At our old house, maintaining the garage itself was always somewhat of a project. The garage floor had splatters of paint, grease, wood stain, oil, and other stuff that I was never able to identify. Whatever it was, it was a stubborn material that was very difficult to remove. Even though we eventually sold that house and now have a new garage, knowing how to clean a garage floor is important for every homeowner. Giving attention to this one area can drastically improve the look and feel of your garage, making a clean, project-ready space to work in.
Here are some simple steps to follow to give your garage floor a good clean. After removing everything possible from the garage floor and sweeping to remove debris, fill a 5-gallon bucket full of soapy water. Using a coarse bristle brush on a broom handle, scrub the garage floor. For harder stains, let the soap soak for 10-15 minutes, then with boiling water scrub the trouble areas. Once done, use a pressure washer to rinse away the soap and stains.
(As a side note, before we delve into the topic, ask yourself, “What is my end goal with cleaning the garage floor?” Is this task a part of the honey-do list, or are you considering sealing and epoxying the garage floor? If you are considering the latter, check out the article on ‘How to Prep, Seal, and Epoxy Your Garage Floor’.)
Prep Your Garage Floor for Cleaning
Before you start cleaning the garage floor, take the time to move everything possible off the floor. You want your workspace to be clear so that you can thoroughly sweep the floor and remove any dirt and debris. This will also allow you to better assess the job and determine where the trouble spots on the garage floor might be. Also, if you do not take the time to remove everything, you will probably have some sort of water damage when you pressure wash the grime off the concrete.
How to Initially Clean Your Garage Floor
It sounds simple, but once everything is removed, start sweeping. I start with the outer edges of the garage where it is the most time consuming normally, and where you need to be most meticulous. Pay special attention around the garage door since things can get lodged and try to hide around the track. I would take the time to brush any dirt off the walls or baseboard so that it doesn’t end up on the ground.
I will add that it is a good idea to clean the garage floor often to reduce the chance of debris buildup. Obviously, you can use a floor broom or a dust sweeper and dustpan. But you can also use a leaf blower if you have one. This is a quick and efficient way of removing dirt and dust from the garage between deep cleanings. (Just make sure not to break anything or make the mess worse by casting a maelstrom to your toolbox). You can also use a shop vac for extra messy projects that involve things like sawdust or drywall.
Friendly reminder from a cautionary tale: When you are cleaning, be sure to sweep up the dirt and debris and throw it into a garbage can that has a nice, tight lid (or as I just mentioned, use your good friend the shop vac to seal away the dirt!) I used to sweep everything towards the garage door and call it good. One fall morning I was doing just that. I had been working out in the garage for a few hours cleaning and rearranging things. At this specific point, I was 30 seconds away from finishing sweeping up and cleaning the garage floor. I had my earbuds in and was not paying too much attention. I looked up and saw a dust devil (think harmless tornado) out over my neighbor’s house. I could easily see it because of the sand it was carrying, and I swear to this day it hopped over my neighbor’s house. I just stood there and watched it, since you do not see always them that close or that detailed out here in the desert. That thing changed course, came directly towards my wide-open garage door and blew everything plus some that I had swept out, right back into my garage once more. That day my cleaning habits changed…
Remove Oil and Grease Spots
Once your floor is initially clean, it’s time to tackle the spots and stains. A common thing to find when you are cleaning your garage floor is oil and grease spills. If you have either, pour some cat litter or sawdust over the spill and let it sit for minimally 24 hours. These materials will soak up the excess oil or grease, so you are not spreading the love all over your concrete like the HR department at a holiday party. Once the sawdust or kitty litter has had enough time to sit, sweep up the material and dispose of it properly. After the oil or grease is cleaned up, put a generous amount of dish soap on the stains. Add a little hot water to the area and scrub with a bristle brush. Allow the soap and water to work on the stain for 15-60 minutes. Once complete, with a bucket of clean water pour some water on the ground in the far edges of the garage and with a long-handled squeegee start working the water towards the driveway.
Remove Rust Stains
Another common garage stain is rust. To remove rust stains from concrete there are several products you might want to use to help. Two common ones are either CLR or TSP. These chemicals will get the job done but should be used with care. While you are washing, limit direct contact with your skin, and be sure to keep your area ventilated, as they tend to produce some strong fumes! Both products should first be diluted with water according to their instruction, and then poured directly onto the rust stain. With a bristle brush, scrub the stain. Be sure to rinse this product off thoroughly when you are finished scrubbing.
I personally look for more natural ways to clean, if possible. My kids are often out in the garage with me and they are not always wearing shoes. I try to be intentional with the products I use so that they do not come in contact with something harmful. Running barefoot over the garage floor I just cleaned, becomes less fun with irritated feet from the chemical residue that could be there. White vinegar is another option for cleaning rust off the garage floor and can be just as effective as the chemical brands. If you need to intensify the vinegar, add some salt to the area to increase the acidity. Again, use a coarse bristle brush to work the vinegar into the stain. Once complete, use a bucket of clean water and with a squeegee, work the water towards the driveway.
Remove Paint Stains and old Sealant
Paint looks great on the walls, but those splatters can make a mess of your garage floor. For small paint spills, spot cleaning with a solvent of some kind is probably your best bet. (Here are some ecofriendly choices to check out). If the mess is much larger than a few drops, like an entire bucket of paint that tipped over unnoticed for 10 years, or overspray from another project hit the concrete in large amounts, you may want to explore some other options. If the mess covers a large part of the whole garage, look into renting a floor grinder with the proper attachments. This is also a good option if you are looking to remove an old garage sealant to make room for something new.
Deep Cleaning the Garage Floor
For deep cleaning your garage floor, there are few things more effective than a pressure washer. When you look to rent, (or buy) I suggest that you choose one that has at least 2000 PSI, so that the water pressure is strong enough to get your concrete clean. Also, look for one that has a soap dispenser attachment (they are extremely handy!)This should get the job done and can be stored away easily.
This kind of cleaning is best done with an empty garage after you have treated and scrubbed your other stains. Do note: Spraying high pressured water creates a lot of mist. It is best to have your garage as bare as possible so there is no water damage to your tools or those boxes of Christmas decorations. When you are cleaning your garage floor with a pressure washer, I suggest starting from the back of the garage and working your way towards the driveway. I will normally clean one car bay, but this is simply based on preference. I keep the nozzle a few inches from the ground, and I will keep the wand at a slight angle with the nozzle slightly pointing towards the garage door. This allowed me to control the direction of the water while I am cleaning the concrete.
Clean Floors are Worth the Work
There is a sense of pride that comes from a hard day’s work. And even more so when you truly enjoy the fruit of your labor. For many of us, the garage can be a place to relax and unwind while working with our hands. Clean floors can be the start of reclaiming that space from some of the mess that projects create. Try and see for yourself! But I will tell you, knowing that my storage bins aren’t stuck to the ground in some mystery goo, or that I won’t track sawdust or oil into the house because I’ve maintained my space, brings peace to my workplace.