Cleaning Pavers and Removing Stains

Pavers can be beset with all kinds of dirt and stains. Oil, mud, salt, tire marks – these and more can mar a patio, driveway, walkway, or other paving stone application. Luckily, pavers are very easy to clean and repair when necessary. This article will describe how to clean pavers as well as how to prevent any further damage to your installation. Following these steps will ensure clean pavers for the lifetime of the project. (NOTE: Before using any cleaning product or technique, consult with your contractor or paver manufacturer to ensure that it is safe for your pavers. Also follow all instructions carefully and take all proper safety precautions.)

Prevention of Stains

Of course, limiting your installation’s exposure to potential stains is key to preventing stains, but sometimes it’s unavoidable, especially with driveways. As we’ll discuss below, there are ways to help protect your project against stains, but here’s another way: make them blend in. This all comes down to the paver colors you’ve selected. If you go with a single color, a stain or blemish will stand out. If you go with a blend of some kind, stains will often blend in to the pattern, making them harder to see. In addition, some types of pavers will do better against stains than others, so keep that in mind when you do your brand research Still, you may want to remove them anyway even if they are hard to see, so read on for more tips!

The Nuclear Solution for Cleaning Pavers

The ultimate solution for cleaning concrete pavers is simply to remove the offending paver and replace it with a clean one. This is usually necessary when one paver (or at most a few) is severely damaged or stained. It is quite easy to remove the paver, fix the base as necessary, add a new paver, fill in with sand, and compact if needed. While this is a radical solution, it is sometimes required given the circumstances, especially if the paving stone is chipped or broken. This is why it’s important to have some spare brick on hand for replacement and repair. Ask your contractor to leave you some left over brick when the job’s done for this purpose; otherwise, see if any local contractors or manufacturers have some spare material in your blend available. You can learn more about the paver tools needed to build and maintain a  installation by following the link.

Clean Your Paving Stones Regularly

Less radical solutions are possible for cleaning concrete pavers besides simply removing the paver. The general rule for all stains is that the longer you wait, the more the stain will seep into the stone, making it harder to remove it as time goes on. You should attack the stain as soon as you notice it before it “bakes in” to the paver.

A good general regimen for keeping your pavers clean is to do some periodic cleaning. While pavers can be maintenance free, the more care you take of them, the better they’ll look for longer. For weekly or general cleaning of pavers, water is the best choice. A hose with an attachment can easily move dirt or grime from the surface of the pavers, restoring their beautiful looks. For more stubborn dirt, you can try a pressure washer. A pressure washer may also be useful for many other kinds of stains. When using this washer, be careful not to remove too much sand from the joints; you may have to sweep sand back in to the joints to replace any that has been lost.

Even if there are no stains on your paver, it is important to begin paver cleaning if you intend to seal your pavers. Doing so will improve the performance of the sealer. Once you do seal your pavers, cleaning them in the future will be much easier, as a sealer will literally guard the surface against future stains. This is probably the best preventative measure you can take, especially for driveway pavers. For a sealing pavers guide, follow the link.

Targeting Specific Stains

Before using soaps or any other cleaning product, it is best to ‘test’ it on an isolated, hidden part of the paver installation. Check this test spot to ensure that it does no harm to the color or structural integrity of the paving stones.

There are many general products for cleaning pavers. One example is PaveTech. This paver cleaning product is applied to the patio, driveway, walkway, or other application and allowed to sit for 10 minutes. It is then rinsed off with a pressure washer, leaving behind pavers that look like new.

Another general cleaning pavers product is muriatic acid, also known as hydrochloric acid. Be very careful with this substance, at it is highly toxic and damaging to the skin, eyes, throat, lungs, etc. Make sure you sufficiently dilute it and test it on an inconspicuous part of the installation before moving to the larger scale.

Below I’ve listed out some of the more common stains that you will find on your outdoor pavers. Here are some specifc plans to help you deal with specific concrete paver stains:

Asphalt: Chill the area with ice and scrape as much away as you can. Then scrub it with an abrasive powder and rinse with water.

Blood, candy, ketchup, mustard, grease from food: Let liquid detergent set on the stain for 20-30 mins and then rinse with hot water. Clean these stains immediately after they happen!

Caulking: Use poultice of Denatured alcohol, followed by hot water and detergent.

Chewing gum: same as caulking.

Efflorescence: This is the normal residue of a white, chalky substance that can appear on the surface of the paver. It should disappear over time, but if it really bothers you, there are way to clean it, such as with muriatic acid or dedicated efflorescence cleaners.

Mortar: Let the mortar harden and then remove it with a chisel.

Moss and Algae: If your pavers are on the shade, you may have plant growth on the pavers or in the joints. The best cleaning product is anti-algae and moss solutions that can be purchased specifically for this purpose.

Oil or grease: Mop up any excess oil and cover the rest with an oil absorbent. Leave it on stain for a day and then remove it as directed.

Paint: Don’t let this stain settle in – attack it immediately! Do not wipe it as you will spread it and make it sink into the paver deeper. If it is latex paint, soak and scrub it with hot water, scouring powder and a brush.

Rust: Can be removed by using muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid).

Dried paint: Scrape it off and apply commercial paint remover for 20-30 minutes. Then do gentle scrubbing.

Tire skid marks: Scrub them with water, detergent, and scouring powder.

6 thoughts on “Cleaning Pavers and Removing Stains

  1. I have red stains on my pavers that came from battery acid from my golf cart. What is the best way to remove those stains.

    • Hi Richard,
      Removing acid stains is tough because the acid reacts directly with the concrete – often people add acid stains to concrete on purpose because of this reaction. Thus, you’ll have to tread carefully here – try using some SureClean (it’s a cleaning product) on the affected area and wash it away with water. Be very careful when using it, because it contains muriatic acid which is a very caustic substance. Always read the directions first, and you should probably experiment on a small area at first, because sometimes the muriatic acid can make the stain worse. The ‘nuclear option’ is to remove the offending pavers and replace them with new ones if you have some old pavers lying around.

      Good luck!

  2. We just had pavers installed on our patio last week. Now they are covered in white and the color we picked can hardly be seen. What happened and how can we restore the color of the stone? Was it from the grout that the installers used aor possibly was it watered down too early? We are very upset.

    • What you’re probably seeing is efflorescence – it’s usually normal in most paver installations and will go away in a little bit, but if they used grout/cement as part of the installation process it could take a bit longer to clear. Wait a little bit and see if it clears up, as it usually will naturally…if it doesn’t clean up in a few weeks by itself then you’ll have to pursue other cleaning options. Perhaps contact the installer if you don’t see improvement soon.

  3. I recently repaired some cracks on my blacktop driveway, and before the tar dried, a squirrel walked on it and left tar paw prints on my backyard pavers. My husband used WD-40 to remove the “tar tracks” the squirrel created on the pavers and the following day, I found “oil” residue from the WD-40 on the pavers . How do I remove the stains the WD-40 created?

  4. we just had the pavers stone installed in our backyard, it was beautiful but my problem was i painted the patio ceiling with white oil based paint and paint was all over the pavers from drippings. i tried using paint remover and toothbrush and washed it off with garden hose. now it has white marks stains. how do i get rid of these dry paint stains. i need help!!!!

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