It’s a no-brainer that most people paint surfaces to make them both beautiful to look at and as a form of expression. However, there are instances where the paint is an accident, like splatter on a concrete floor. Whether it’s an intentional coat or an accidental spill, you might be wondering — what are the best ways to remove paint from concrete floors?
The best ways to remove paint from concrete floors include scrubbing with soap and water, graffiti removers, paint strippers, power washing, floor grinders, soda blasting, and trisodium phosphate. However, each method’s effectiveness depends on the type of paint and the size of the area.
The rest of this article will explain the most effective ways to remove paint from concrete floors in greater detail. Read on for ten of the best removal methods and information on preventing concrete from absorbing paint.
For Simple Paint Stains: Dish Soap & Warm Water
Removing simple paint stains is a breeze, and you don’t have to break the bank to get your concrete floor in its original neat form.
That said, the materials needed for this project are:
- Dish soap,
- Warm water,
- Scrubber brush or sponge
- An old towel
- A scraper
Follow these steps to start removing the paint from your concrete:
- Using the edge of the scraper, remove as much of the paint as possible.
- Sweep the floor to remove any dirt, dust, or debris.
- Pour some dish soap in a bucket filled with warm water
- Apply the mixture to the area of paint on your concrete
- Scrub away at it until there’s none left.
- Repeat steps 1 through 5 until all the paint stains are gone.
- Rinse the area with water and allow it to dry.
However, keep in mind that this method is mild and could be time-consuming, especially if the paint has been on the surface for a long time.
Pro Tip: Once you’ve removed the stains, I suggest you apply a concrete sealer or wax on your floor — doing so makes it more stain-resistant, prevents cracking, and makes concrete last longer. In that regard, I recommend the Armor AR350 from Amazon.com. It’s breathable, UV-resistant, and cheap to maintain.
For Somewhat Stubborn Paint: Graffiti Remover
Another way to remove paint from concrete is using graffiti remover. This product will clean the paint off of the surface without damaging the surrounding area or making a mess in your home.
To remove paint stains using this method, you need:
- Graffiti remover – you can try out the Sprayway Graffiti Remover to finish the job well the first time. It’s an effective paint remover and works on a variety of surfaces.
- A bucket of water and a sponge or mop
- Absorbent Paper towel
Once you have the materials, follow these steps:
- Clear the area of any dirt or debris
- Pour some water on the stain to soften it up and ensure all of the chemicals have time to soak into it before starting with scrubbing.
- Spray down an ample amount of graffiti remover onto the stain and start scrubbing away until all traces are gone!
- Using the paper towel or cloth, blot or wipe the area.
- Finally, rinse off any remaining residue and enjoy having a fresh-looking floor again!
Caution: Ensure you wear protective gear — gloves, a respirator, and safety glasses — when removing paint with this method. This method is also time-consuming; try waiting up to 20 minutes between applications before scrubbing away the paint.
For Set-In Paint Stains: Paint Strippers
Have you ever come across chemical strippers used to remove paint from wood?
Most of these chemicals work for concrete applications as well. However, before using them, check the manufacturer’s instructions to learn more about the paint they can remove. While some can only remove water-based latex paint, others work on oil and water-based paints.
When buying strippers, ensure they’re harmless to the environment, low in odor, and durable. The Dumond Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover (link to Amazon) checks all three boxes, making it worthwhile to try.
To apply a paint stripper on the affected area, follow these steps:
- Using a brush or broom, apply a thick layer of the paint stripper.
- Let the stripper sit and penetrate the paint for 4-24 hours.
- Once the paint becomes wrinkled, use a scraper or wire brush to remove it from the surface.
- Thoroughly hose off or mop up the residue.
Safety Tip: Never use any stripper that contains methylene chloride. Although these paint strippers work fast, they are highly toxic and have been banned by the EPA.
For the DIY Fanatic: DIY Paint Stripper
If you’re an ardent DIYer, then here’s an exciting challenge: creating a homemade paint stripper. The beauty of DIY strippers is that they’re as effective on stubborn paint as professionally made ones, as long as you make them right!
The most common approach is mixing clay, cat litter, and a store-bought stripper to create an absorbent mixture. Once you’ve done that, you can apply it to the paint as you would a manufactured stripper.
As the mixture dries, it soaks up and loosens the paint, making your work easier. It can take between 20 minutes and two hours before the paint starts wrinkling.
This video explains how to make a DIY Stripper in greater detail:
For Exterior Paint Stains: Power Washing
Although you could buy environmentally friendly, effective paint strippers, you’ll likely have to do more cleanup after removing the paint. That’s because strippers leave behind a goopy mess that can be laborious to dispose of. If the paint spills on exterior concrete, you can use a power washer to avoid the hassle that comes with using paint strippers.
Here are the steps to follow to peel the paint away from your concrete floor when using this method:
- Pre-clean the concrete surface. Thoroughly clean the floor by sweeping away all dust, dirt, and debris using a broom. You could also wash away the dust using clean water. After that, peel off loose paint using a knife or a scraper, especially if it’s oil-based. Allow the surface to dry.
- Prepare the area around the concrete. Take any plants, furniture, or other objects out of the area you’ll be cleaning. That’s because pressure washers can damage skin and wood and strip paint off other surfaces. Using a waterproof material, cover nearby fixtures and surfaces. If working near a building, close all nearby doors and windows to prevent harmful fumes from entering your house.
- Apply a stripper to the concrete floor. Apply a suitable stripper to soften the paint. Use a water-based stripper or methylated spirit solution for water-based paint and an oil-based paint stripper for oil-based paint. If you’re unsure, use an oil-based stripper. Pour the solution on the concrete floor and let it sit for 6-8 hours.
- Clean off the paint. Set the pressure washer at 3000 psi and above and the flow rate at least four gallons (15 l) per minute and blast away the stripper and layer of paint using the nozzle. Spray pointing downwards and in a sweeping motion for the best results. Ensure you have a firm grip of the washer’s wand and keep it at a distance of 12-18 in. from the concrete surface. This prevents the force of water from damaging the concrete.
- Dispose of the wash water. Once you’ve finished the job, contain and collect the wash water and safely dispose of it.
If you prefer this method but don’t own a pressure washer, try the popular and highly effective Sun Joe SPX3000 pressure washer (link to Amazon).
Always wear protective gear, especially gloves, goggles, a mask, and closed shoes when attempting this method.
For a Chemical-Free Alternative: Floor Grinders
Floor grinders are a safer, chemical-free alternative to paint strippers. This method involves grinding paint off concrete using a hand-held or walk-behind grinder.
It’s an effective method for removing coatings and abrading concrete floors. However, these machines work best when removing paint spills or coats of paints.
You can rent or buy a hand-held grinder along with the grinding disks. However, it’s critical to note that operating these machines can be difficult, especially if you’re inexperienced.
Caution: The grinding process releases dust particles, which can cause respiratory problems besides leaving a messy floor. However, you can prevent these effects by using a grinder that comes with a vacuum port you can hook up to an industrial vac.
For Indoor Paint Stains: Soda Blasting
Scraping paint from a large space, such as a hall floor, can be time-consuming, laborious, and stressful. To avoid the headache, you can use soda blasting to remove the paint.
First off, you’ll need a soda blaster to use this method. You can either rent or buy one from online stores. Either way, you should ensure you get the right type of sodium carbonate to use.
To use the soda blaster, hold its nozzle close to the ground and move it around the affected area where the paint is. This ensures the paint comes off evenly with little effort.
Note: Due to its high pH, sodium carbonate can cause severe damage to some plants and animals. Ensure you remove any living organisms from the area you’re blasting. Wear a respirator as well so that you don’t inhale much of it in the process.
For Dried Acrylic Paint: Acrylic Paint Remover
Acrylic paint removers come in handy when removing dry acrylic paint from concrete. For better results, you can use elbow grease to loosen the acrylic from the porous concrete surface.
Had some acrylic paint spill recently?
That shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. In fact, wet acrylic paint is easier to remove than dry paint, meaning you should never procrastinate!
After removing the paint, it’s best to cleanse the area using a soap and water solution. You can also use a scrub brush to remove any residue from the concrete’s crevices.
For Latex Paint: Ammonia, Thinner, & Alcohol
Compared to other paints, removing latex paint from a concrete floor can be a breeze because latex paints are water-based.
Like acrylic paint, latex paint is easier to remove from concrete while still wet than when dry. If the paint hasn’t dried up, you can use shop rags and paper towels to remove as much of it as possible.
The chemicals you need to remove latex paint include ammonia, thinner, and alcohol. Once you have all three, follow these steps:
- Clean the area. Remove all the dust and debris on the concrete surface using a contractor’s broom. After that, use a paint scraper to loosen the paint.
- Apply ammonia. Apply ammonia generously to the concrete surface. You may saturate a cloth in ammonia and use it to penetrate the chemical into the porous concrete better. Let the solution sit for about 60 minutes. The latex paint will loosen and bubble up, making it easier to scrape away. Reapply the solution if necessary. Ensure you rinse the affected area once you finish.
- Use paint thinner. If the ammonia solution doesn’t yield the expected result, you could also use a paint stripper. Apply the paint stripper the same way you did with the ammonia solution.
- Apply alcohol. Is the paint still stubborn? If so, apply alcohol generously to the surface or a rag and use it to wipe the area to loosen the paint. After that, clean the surface with soap and water.
For Guaranteed Results: TSP
Trisodium phosphate is one of the sure-fire solutions you can use in paint removal applications. It comes in liquid or powder forms and is as effective as paint strippers.
I can recommend the TSP Tri-Sodium Phosphate All Purpose Cleaner from Sunnyside, which is a popular and effective option.
To use TSP to remove paint from your concrete floor, you’ll need:
- Trisodium phosphate
- A mop
- Warm water
- A good scrubbing pad
- An old toothbrush
The steps are:
- Sweep the concrete floor to remove any solid dirt.
- Dilute the trisodium phosphate in warm water and apply a liberal amount of the solution to the stain.
- Scrub the stain vigorously with a scrubbing pad and an old toothbrush until you remove the paint.
- Rinse any leftover trisodium phosphate from the area by spraying it down with warm water.
Caution: TSP is highly toxic, so don’t forget to use protective clothing when using it. Check your local laws as well to see whether it’s legal in your area.
Removing Paint From Concrete Floors: Tips and Tricks
Removing paint from a concrete floor can be quite a hassle, if not intimidating. Sometimes, you may need to repeat most of the procedures up to three times to get the best results.
If you’re not comfortable with chemical solvents, it’s a good idea to use soy-based paint strippers. They’re made from plants and are non-toxic yet effective. You can also use soap and water, although the soap solution method may not work on some paints, as mentioned earlier.
There is a more environmentally friendly version of the TSP Cleaner I mentioned earlier, the Phosphate Free TSP Substitute All-purpose Heavy Duty Cleaner, which works great for some paint stains.
You don’t have to overwhelm yourself by hand scrubbing a large floor. Instead, sandblasters and power washers can come in handy when removing paint from a large area.
What if the Paint Doesn’t Come Off?
You’ve tried everything. Nothing has worked, and you’re now probably wondering: what next? If none of the methods we’ve described work, consider resurfacing your concrete.
You can do that by applying a coat over the old surface to get a clean, black canvas that you can spruce up with various colors, patterns, and textures, adding that visual appeal to your floors.
How To Prevent Concrete Floors From Absorbing Paint
Leaving concrete bare and untreated is a sure-fire way of making your floor susceptible to paint stains. This type of concrete behaves like a sponge and easily absorbs other types of stains. Besides, cleaning such concrete can be a headache.
However, you can keep your concrete floor in the best shape by protecting it using floor wax or a sealer. These two strategies prevent the absorption of foreign substances, making it easy to remove stains and spills before they soak in. If a spill hasn’t dried, you can apply detergent and water to remove it. For dried paint, you can use a scraper.
Before applying any sealant or wax, ensure the surface is smooth and clean. An uneven surface would cause the sealer to spread out unevenly, leaving spaces that allow dirt and debris to penetrate, meaning your floor would still be exposed to paint spills.
When painting concrete, do it properly to ensure that future removal will be hassle-free as well.
Removing paint from a concrete floor can be laborious, time-consuming, and stressful. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible – it only requires patience and applying the appropriate method to get the best results.
If working on a small area, you could apply soap and water solution, TSP, a thinner, or a stripper. For larger areas, soda blasting, power washing, and floor grinding can do the trick. Whichever method you prefer, always consider your safety first. Ensure you put on protective gear, such as goggles, closed shoes, heavy-duty gloves, and a respirator when using chemicals to remove paint.