How To Clean Up Oil Stains In Your Driveway

Since you are here, we might as well dive into the best ways to clean up oil stains in your driveway. Dirty driveways are inevitable, but there is something about those unsightly black spots from oil spills or leaks that are just so hard to ignore. Not only can fresh oil stains get tracked into your house or car, but they can also conceal the beauty of your house and yard. Fortunately for you, we have rounded up the most effective methods for getting rid of oil stains using, for the most part, household products like baking soda, dish soap, and soda. We also explored some tried-and-tested FDA-approved products. 

According to Allstate, automotive stains come in different colors including red, black, brown, and light brown to help identify the part of your car that is leaking. To remove these tough oil stains, whether old or new, consider the following detailed suggestions.

1. Pour an absorbent material over the stain

For this cleaning method, courtesy of Allstate, you will need an absorbent material such as sand, cat litter, cornmeal, or cornstarch, as well as baking soda and dish soap. This method works best with fresh stains, so start by sprinkling the absorbent material over the spill. Let it sit for a few minutes to soak up any oil sitting on the surface of the driveway before it seeps into the concrete. 

Once the spill has dried up, sweep and dispose of the absorbent. Next, water the stain and grab a stiff broom or heavy-duty brush to give the area a good scrub using a paste of baking soda and water, which will dissolve the dirt and grease even further. The last stage is to squirt some dish soap onto the oil stain, scrub again until the oil stain fades, and hose down to rinse the driveway clean.

2. Use laundry detergent

Another way to clean up oil stains in your driveway is to use powdered laundry detergent. This simple but effective method consists of sprinkling detergent over the stain and pouring just enough warm water over it to form a paste. Scrub the spot with a hard bristle brush, preferably a nylon brush, for five minutes, and then let it sit for 15 minutes for the concoction to work its magic, says Better Homes & Gardens. Afterward, scrub again for another minute and rinse the spot with warm water. 

This method works because laundry detergent and other cleaning products contain surfactants, which are molecules that allow soluble (water) and insoluble (oil or grease) to mix well. Thus, the surfactant in the powdered laundry detergent allows water to penetrate the oil stain, effectively lifting the oil particles off the ground, making it easy to scrub and rinse the stain away, APS Physics explains.

3. Use baking soda

Behold, the holy grail of household cleaning products! Baking soda is an effective cleaner because it has a pH of 9, making it a mildly alkaline substance. As a base, it dissolves organic compounds like grease and dirt without scratching the surface area since its mineral structure makes it a gentle abrasive. 

Per Fix Auto, the following is how to remove oil stains with this inexpensive gem. Sprinkle a generous quantity of baking soda atop the oil stain and leave it be for 20 to 30 minutes. This is more than enough time for the baking soda to absorb the stain, allowing you to hose down the area with water. If it does not work, repeat the process, but this time, scrub the oil stain with a hard brush after letting it sit for 30 to 40 minutes. Rinse the spot off with clean water once again.

4. Purchase an oil cleaner/degreaser

If you want to clean up oil stains in your driveway, invest in an oil cleaner or degreaser. While there are many such products on the market, our absolute favorite is Oil Eater Cleaner Degreaser. We love it because it safely dissolves oil, grease, and grime from concrete and asphalt driveways without leaving behind a chemical scent. Another cool thing about this product is that it works on a slew of surfaces and materials. 

To use Oil Eater, according to Live Like You Are Rich, spray the product over the stain in your driveway. After 15 minutes has elapsed, scrub with a stiff bristle scrub brush, rinse away with clean water, and let the area air dry. Depending on the concentration of the oil stain, you may have to repeat the process a few more times until your driveway is devoid of any black spots.

5. Grab a can of Coca-Cola

It is no secret that people have used coke as a multipurpose cleaner and stain remover for many generations. And although its effectiveness as a degreaser is still quite unknown, Cnet details how you can use room-temperature Coke to remove oil stains in your driveway or garage floor. 

Start by pouring one or two cans of the soda onto the stains on your driveway. Allow it to sit for 24 hours and wash it off with a high-pressure hose. If the oil stain persists, pour a few more cans onto the afflicted area and let it sit for another day. If you find small oil spots all over your driveway, we recommend using a spray bottle to maintain accuracy and prevent waste. If you are on a tight budget, consider this method as it is the most economical way of getting rid of oil stains.

6. Use oven cleaner

Since oven cleaners can work their magic on concrete, you should use them to clean up oil stains in your driveway. The process is simple, Reader's Digest says. Spray the stains with the oven cleaner and let it settle for 10 minutes. Next, use a hard bristle brush to scrub the stain for a few minutes and hose it down. You may have to repeat the process to get rid of all the stains. 

So, how exactly does this work? According to Wired, oven cleaners are essentially sodium hydroxide lye but also contain butane and monoethanolamine (MEA). When used, the latter chemicals soften triglycerides and hardened substances like grease. This allows the sodium hydroxide to penetrate easily and react with the grease to form a simple soap that can be washed away. Note that lye is a powerful corrosive alkali so be sure to wear protective gloves.

7. Try liquid detergent

Any grease-cutting dish detergent can do the trick of removing stains from your driveway, Bob Vila assures. For this method, pour the detergent directly over the oil stain, add a splash of water, and scrub the target area with a stiff broom or hard scrub brush. Next, rinse off with a hose and let it air dry. Feel free to repeat the process until the stain is gone. 

Even though we have already discussed surfactants, which are molecules in detergents and other cleaning agents, our friends at Science on the Shelves elaborate even further. Surfactants resemble human sperm; the head is hydrophilic (water-loving) and the tail is hydrophobic (grease-loving). When in use, the head submerges into the water, effectively creating an attractive force between the two, which forcibly lifts the oil stain to the surface. There, it is broken down by the tail into smaller pieces and eventually washed away by water.

8. Make a stain removal poultice

In this context, poultice refers to a soft, moist mass of material that can be used to clean up oil stains in your driveway. According to Fix Auto, for this concoction you will need liquid detergent, hot water, and an absorbent material like cat litter, talc, or sawdust. Grind the absorbent material into a fine powder and mix in the hot water and soap to form a smooth paste. 

To apply the poultice, pour water over the oil stain, and using your fingers or spatula, spread the poultice over the stain. Let the mixture soak into the concrete until it dries up completely. You can use a hard broom or brush to scrape the poultice off the ground afterwards. This method of cleaning oil stains is incredibly effective, but if it does not work the first time around, do not hesitate to repeat the process.