Before applying a concrete sealer or water repellent it is typically needed to prep the surface first. Prepping consists of cleaning with water and using a chemical cleaner that is specific to the stain you are trying to remove. Cleaners for concrete and brick pavers come in many different formulas.
Let’s look at the main reasons to clean and prep your concrete:
General Dirt and Grime Cleaning
When cleaning to remove dirt and grime you may just need water and a pressure washer. If the stains are stubborn, then a general all-purpose concrete cleaner or even bleach would help with the washing.
Rust stains happen typically from untreated water that gets on the vertical brick walls and horizontal concrete from the sprinkler systems. The trick to clean off the rust stains before they become too heavy with mineral deposits. There are many different types of concrete rust removers on the market. These cleaners typically are a mild acid formula consisting of citric or oxalic acids. Professional formulas are more effective as they contain a special blend of acids. Many acid cleaners will work but you do need to be careful to not harm the surface or yourself.
Efflorescence is a white soluble salt that is typically seen on newly installed concrete, pavers, and blocks. Just like a rust remover, an efflorescence cleaner contains acids to break down the white salts. It is important to not buy a generic acid such as Hydrochloric Acid as this may cause damage to the surface by “burning” or heavily etching the substrate. For example, you could make newly installed pavers look like they are 10 years old if you use the incorrect acid.
Best to use a product labeled as an “Efflorescence Cleaner”.
Oil Spills and Grease Removal
One of the most popular reasons to clean concrete is the oil spill from the car or the grease spill from the barbecue grill. The use of a pressure washer and a Cleaner Degreaser is best for this scenario.
Failed Sealer that Has Discolored (turned white)
This is not an easy fix! Unfortunately, many sealers will discolor or turn white from a variety of issues. Most commonly will happen to wet look sealers that are applied to brick pavers or stamped concrete surfaces. Typically this is avoided by using a high-quality sealer but not everyone does their research first. These are “Concrete Sealer Strippers” that typically involve the use of Dichloromethane (methylene chloride)or soy gel as the stripping agent. We prefer the former as it reacts within a few minutes.
Extreme caution or hiring of a trained professional should be taken with these strippers.
Leaf Stain Cleaning
Very common but easy fix. Watered down bleach of 1 part to 4 parts water should get rid of the leaf stains!
Pollution Cleaning on Concrete or Brick Buildings
Typically seen in high traffic areas, pollution stains are the black marks you see on churches and buildings in the inner cities. These stains are also cleaned with a proprietary blend of acids.
Vandalism or graffiti removal can be difficult as the effectiveness of the cleaner/stripper is related to the paint type hat is being removed. Typically these are paint strippers of some sort that lift the graffiti from the surface so it can be pressure washed off.
If you have any questions as to which type of cleaner you should use please ask in the comment area below. Please answer these questions:
- Type of surface
- Stain type being removed
- Age of substrate
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