop test. To start, pour small amounts of water over various floor sections. If the water is still beaded or pooled after a couple of minutes, then the floor has likely been sealed.
If all or most of the water has been absorbed and the concrete is a few shades darker, then it’s safe to assume that the concrete is unsealed.
Get Your Tools Together
Now that you know if your floor has been sealed or not, you can gather your cleaning equipment. The good news is that you probably already have most of these items, and they can usually be used for both sealed and unsealed concrete. Check the following items off and you’ll be ready to start:
- A pH-neutral cleaner (these cleaners won’t react with paint)
- Mop and bucket
- Dry cloth
- Sawdust, baking soda, or cat litter (for oil spills)
- Pressure washer
Have you ever seen cement trucks making roads? The concrete is poured, allowed to set, and then left unfinished, just like concrete floors. Concrete is super-porous and will suck up liquids and grease due to its absorbent nature.
Typical cleanup issue: Since unsealed concrete is porous, this flooring is prone to stains from spills. To clean, follow these steps:
1. Throw sawdust or cat litter on grease stains
Sprinkle enough sawdust or cat litter to cover the stain’s surface and let sit overnight or for at least 8 hours. Both cat litter and sawdust are great for soaking up and drawing out grease or oil in concrete. You can skip this step if you don’t have any grease stains.
2. Sweep up any debris and vacuum
After waiting overnight, you should see a difference in the “wetness” of any stains. Use a stiff-bristled broom to sweep up the sawdust/cat litter and other debris.
Follow up with a dust-mop or shop-vac with a hose attachment to remove fine dust and dirt particles.
Sweeping is still a great idea even if you skipped step 1. Unsealed concrete creates concrete dust, and cleaning it up now will make the next step easier.
3. Scrub stains with a brush
Most of the oil and grease in stains should be gone by this step, but you’ll probably still see the spot. Wet leftover spots with water, add detergent, and allow to sit for an hour.
Detergent is ultra-concentrated and can help break down dirt quickly. Afterward, use boiling water and a scrub brush to get in there and dissolve the stain.
4. Mop, rinse, and dry
Finally, add about a quarter cup of baking soda to 5 liters of hot water in a mop bucket and mix.
The baking soda will help brighten and lighten the appearance of stains and eliminate odours. Mop up any leftover residue or grime, and then dry with a towel or cloth.
(Note: For unsealed concrete outdoors—patios, driveways, etc.—follow up step 3 with a power washer to remove sun-baked stains with minimal effort.)
If you see a concrete floor indoors, chances are it’s sealed concrete. This type of flooring is popular for high-traffic areas, as the sealer protects the concrete from stains, spills, and damage.
Preventing and cleaning up messes are much easier on sealed floors. Concrete floors that have been painted or stained are usually sealed to protect the design, but this is not always the case.
Typical cleanup issue: General stains and sticky spots are not too much of an issue if cleaned up immediately. Sealed warehouse floors may see some skid marks from forklift tires or other machinery. To clean, follow these steps:
- Use a high-powered vacuum to remove large bits of dirt and debris.
- Wet-mop the entire floor surface with a pH-neutral cleaner.
- Mix ammonia and water in a 3:1 solution for tough stains if necessary.
- Refill the mop bucket with clean water and rinse the floor.
- Allow to air-dry or use an absorbent cloth.
Pretty simple right? You can clean sealed concrete floors just like you would vinyl or linoleum in most cases. Just sweep, vacuum, mop, and dry. However, there are some important cleaning tips you should be aware of; check them out below.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Cleaning Sealed Concrete
Do: Add an extra layer of protection to your sealer with a commercial-grade wax. It’s much easier to remove scratches and scuffs from wax than a sealer. Plus, wax is easier to apply. Ask us about floor refinishing!
Don’t: Using strong, harsh cleaners like bleach or even vinegar can dull sealers, thus leaving them looking dull and yellowed. These cleaners are best used for exceptionally dirty, unsealed concrete.
Do: Reseal your concrete floors as necessary. Doing so every 3-5 years should be often enough for regular wear and tear. We recommend using water-based sealers indoors as they don’t contain fumes and won’t react with paint.
Don’t: A pressure washer is powerful enough to strip the sealer off of your floors! They’re a great choice if you need to replace your sealer, but not so much if you just want to clean it. The same applies to wire brushes.