How to remove oil stains from concrete –fast

Learn how to remove oil stains from concrete – before they become permanent

Open Garage With Concrete Driveway
(Image credit: imaginima / Getty)

Want to know how to remove oil stains from concrete? Oil spills are a very common type of accident when you're doing work outdoors, especially in your garage or driveway. Whether you were replacing oil in your car or spilled some decking oil you were carrying to your backyard, you'll want to get rid of that oil stain on your beautiful concrete driveway ASAP. 

Fortunately, if concrete is part of your driveway design and you've spilled oil on it, you can remove the stains effectively. It's best to follow expert advice while doing this, however, as it will increase your chances of success. The thing with oil is that it will permeate concrete fast – if you let it. So, act quickly with this know-how in mind. 

How to to remove oil stains from concrete

1. Use a degreaser

Using a degreaser is by far the most effective way of removing oil stains from concrete. Corbin Mason-Smith, a professional exterior cleaner at Superior Exterior Cleaning (opens in new tab), gives simple steps for quickly removing oil stains with a degreaser:

  1. If the stain is fresh use a paper towel or rag to remove the wet oil.
  2. Then, or if dry, apply degreaser to the stain and leave it to sit for 5–10minutes. This allows it to soak in and work deep on the stain.
  3. Use a hot water pressure washer to clean off the degreaser and the stain. Hot water is significantly better to break down the oil in comparison to using a cold water pressure washer.

Ralph Severson, owner of Flooring Masters (opens in new tab), adds that 'when our flooring customers ask for advice on removing oil stains inside their garage, I direct them toward the best concrete cleaner or a strong degreaser, and a scrub brush. This is the easiest remedy for oil stains.'

WD-40 is one of the most commonly used degreasing products used on oil stains and is easily available from your local hardware store.

2. Make a baking soda paste

No WD-40? Not a problem. Now is the time to discover the power of baking soda cleaning.  Mason-Smith praises baking soda as 'a DIY solution' to oil stains and even says that you can use laundry powdered detergent instead. All you need to do is: 

  • Make a paste by mixing the powder with water.
  • Apply to the oil.
  • Let sit for 5–10minutes to work on the stain.
  • Use a rag, water and dish soap if needed to remove the paste and the oil stain.

Modern two-car garage with concrete driveway

(Image credit: Tom Merton / Getty)

3. Use liquid detergent and a brush

According to Severson, 'if you don’t want to buy a bottle of degreaser, a liquid detergent and a scrub brush will do the trick.' The brush is key here – choose one that is stiff and will really help you mechanically remove the stain. A heavy-duty brush can be bought from Amazon (opens in new tab), among many other places. 

Mark Osborne, Director at Country Hardwood (opens in new tab), also recommends adding a bit of alcohol to your dishsoap mixture to make it even more effective. 

4. Try vinegar

Vinegar is another great option when you don't have anything else handy. Osborne
explains that vinegar 'functions as an organic degreaser and is readily available at a low cost. It isn't very aggressive when it comes to the toughest spots, but it is worth a shot.' 

Vinegar will be most effective on fresh stains that haven't had the time to really penetrate your concrete drive. 

A suburban home with a garage and concrete driveway

(Image credit: slobo / Getty)

5. Use borax

Stephanie Booth, who makes cleaning and home organization videos on TikTok and Instagram (opens in new tab), offers a personally proven method for removing both fresh and set-in oil stains from concrete. It uses borax, also known as sodium borate. Booth explains that 'because borax is an emulsifier, it's perfect for breaking down oil stains.' 

To clean oil stains off concrete using borax:   

  1. Make a paste of 1/2 cup borax with hot tap water. The water must be hot enough to dissolve the borax crystals.
  2. Apply the paste over the oil stain and scrub with a stiff nylon bristle brush, and allow it to sit there for at least an hour.
  3. Give it another scrub before rinsing away with clean water.

6. Rediscover the power of Lestoil 

Booth has another brilliant stain-removal method using 'an old-school cleaning product called Lestoil. It's a heavy duty all-purpose cleaner invented back in the 1930s. A lot of people have forgotten how useful it is.' 

Here's what you'll need to do:  

  • Apply undiluted Lestoil directly to the oil-stained concrete.
  • Scrub with a stiff nylon bristle brush.
  • Allow Lestoil to dwell there for up to 18 hours before rinsing away.

How to prevent oil stains on concrete

You've guessed this one already: prevention is better than cure, which is true of any stain, on any surface. As qualified builder and DIY teacher at Bangingtoolbox.com (opens in new tab). Aaron Barnett puts it, 'whether you are working on your car, boat, motorbike, woodworking project, or lubricating a garage door, it is best to prevent any stains in the first place.'

What's the best way to do this? Barnett recommends laying down 'an old sheet of plywood in the location you are doing any dirty work that has any risk of a spill. You can move the plywood sheet around with you as you work to catch any accidental oil drips. You can also lay your spanners, socket sets, and other tools you are using on the plywood so that they also move around with you as you move your spot or angle of work.'

Will an oil stain become permanent on concrete?

Corbin Mason-Smith at Superior Exterior Cleaning has a short and a long answer. The short answer is, unfortunately, 'yes.' The longer answer is that 'the longer time an oil stain has been on concrete the harder it will be to clean up. This is because over time the oil soaks into the concrete and this deep penetration makes it very challenging to remove.'

What counts as a fresh oil stain? A stain that's been there no longer than 10 minutes, which will give you time to quickly wipe up the excess and try to remove it. This will be much easier to remove than leaving it and trying to remove the stain from your concrete after it has penetrated.

Does cola remove stains from concrete?

You've probably noticed that we didn't include this much-promoted DIY remedy for oil stains in our list. The reason is that, in reality, it's not all that effective for oil stains on concrete. Severson explains that although cola does work on stains, 'it must be left on the stain overnight, and often requires more than one application. It's not the simplest solution, but will work in a pinch.'

You also likely will find that you need a lot of cola to erase the stain, so you might as well use something that won't require you to pour so much of it all over your driveway. 

Anna is Content Editor at Real Homes. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. At Real Homes, she covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design. 

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