Your concrete driveway is one of the first things people notice as they pull up to your house, so if it's dirty and stained, it can affect your home's curb appeal. Your driveway is exposed to lots of potential sources of dirt and stains, from falling leaves to leaky vehicles. Regular cleaning at least once per year helps get rid of that debris before it settles in. The best way to clean a driveway is to start with the gentlest method and work up to stronger cleaners if needed.
Basics of Concrete
The bumpy surface of concrete creates lots of little spots for dirt, decomposing leaves, oil and other gunk to settle and stick. Washing the surface regularly prevents those things from building up in the crevices. Concrete is also a slightly porous surface. That means anything that spills on the driveway can soak into the concrete, causing a deeper stain.
Wash driveway surfaces regularly to help maintain your home's curb appeal. When spills happen, especially motor vehicle leaks, tackle them right away before the liquids settle into the concrete and stain them.
Soap and Water
For general cleaning, a simple concrete driveway cleaner made from soap and water usually works. Put a few squirts of dish soap into a large bucket and fill it with water. Dip a stiff scrub brush into the soapy water and scrub the driveway in a circular motion.
Start at the back of the driveway and work toward the street so the dirty water runs off the driveway with the slope. Rinse the soapy water from the concrete with the garden hose so it doesn't leave behind any spots or remaining dirt.
The high water pressure of a power washer effectively cleans some stains and most debris from your concrete driveway. A fan tip works best on a concrete driveway. Hot water can improve the cleaning power of the pressure washer.
Set the power washer on a low setting, not exceeding 2,500 psi. Start at the back of the driveway and hold the wand at least 12 inches from the surface. Move the wand from side to side to clean the driveway.
Power washers can be dangerous, so use them with caution. Never point the power washer wand at a person, as this can cause injury. Avoid holding the power washer in one spot for more than about 10 seconds or you can damage the concrete.
Trisodium phosphate, or TSP, is a heavy-duty cleaner available at most hardware and home improvement stores. It has a degreaser effect, which makes it the best chemical for driveway cleaning when you're dealing with oil spills and similar stains. It breaks up the oils, solvents and other stains to help get rid of them.
Wear rubber gloves and protective eyewear when working with TSP. Add 1 cup of TSP to every gallon of hot water. Use a garden sprayer to saturate the concrete with the TSP. Let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes, then scrub the driveway with a stiff scrub brush. Rinse the concrete with water from the garden hose.
For deep stains, create a thick paste with the TSP and corn starch or diatomaceous earth. The powdered component absorbs the oils once the TSP breaks them up. Apply the paste over the stain, and use a stiff brush to work it into the stain. Let it sit until the paste dries, then scrape it with a putty knife and hose off or power wash the area.
This common household product is not only good in the laundry, but will brighten up and clean your concrete. Mix a solution of 1 part chlorine bleach to 1 part water. Put the mixture into a garden sprayer and spray it onto the driveway. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then scrub with a stiff scrub brush. Rinse clean with water from the garden hose.
Bleach is a harsh product, so wear rubber gloves and protective eye wear when cleaning concrete driveway areas with it. You should also wear old clothing that covers your arms and legs.