Cleaning Concrete with Vinegar: 5 Things You Need to Know

Here in Florida, we’re concerned with making sure pollutants don’t get into the water system. That’s especially true for some of the harsh chemicals that we use to clean our garage floors.

I recently did a comparison test for some of most popular concrete cleaners. But another, more environmentally friendly option, is to use regular old white vinegar.

Vinegar is acidic, but biodegradable. So although it can potentially damage delicate surfaces, it’s safe for use on harder surfaces like concrete and asphalt.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the more common questions most homeowners have about cleaning concrete with vinegar.

What Type of Vinegar to Use

You should only use distilled white vinegar or cleaning vinegar to clean concrete. For general purposes, you can clean concrete with a mixture of part distilled white vinegar to part water.

The ratio of water to vinegar depends on how deep the stain is that you need to remove from your concrete.

Mix equal parts of water to vinegar if you need to remove light to medium stains. Use full-strength vinegar if you need to remove heavily soiled concrete and let it sit for 30 minutes before rinsing it off with water. You can even mix baking soda with vinegar to remove grease and deep stains.

Like most things, vinegar’s not a perfect concrete cleaner, but it’s pretty close. Not only is it safe for you and the environment, but it’s also inexpensive and readily available.

Just use caution when cleaning unfinished concrete with vinegar. Do not let vinegar sit on unfinished concrete for longer than ten to 15 minutes, or it will cause damage. If you’re working with unfinished concrete, you can let the vinegar sit on the concrete for a bit longer so it works better on deeper stains.

Use only white or cleaning vinegar to clean concrete floors

5 Things You Need to Know About Cleaning Concrete With Vinegar

Vinegar has been long-known as a safe and reliable cleaning agent.

Would you like to give it a try, but you’re still not convinced that it will work? Are you wondering how to use it and what it can clean?

Read on for some common questions people have about cleaning concrete with vinegar. The answers may just surprise you.

Will Vinegar Damage Concrete?

Cleaning concrete with vinegar will not damage it! However, saturating concrete for an extended period will damage the cement that binds concrete together. Over time, vinegar erodes the concrete itself, so be careful. 

Take extra care with polished concrete, as a chemical reaction might take place between the vinegar and cement, causing salt and erosion to form. This eats away at your cement and, in turn, your concrete.

Overall, cleaning concrete with vinegar is a safe, non-toxic option for many people looking for natural alternatives. It cleans everything from kitchen floors to garages and driveways or equipment covered in concrete. 

Vinegar even cleans tile grout but remember that vinegar cleans concrete by scraping off tiny layers of cement in the process. Only use it if you don’t mind rubbing off a top microscopic layer to your surface.

Will Vinegar Remove Paint From Concrete?

Yes, cleaning concrete with vinegar will remove paint from concrete.Vinegar is a natural and eco-friendly way to remove even the most stubborn paint from concrete. Vinegar dissolves both water-based and oil-based paints. It can even remove spray paint!

To use vinegar to clean paint, heat just as much vinegar as you will need to remove your paint (between half a cup to one cup, depending on the surface and size of the paint spill). You can heat the vinegar in the microwave or the stove, but do not boil it. Use caution when heating vinegar and do not overheat it, or you may burn yourself.

Next, pour some of the warmed vinegar onto the painted surface or wipe the vinegar on your concrete with an applicator like a brush or sponge. Then let the vinegar sit for between 10 to 15 minutes and begin to scrape off the paint. Repeat this process as many times as necessary until you remove all unwanted paint from your cement.

Will Vinegar Remove Oil From Concrete?

Yes, cleaning concrete with vinegar will remove oil from concrete. You wouldn’t believe it, but if you’ve had an oil spill in your garage, it will work. 

Vinegar will remove mild oil stains from concrete. You might be able to remove even the deepest oil stains if you mix vinegar with dish or laundry soap. 

To do this, mix half a cup of vinegar with soap and water. Pour the mixture onto the concrete and sprinkle it with sawdust.

The sawdust will absorb the oil, and you can wipe the oil and sawdust carefully away after all of the oil has been absorbed. This will take about 30 minutes for unfinished concrete.

How does this work?

The vinegar eats away at the cement in the concrete that binds its molecules together. The oil gets leached out of the concrete and absorbed by the sawdust so that when you sweep it away, most of the oil will be removed.

Be careful not to sweep the dirty sawdust onto your clean concrete, or you’ll be cleaning that with vinegar next!

Will Vinegar Remove Mold From Concrete?

Yes, cleaning concrete with vinegar will remove mold from concrete. In fact, vinegar removes mold from concrete better than bleach. Bleach will only remove the top layer of mold, causing the mold to return. This will make the mold that returns come back even stronger. Would you believe it? Here’s how vinegar kills mold.

Most molds die when they encounter vinegar. It may not kill every mold out there but give it a try. It’s highly likely that vinegar will kill the type of mold you’re looking to get rid of. 

Vinegar can even prevent new mold from growing.

You can use distilled white vinegar or cleaning vinegar to kill mold. Do not use natural vinegar to kill mold, like apple cider vinegar, because they harbor trace amounts of bacteria.

Here’s how you use it.

Before you begin, get a mask, gloves, and face shield. Spores from mold spread very readily, and you don’t know what you’re dealing with. In fact, many people hire professionals because cleaning mold from concrete can be a dangerous task. If you are careful and the area is not too large, you can do it yourself.

If the mold is no more than ten feet in length, then put some undiluted distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle and saturate the surface of your concrete with the vinegar spray.

Let the surface sit for 60 minutes or one hour. Wipe away the mold. This is twice the amount of time you would typically let the vinegar sit on the surface, so be prepared for some mild damage.

Allow the vinegar to sit on the moldy surface for the entire 60 minutes if you are cleaning unfinished concrete. You can reapply the vinegar if the mold is stubborn, taking care not to erode your concrete.

You can even mix one teaspoon of baking soda with two cups of water and spray that mixture onto the mold between pure vinegar applications. If you have mold, trace amounts of vinegar left on the surface will kill it.

The mold won’t return to your concrete if it is entirely removed. With bleach, mold grows stronger and more adaptive when it inevitably returns.

This makes vinegar a better option if you’re wondering how to whiten concrete.

Will Vinegar Remove Algae and Moss From Concrete?

Yes, cleaning concrete with vinegar will remove algae and kill moss on concrete. Vinegar does remove algae from concrete, similar to how it removes mold from concrete. Algae that comes into contact with vinegar dies just like mold.

You can pour the vinegar directly onto the concrete you wish to clean, or you can pour a mixture of water and vinegar onto the concrete, scrub, and repeat as many times as necessary until all of the algae is removed.

Remember that vinegar can only be used for a short time on finished surfaces. Not only does it kill algae and moss, but it eats away at polished cement if you leave it on the cement for too long.

Vinegar can be used for longer periods on unfinished surfaces to remove algae, serving as an excellent cement cleaner. Vinegar is a natural and safe alternative to cleaning concrete with harsh chemicals. In the case of algae and mold, it does a better job than bleach, and it is better in the long term for killing these infestations.

Oftentimes, vinegar can be found in your home or garage. Be sure to use distilled white vinegar to clean algae from your concrete. You can also use cleaning vinegar.