How to Remove Tar From a Concrete Floor

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Concrete flooring has many fans, for a number of reasons. It's economical, looks interesting, and is quite durable, even with heavy use and traffic. However, concrete is also quite porous, which makes it difficult to remove sticky stains such as tar. It's possible to clean tar off a concrete floor, but it can require substantial physical effort and possibly harsh chemical solutions.

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The Allure of Concrete Flooring

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Many people find that concrete flooring, with or without expensive finishes, provides an interesting textural, natural look that complements home decor nicely. Concrete flooring also comes with an economical price tag per square foot compared to other decorative choices.

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Additionally, concrete requires relatively little care. It's an extremely durable flooring option, especially for garages, as it stands up quite well to the heavy traffic and impact of cars, trucks, lawn mowers, ATVs, motorcycles, and more. However, as easy as concrete flooring is to care for generally, tar and other sticky substances can be difficult to remove because concrete is quite porous by nature.

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Additionally, tar is a terribly sticky substance, which makes it impossible to wipe up with a towel. You'll need more effort and much stronger tools, including the possible use of chemical removal solutions, to remove tar from your concrete floor.

What to Try First

To start, try scraping off as much of the tar as you can with a floor scraper. If tackled quickly after the spill, this may go a long way toward resolving the problem. Next, tackle more stubborn areas with either a power washer or a sandblaster, if this is a practical method, considering your floor's location. You can rent power washers and sandblasters from many major home improvement and hardware stores.

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If that isn't practical or doesn't quite remove all the tar, your next step is elbow grease. Use water and a heavy-duty scouring pad to scrub the affected area. Bear in mind that this will take quite a bit of time and physical effort. Finally, if the water-and-scouring-pad approach isn't successful, you can try the same method with mineral spirits. Apply the mineral spirits and scrub with a nylon brush, working in small areas as you go.

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Muriatic Acid Considerations

If all else fails, you'll have to bring out the heavy duty chemicals. Muriatic acid, also known as hydrochloric acid, will likely do the trick, but it's not ideal in all situations. It's best on driveways, foundations, and other outdoor surfaces since it will etch interior concrete floors. Avoid using muriatic acid on decorative floors where etching will damage it.

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It's important to be extremely cautious when working with any acid. Wear protective clothing, gloves, mask, and eyewear to protect your skin and eyes from the acid, and ensure the area has proper ventilation. If you have access to one, wear a full-length safety apron as well to protect your clothing. You can find muriatic acid in most home improvement stores, usually located near the pool balancing chemicals and cleaning supplies.

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Using Muriatic Acid

To clean the tar from your concrete floor with muriatic acid, first put on all of your safety gear. Review the package's instructions carefully, then dilute the acid by adding it to water in a sturdy bucket, following the label's recommended ratio.

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Next, apply the mixture to the tar carefully and let it sit for a few minutes. Use a long-handled cleaning brush with stiff bristles to scrub the tarred area. Add more acid mixture if necessary.

The tar will begin to loosen with repeated scrubbing. Once this happens, you can use a floor scraper to scrape it away, wiping off the scraper periodically with a thick shop towel as needed. Once you've removed the tar, rinse the area thoroughly with water.

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Keep Your Concrete Looking Fresh

To maintain your concrete floor's good looks, apply concrete floor sealant or wax every six to nine months, or more frequently if heavy traffic and use wear down the protective coat quickly. Clean the floor periodically with a concrete-safe cleaning solution and a sponge mop.

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