7 Expert Tips When Cleaning Your Unsealed Concrete Floors

Kenneth Wilson

Unsealed concrete floors have long since been a favorite choice of many homeowners– given their durability and versatility.

Though it had humble beginnings as a favored material for standard driveways and garages, it’s now used in many indoor and outdoor settings for that added touch of sophistication.

But since unsealed concrete is a porous material, it needs regular cleaning as it can be vulnerable to cracks and dirt/stain build-up. (Related: How to Level A Concrete Floor) That said, you will need to follow a specific cleaning method to clean the floors thoroughly.

Expert Tips To Clean Your Unsealed Concrete Floors

Tip 1: Gather all the Right Tools

You will need the correct tools to clean your unsealed concrete floors well. Here are some of them:

  • Dust mop
  • Push broom
  • Vacuum
  • Sawdust
  • Towel
  • Dishwashing soap
  • Sawdust/Dry cat litter/Cornstarch
  • Commercial Rust Remover
  • Brush/Scrubber
  • Detergent (powdered or liquid)
  • Trisodium Phosphate (TSP)
  • Degreaser

Concrete Floor Cleaners

Generally, there are four different cleaning solutions designed for concrete floors.

  • Acidic cleaners: Effectively remove dirt, rust, and stains. Always be careful in using these cleaners as they can be somewhat toxic.
  • pH neutral cleaners: These are mild cleaning solutions, primarily used on decorative, interior concrete floors.
  • Alkaline cleaners: Acts as a degreaser for concrete floors. It can be used on interior and exterior floors, also often used as a neutralizer after harsh, acidic cleaning.
  • Enzymatic/bacterial cleaners: Designed to break down plant stains, soil matter, and animal droppings.

To ensure you’re using the proper concrete cleaner for your floors at home, don’t hesitate to consult an expert for advice.

Tip 2: The Vacuum is your Best Friend

Many homeowners are under the impression that cleaning unsealed floors is difficult since it doesn’t visibly show dust like polished floors.

However, you’ll be surprised at how better it looks after proper cleaning with a vacuum. This tool helps you eliminate any dust and debris on the floor. If you’re working with a space without any nearby electrical connection– opt to use a cordless vacuum.

Tip 3: Be Mindful of the Visible Stains

Unsealed concrete is a popular flooring material in basements, garages, and workrooms. Though the surface is highly durable, the concrete tends to absorb liquid and thus becomes stained.

In cleaning your unsealed concrete floors, you will need to pay close attention to removing the stains from the surface. Older, deep stains may be lightened, but there may be faint signs left behind in some cases.

Tip 4: Determine the Type of Stain

Word to the wise, knowing the type of stain you’re dealing with on your unsealed concrete floors can make the cleaning process a whole lot easier.

Here’s a quick rundown of the most common stain types in unsealed concrete floors.

  • Food or Beverage Stains: Fortunately, stains left by any food or beverage are the easiest to get rid of. You can just use primary cleaning agents to remove them from the floors. Ensure to give the area a thorough scrubbing until you notice the stain faint away. Rinse it with water, and you’ll have cleaner unsealed concrete floors.
  • Dry Stains: When it comes to dry stains, start by sufficiently moistening the area by adding a few detergent drops. Let it soak for at least 45 minutes. Afterward, pour a bit of warm water over and scrub the area with a brush. It’s also best to mop the area to remove any studs. Pour boiling water over and scrub with a medium bristled brush. Then mop the area with clean water to remove suds.
  • Grease Stains: You’ll need to utilize either dry kitty litter, sawdust, or cornstarch to eliminate grease stains on your floors. Leave it on to absorb for 24 hours before sweeping or vacuuming the area. Since unsealed concrete floors have a porous nature, it can be challenging to remove oil away. You cannot count on soapy water to get rid of oil-based stains. Hence, powdered ingredients are used as an alternative to absorbing the grease.
  • Heavy Rust Stains: Dark stains in your basement or garage floors are usually heavy rust stains, which you may still remove with commercial rust removers. These cleaning solutions have oxalic acid, designed to effectively remove rust stains after leaving them on for a couple of hours. You can then scrub the area and rinse it with water.
  • Mildew Stains: Fortunately, it’s manageable to remove light mildew stains from your unsealed concrete floors. Mix two tablespoons of Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) with water and powdered laundry soap. Then, slather the mixture over the stained surface before scrubbing it off with a brush. Note: When dealing with harsh chemicals such as Trisodium Phosphate, it’s best to take safety, preventive measures such as wearing rubber gloves.
  • Tire Marks: Your basement and garages are most prone to tire marks. If you do not clean these spaces regularly, your unsealed concrete floor may only appear untidy. To thoroughly clean your floors, start by wetting the area blemished with tire marks before pouring the degreaser over it. Ideally, leave the degreaser on the surface for three to five hours before scrubbing the surface clean.

Tip 5: After Cleaning the Surface, Mop Your Way Around the Room

Now that you’ve tidied up the floor surface mix three tablespoons of washing soda with one gallon of water. Then, pick one side of the room to start mopping around the area.

Pro tip: After every three sq ft of cleaning, rinse the mop and wring out the water before you carry on with the task.

If you’re working in an enclosed area, ensure proper ventilation by turning on a fan or opening nearby windows. The improved airflow will also dry the floors quicker.

Tip 6: Exterior Concrete Floors Require a Bit More Effort

Keep in mind that your exterior unsealed concrete floors directly deal with harsh weather conditions, plant stains, grease and tire marks, and more. It’s why most professionals advise doing a thorough clean-up at least once a month.

If the floors are too filthy for a simple scrubbing, you may rent a hot water pressure washer (with 3000 PSI or 4 GPM rating).

Also, don’t forget to cover the walls or any surrounding materials when applying harsh chemicals on your floors. This protects them from accidental splashes and any potential damage.

And as we’ve previously mentioned, always try to use safety precautions to be on the safe side.

Tip 7: You Can Use Homemade Concrete Cleaners for Unsealed Floors

Some homeowners opt to use homemade cleaners in scrubbing their unsealed floors– especially if they’re not big fans of using harsh chemicals.

Homemade cleaning solutions can be gentle on the floors. If you’re looking for a simple method to create one: mix ⅛ cups of dishwashing liquid with a gallon of water. You can count on this homemade concrete cleaner to eliminate any visible dirt on the porous surface.

Baking Soda Cleaner

Another way is to use baking soda, which has long since been known to remove odors from your indoor or outdoor concrete floors effectively.

To clean your filthy floors, mix half a cup of baking soda with at least 10 liters of warm water. Add ⅛ cup of dishwashing liquid if you want a more robust solution to remove superficial stains or grime.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you remove stains on unsealed concrete floors using a detergent?

Yes, it’s possible! Simply pour the liquid detergent on the stained surface or mix powdered detergent with ¼ gallon of water. Leave the solution in the area for a few hours. Afterward, rinse it with warm water before scrubbing the area clean. Once you notice the visible stain has started to fade away, you can rinse it entirely before wiping it dry.

Is it possible to use steam in cleaning unsealed concrete floors?

Yes. In particular, you’ll be taken aback at how steam can easily (and quickly) remove grease stains from unsealed concrete floors.

Kenneth Wilson
December 31, 2021
Contractor Tips, Flooring

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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