From salt to dirt, snow to mud, winter weather can take a toll on all aspects of your home and garden – including your garage floors. If you want to know how to clean a garage floor after winter weather, look no further. We’ll tell you everything you need to know in this post!
What You'll Learn Today
- What Kind of Damage is Done to a Garage Floor During the Winter?
- How to Clean Up Winter Damage from Salt and Other Materials
- Protecting From Winter Damage in the Future
What Kind of Damage is Done to a Garage Floor During the Winter?
You’re probably thrilled to see the arrival of spring – and so is your garage floor! Over the winter months, garage floors can take quite the beating, usually from deicing fluids and road salts.
If you’re parking your car in the garage over the winter, it’s pretty difficult to avoid this kind of damage. It’s important to understand what kind of havoc they wreak, though, so that you can prevent them from permanently staining your floor.
In the winter, road crews in most places use various types of calcium chloride and liquid magnesium products (or road salt) to clear and de-ice the roads. These melt the snow and ice to keep it from refreezing, but the problem is that the materials cling to your car and eventually are deposited on the floor of your garage.
The deicing materials create a brine that seeps deep into the pores of your concrete. The brine can then refreeze inside the concrete and expand, breaking it apart. This process is known as spalling.
Even if these chemicals aren’t used, water that works its way into the concrete freezes overnight and causes similar types of damage.
Subflorescence is another type of damage that can be done. It is caused when the moisture in the floor evaporates and the left behind salt recrystallizes there. It causes areas of the concrete to flake off and also leaves behind unattractive white stains.
Of course, other types of damage can be done to your concrete floors over the winter, too – rust stains, oil and grease stains, and all other kinds of messes can be created when Old Man Winter arrives.
How to Clean Up Winter Damage from Salt and Other Materials
Here are a few ways you can give your garage floor a deep cleaning after the snow has finally receded.
Prepare the Garage for Cleaning
First, you need to get the garage floor ready for cleaning. Remove all debris and items from your garage so that you have a clean slate to work with.
Getting Rid of Salt Damage
In some cases, using a mixture of a gallon of warm water with a cup of vinegar (along with a tablespoon of dish soap) is all you need. Just pour this on the stained area and scrub with a deck brush. You can then use a mop to remove the residue before rinsing with water.
This will prevent the salty mess from being redistributed into the floors.
You might have to do this several times to be effective.
Hydrochloric acid can also be used on tough stains. It’s a mild concrete etch so you do need to be careful about diluting the solution first (usually one part acid to 20 parts water).
Some people rely on pressure washers to get rid of salt stains, but unfortunately, these tools aren’t very effective. They might give you the illusion that the salt has been rinsed off, but really, the salt will just be pushed deeper into the concrete and resurface later on.
How to Clean Up De-Icing Fluids and Spalls
Most deicing fluid spills can be cleaned up with a solution made of a gallon of warm water and a cup of vinegar.
You will also need to take some extra steps to get rid of spalling or pitting. Using a polymer-modified cement can be effective. Don’t use an ordinary cement patch, since it doesn’t adhere as well and can break or chip away.
Removing Rust Stains
If it’s rust that you notice on your garage floor after a long winter, don’t worry – there are ways to get rid of these, too.
Rust stains are often caused when you leave tools like hammers, screwdrivers, and nails on the floor. If they get wet – something that’s all too common during the winter months- they’ll form rust and leave behind unsightly stains.
You can usually get rid of rust just with a bit of white vinegar. Pour it on the stain and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then scrub it clean and rinse with water. For stubborn stains, you may have to repeat several times or use alternative solutions, like laundry detergents with baking soda.
Getting Rid of Oil and Grease on Concrete
Oil and grease stains are not unusual on concrete floors in the garage, either, especially if you’ve been storing machinery like vehicles, lawnmowers, and other tools indoors over the long winter.
They can leak fluids on the floor, and while there are certainly steps you can take to prevent this, sometimes even the best-laid plans will fail. Therefore, it’s important to know how to get rid of them.
The best rule of thumb is to clean up the spills right away. That way, you don’t worry about the oil or grease settling into the floor for the long term or about tracking it into the house.
For a fresh spill, sprinkle some sawdust or kitty litter on it. It will absorb the liquid and you can sweep it up after a day or so. For an older stain, you might have to use a specialized degreasing product and repeat the cleaning process several times.
Here are some other tips to show you how to remove built-up dirt, oil, and automotive fluids from a concrete garage floor after a long winter:
Can I Use Dawn to Clean My Garage Floor?
Dawn dish soap is a great way to clean grease and dirt from the garage floor without having to resort to special floor cleaners. It is highly effective at basic spills and stains.
That said, it probably won’t be as effective when it comes to getting rid of the salt and deicing materials, nor can it prevent long-term damage.
Can I Use Clorox to Clean the Garage Floor?
You can also use Clorox to get rid of messes on concrete, though it’s not always the best choice, nor is it the most effective.
It’s really only ideal if you’re trying to get rid of mildew, mold, or pet urine. It can also be used if the surface is unstained and needs a general disinfecting.
It should be used as a cleaner and a disinfectant – ultimately, Clorox won’t really get rid of any stains, nor will it reverse any damage that has been done to the floor via winter weather, grease, or oil.
However, it can clean the surface and prepare it for the use of other materials.
Protecting From Winter Damage in the Future
To prevent winter damage in the future, it’s a good idea to seal it. This is especially true if your garage is not heated but it’s an important step to take regardless. Cycles of thawing and freezing can completely destroy the concrete in unheated garages, and inside, sealing the floor can help repel chemicals and stains.
Sealing your garage floor is a great way to keep it attractive and to reduce the amount of regular cleaning and maintenance that you need to do. There are other steps you can take to prevent damage, too. Sweep weekly and wash the floor monthly. You can also use containment floor mats or a tropical sealer to help winterize your garage floor.
After all, once you’ve taken all these steps to get your garage floor clean, you probably don’t want to deal with winter damage ever again! And if you have a dog, don’t forget to read this guide that will help you keep your garage smell fresh.