Oil stains are the bane of any proud driveway owner. These unsightly stains can spoil the look of your driveway and they can also be hazardous. Moreover, oil stains are notoriously hard to remove from any surface, particularly concrete. So can a pressure washer be your saving grace? The answer is yes. A pressure washer can remove oil stains safely from a concrete driveway. Let's take a look at how.
Any driveway is prone to oil stains, typically from an oil leak that has come from a leaking car, motorbike, or other vehicle. But why is it so important for you to remove oil stains as quickly as possible? Well, there are a few reasons.
The first reason is simple: oil stains look bad. An oil spill will create a highly visible stain on your driveway that will look unsightly even from a distance.
An oil stain is also a slipping hazard. With an oil stain, there is actually oil remaining in the area and this can make that part of your driveway very slippery.
If left for too long, the oil in the stain can cause damage to your driveway such as premature cracking. Dealing with the stain quickly will mean that you have a much less costly job ahead of you.
You might have had a go at removing the oil stains already with a scrubbing brush or a garden hose and realised that it's not going anywhere. Oil can cause stubborn stains for a couple of reasons. This is particularly the case for concrete driveways.
Oil isn't just difficult to remove from driveways, it is also difficult to remove from clothes, plastic, and other materials. This is because oil is hydrophobic. This means that, unlike many other types of dirt and grime, it won't break down in water. So standard cleaning techniques that rely on water will often fail.
The other reason why it is so hard to remove oil stains from concrete is that concrete is a porous material. While it is solid and looks relatively smooth, concrete actually contains lots of tiny pores. The oil can easily absorb into these pores which can mean that a standard surface cleaning will have no chance of reaching the oil beneath.
The reason why pressure washing can be such an effective method for removing oil stains from a driveway is that it eliminates the issues that make oil hard to remove. The high pressure uses force to remove the oil, which means that it doesn't matter that it's hydrophobic and it can reach into all of the little pores that the oil has settled in.
So what's the best way of approaching using a pressure washer to remove oil stains? We're going to guide you through the process so that your driveway will be free of oil in no time at all. For more information, we recommend checking out our post titled "Can You Pressure Wash Composite Decking".
Before we start, we need to look at the difference between a pressure washer and a power washer. Most people call them both pressure washers but they have a fundamental difference.
A pressure washer uses cold water and high pressure to remove dirt, grime, grease, dust, mud, paint flakes, and more. Power washers do exactly the same thing but they use hot water instead.
Cold water pressure washers will work fine for removing oil but a hot water pressure washer will do an even better job. So if you do have a power washer handy, then this is the piece of equipment to go for.
If you are removing oil stains from asphalt, you should use a pressure washer because the heat from a power washer could damage the surface.
Alternatively, you could get in touch with a professional company that will have all of the best pressure-washing tools to remove even the largest and most stubborn oil or grease stains. If you're interested in learning more, feel free to check our article "Should I Pressure Wash My Patio?".
Before you go raring ahead with your pressure washer, some preparation is always a good idea. Ideally, you will have got to the oil stain as quickly as possible. It is always easier to remove fresh oil stains.
So as soon as you notice the oil spill, you should get started as soon as you can with clearing your driveway of any obstacles, including vehicles, so you can get to the stain easily.
It is probably a good idea to wear old clothes when you pressure wash oil stains. Wearing some personal protective equipment is also a good idea, especially gloves, goggles, and boots because there will be some spray back from the pressure washer which can include chemicals and small pieces of material like stones.
It is always a good idea to remove as much oil as you can before going in with a pressure washer. Especially with a fresh stain, there will be oil collected on the surface and some of this excess oil can be removed manually.
You can do this by covering the oil stain with an absorbent material that will soak up excess oil. For this, you can use common household products such as baking soda, cat litter, sawdust, or sand.
Cover the stain with and let the absorbent material sit overnight if you have the time, but even 30 minutes will help to soak up a lot of the oil. Then brush it away using a hard bristle brush.
Degreasers are great for cleaning oil stains. Remember that we mentioned that oil is hydrophobic? Degreasers counteract this issue in a really clever way. They have molecules that have one hydrophobic end that attracts the oil and one hydrophilic end that attracts water, so they can help to pull oil off a surface.
There are plenty of high-strength degreasers on the market that will do a fantastic job to help remove oil, but you can even use dish soap if that's all you have. Dish soap is used to clean oily and dirty dishes and is a common degreaser.
Pour the degreaser onto the oil stain and leave for around 10 minutes (or however long the instructions tell you to) then go in and scrub the area with a hard bristle heavy-duty brush.
Don't use a steel brush to clean concrete surfaces as the tiny bristles can get stuck in the pores and lead to rust stains.
Pressure-washing oil stains will work to the same principles regardless of which type of pressure washer you have. Some pressure washers are more powerful than others but a medium-duty pressure washer should be sufficient to clean oil stains.
If your pressure washer has a detergent tank, fill that with the correct detergent. If your pressure washer uses a siphon hose, set that up with the detergent instead.
The nozzles on pressure washers are universally colour coded, which definitely makes life a lot easier. Use the nozzle switch to the black nozzle to spray the detergent. The black nozzle sprays the detergent over a large area with low pressure so it can be used on any surface. Make sure to cover the entire area of the oil stain. Use large sweeping motions with the pressure washer wand to ensure good coverage.
Once you have sprayed the detergent and let it sit for a minute or two, you can go in and start the pressure washing.
How you pressure wash your driveway will depend on the material that it is made of. As we've mentioned, if you have an asphalt driveway you should only use a cold water pressure washer. For a block paved or concrete driveway, you can use either a pressure washer or a power washer.
For all driveway types, you should start with a medium-pressure washer nozzle (this will be the yellow nozzle) and hold the pressure hose around 12 inches away from the surface. This nozzle has a more focused spray than the black one so will apply more pressure to where you point it. And this type should be enough to remove oil stains from most surfaces.
The blue and red nozzles both have a zero-degree angle which means that they apply a lot of pressure to the area where you point the wand. You should use these nozzles with care as they can easily cause damage when pressure washing.
For example, if you don't hold the pressure hose far enough away, the force of the water can crack a concrete surface. Too much pressure isn't always needed when removing oil stains.
If you have block paving, you should stick to the yellow nozzle only as the blue and red nozzles can remove the cement between the blocks.
Once you have removed the oil stain, it is usually a good idea to apply a sealant such as a concrete sealant to work as a barrier against future stains.
With all that being said, even if you follow the steps we've laid out here, it can still be difficult to remove stains, especially for bigger oil puddles. And at this point, some professional help may be required.
If you need a professional cleaning solution, the Triple Clean Gang can help. We have the highest quality cleaning products and the most state-of-the-art cleaning equipment, and we also understand the needs of different types of surfaces. Our professional cleaning technicians can help to remove even the most stubborn of driveway oil stains. We offer driveway cleaning and pressure washing services.
So can a pressure washer remove oil stains from a driveway? Yes, it can. And it usually isn't too hard to achieve if you follow the steps, especially if the stain is relatively small and new. Pressure washers use force plus a detergent to remove oil and this can be a very effective solution in many cases. Although, more stubborn stains may require the help of professional cleaners.