How to Pressure Wash Concrete Driveways

If you park your car on your driveway or if you often work on your car outside you’ve probably experienced some grease and oil buildup on the ground. These stains can be unsightly. They create a real eyesore to one of the most prominent and visible areas of your house.

Traditional methods of cleaning will have you on your knees scrubbing away with a degreaser and some detergent. I want to tell you that there’s an easier and faster way. Pressure wash those grease and oil stains off your concrete driveway to restore it to a clean appearance again. Just put on a green nozzle and spray away all that nastiness. That’s it!

Pressure washing is a great way to clean not only your concrete driveway, but also things around the house. View a pressure washer as an investment. You’ll use it over and over again for maintenance of different things, and in the process you’ll be prolonging the life of those things.

Prep Work Before Pressure Washing

Clear the area

Make sure you have your driveway cleared before you start this cleaning job. Yes, that means parking your car somewhere else. It also means moving trash bins, bikes, and other objects to the side.

Sweep up large debris

Use a push broom to sweep up or away large debris such as pebbles, rocks, branches and leaves. Clearing these objects will allow you to see where stains have settled. It’s also a good safety measure that prevents these objects from getting picked up by the force of the pressurized water.

Keep children and pets away

A pressure washer spray discharges water at a high velocity. The force from a direct spray can cause serious injury. Even the water that repels off the surface of the driveway can hurt someone. So, it’s a good idea to keep children and pets away while you’re spraying down the driveway.

Gather supplies

Here are some items that you may or may not use, depending on your preference.

  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Waterproof boots
  • Stiff bristle push broom
  • Garden hose
  • Pressure washer
  • Pressure washer nozzles (black, white, green)
  • Pressure washer attachments (scrub brush)
  • Pressure washer soap or detergent
  • Degreaser spray
  • Silicone-based, waterproof concrete sealant
  • Paint pan

Set up the washer

Your pressure washer needs minimal set up. Basically, if you’re using an electric pressure washer you’ll need a power outlet to connect it to. Gas pressure washers need gas, so have that ready.

Find your water source. Connect one end of the garden hose to the spigot and the other end to the washer. Turn the water on.

Select your pressure washer nozzles. You’ll be using the black nozzle for soaping and the green nozzle for rinsing. If you’re using a scrub brush or a surface cleaner attachment have those out and ready.

Put on your safety goggles, gloves and boots. The goggles will protect your eyes in the event water particles are repelled up from the surface. Gloves will provide good grip. The boots will prevent your feet from getting wet.

Mix and load your detergent

Many pressure washing detergents come in concentrate form. You’ll need to dilute these detergents according to the instructions provided by the manufacturers. Use the right ratio of water to detergent.

Other detergents are premixed, and so can be used right away.

Depending on your washer, you can pour the detergent solution into the on-board detergent tank. If the washer does not have a built-in detergent tank, then you’ll have to use a siphon hose and create a vacuum for the detergent to flow from the container to the washer’s pump.

Steps to Take When Pressure Washing Driveway

Step 1: Prewashing

Walk down the length of your driveway and pressure wash to the side any remaining loose debris that was not removed by the sweeping. You don’t have to use detergent. Just pull the trigger on your wand and spray down with water using the white nozzle.

If you have any grease or oil stains present, spray the spots with a degreaser afterward. Use a stiff brush or the pressure washer scrub brush attachment to scrub the solution into the concrete. 

Step 2: Washing

Swap out the white nozzle or the scrub brush attachment and put on the black nozzle. 

Start at the end of your driveway (opposite from the street) and work your way backward. Make sure you maintain a distance of 12-20 inches between the nozzle and the concrete as you begin to spray the detergent across the length of the driveway. Slowly move the pressure washer wand back and forth using sweeping motions while covering manageable sections. 

After you have covered the driveway, allow the cleaning solution to sit on the surface of the concrete for at least five minutes. 

Step 3: Rinsing

Replace the black soaping nozzle with the green rinsing nozzle. 

Hold down the spray handle and work your way back and forth down the length of your driveway to remove the cleaning solution. Make sure you hold the pressure washer wand 12-20 inches away from the surface, similar to how you positioned yourself when you applied the detergent. 

If there are tougher stains such as paint still present, move the nozzle closer to three to four inches away from the area. Continue moving the nozzle back and forth, but slower to allow the water pressure more time to blast away the stains. 

Step 4: Sealing

To prevent future heavy staining and damage, apply a layer of waterproof sealant over the driveway. You can do this by first pouring the sealant into a large paint pan. With the rolling paintbrush and extender pole, dip it into the paint pan to cover the entirety of its surface. Now, starting from the center of your driveway, roll out the sealant from the middle to the edges of the concrete. 

Allow the sealant to dry on your concrete driveway at least 24 hours before parking on it again. 

Just like that, you end up with a beautiful, clean, and protected concrete driveway!

Basic Washer Information

PSI

If you are still on the market for a pressure washer specifically for concrete driveway cleaning, you can start your search with machines that range between 3,000 and 3,500 PSI (the measurement of pressure or pounds per square inch). These washers will provide enough water pressure to clean a concrete surface effectively. Any lower of a PSI and the pressure washer may be ineffective in removing tough stains. Any more, and you may start removing small chunks of your concrete! 

Another rule of thumb for determining whether or not a pressure washer is powerful enough to handle cleaning tough stains from concrete is by multiplying its PSI by the number of gallons of water it can produce per minute (GPM). The resulting number will give you its cleaning units of power. (For example, a pressure washer with 2000 PSI and 2 GPM has 4000 cleaning units.)

The most effective pressure washers for cleaning concrete driveways will have about 5000 cleaning units. In other words, for the best clean, look for machines above 2000 PSI and 2 GPM. 

Gas vs. electric 

Also, consider whether you want a gas or electric pressure washer. Besides the power difference, you’ll find that many gas pressure washers have an added ability to produce hot water rather than room temperature or cold, and using hot water on your concrete driveway will make the stain removal process a little bit easier. 

In addition, gas pressure washers often offer more PSI compared to electric machines. They also have the benefit of being able to be moved around as you work, versus having to stay in one area with an electric pressure washer so it can remain plugged into an outlet. 

Electric pressure washers, on the other hand, are friendlier to your wallet, and can still be useful as gas machines as long as you find the right combination of PSI and GPM. In addition, electric pressure washers require less maintenance since they don’t require gas or oil refills and as a result are much easier to use, especially for first-time pressure washer owners. 

Electric washers are also more compact compared to gas pressure machines and can be stored easily once you’re done using them. 

The following list of pressure washers are rated optimal for concrete driveway cleaning and can all be found on Amazon:

Pressure WasherFeatures
Simpson MegaShot Gas Pressure WasherHas the option to increase or reduce power to clean other surface types.
Champion Dolly-Style Gas Pressure Washer User-friendly design for easy storage and transport. Ideal if you are price-sensitive. 
Briggs & Stratton Gas Pressure Washer Unique Quiet Sense Technology allows you to reduce the noise level by up to 40%, so you don’t bother neighbors while cleaning. 
Briggs & Stratton Electric Pressure Washer – 2000 PSI, 3.5 GPMThis versatile washer is perfect for cleaning a variety of surfaces and has a 7-in-1 nozzle to eliminate the hassle of removing and replacing different tips. 

Pressure Washer Nozzles & Attachments

Most pressure washers come with a set of nozzles. They’re color-coded to differentiate their specific design and use. For this job you’ll be using the black and green nozzles.

Black nozzle

Also commonly referred to as the soaking nozzle, you use this to spray on a detergent or soap for soaking purposes. The design incorporates a large orifice, which allows for a wide spray pattern of 65 degrees. This provides good coverage as the detergent is being sprayed on. The black nozzle also utilizes low water pressure.

White nozzle

This nozzle is used for general spraying. It’s design has a medium-sized orifice, which provides for a spray pattern of 40 degrees. With a narrower spray, more pressure is exerted on the water. The effect is a much more powerful spray and breakdown of dirty residuals.

Green nozzle

The ideal pressure washer nozzle for washing concrete is the green nozzle. The design has an even narrower spray pattern of 25 degrees. The result is water comes out of the small orifice at a much higher velocity than it does out of the white nozzle. Its effect is a very concentrated stream of pressurized water that’s able to lift stubborn stains from surfaces.

Scrub Brush Attachment

In addition to the variety of nozzles you can connect to your pressure washer wand, there are attachments that can be added to help make certain jobs easier. Consider the scrub brush, or also known as the surface cleaner attachment. It’s a wand that attaches to the spray gun. At the end of the lance there’s a spinning arm that’s equipped with multiple nozzles. The scrub brush is a good tool to cover large areas.

Another nozzle that will prove useful in cleaning your concrete driveway is a pressure washer scrub brush attachment

Pressure Washer Cleaners and Sealants

Look for pressure washer cleaning solutions that are specific to your needs. Different concrete driveway stains require different types of cleaners: 

Concrete Driveway StainCleaner
DirtGeneral or all-purpose cleaner
Mold and MildewMold and mildew remover
Rust StainsRust remover
Oil and Grease StainsDegreaser

All-purpose cleaners, such as the Simple Green Oxy Solve Total Outdoor Cleaner (Amazon) or the Simple Green Oxy Solve Concrete and Driveway Cleaner (Amazon) can help eliminate multiple types of stains on your concrete driveway all at once. 

Cleaning Solution Ingredients 

Another thing to consider when it comes to choosing cleaning solutions for your driveway is the ingredients featured in different types of cleaners. Because you will be using the cleaner outdoors, it is likely that the runoff soap and water will find its way into storm drains. 

For this reason, it is best to choose a solution that is biodegradable and safer for the environment. Most pressure washer soaps you find will be biodegradable, while pressure washer detergents are synthetic and not biodegradable. 

However, if you do find that detergent will be the best option for your concrete cleaning needs, make sure you try to push any run off towards the grass, so it absorbs there instead. You can do this by starting your pressure washing at the edge of your driveway and working your way up towards your house. 

Pressure Washer-Safe Cleaners

When choosing a cleaning solution, you will also need to consider which cleaners are safe for use in your pressure washer. Your pressure washer’s manual should tell you which cleaners are not recommended for use in your washer, but in general, try to avoid using solutions containing bleach or ammonia. These chemicals can wear down the internal components of your pressure washer—such as the pump—causing damage over time. 

However, if you have a downward steam washer, meaning that the cleaning solution is applied after the water has flowed through the washer’s pump, then it is safe to use bleaching products. 

Concrete-Safe Cleaners

You will also need to think about the long-term impact the cleaning solution will have on the concrete in your driveway. Research your cleaners carefully, and make sure you choose a cleaner that won’t have lasting damage on the concrete over time. 

Some cleaners that are safe to use on concrete include:

  • Dish soap
  • Oxygen bleach
  • Mineral spirits

Concrete Driveway Sealants

After pressure washing your driveway, consider adding a layer of waterproof sealant over it. This will help prevent additional dirt and stains from seeping into your concrete’s pores. As a result, your driveway will be easier to clean and will also stay clean much longer. In general, a waterproof concrete sealant will also protect your driveway from rain and wind, two elements that would otherwise cause weathering and eventually cracks. 

There are several types of sealant options for concrete:

Exterior Insulated Finish System (EIFS)

EIFS looks similarly to stucco when it has been applied as a layer over concrete. It protects concrete from moisture and also helps smoothen out the surface by filling in any small holes, cracks, or gaps to create a nice, even look. Another benefit of EIFS is that you can customize its tint.

Elastomeric Coating

Elastomeric coating is a type of paint that can be applied to the surface of your concrete driveway. Similar to normal paint, you will need to apply an exterior primer to the surface before going over it with one to two coats of elastomeric coating. 

Elastomer coating has elastic properties; this characteristic allows it to reshape itself to the concrete, creating an air-tight and water-tight seal on the surface that takes care of small cracks and other small imperfections. 

Membrane Waterproofing

Membrane waterproofing sealant is ideal for interior concrete structures such as concrete floors in basements or concrete foundations. This sealant helps protect both the inside and the surface of the concrete from weather conditions.

Crystalline Waterproofing

Crystalline waterproofing results in closed cracks as well as sealed capillaries and pores in the concrete. While this sealant is highly effective, it is also one of the more complicated concrete sealants to apply, as it requires silica sand, compound cement, and other chemicals to waterproof and seals concrete. 

Silicone Sealant

Silicone sealants are great for repairing cracks as large as a quarter-inch thick. It is by far one of the easiest sealants to apply to concrete driveways and only requires a large paint roller or spraying method to apply. 

For residential or smaller driveways, a silicone-based waterproof concrete sealant, such as ToughCrete Concrete Sealer, is highly recommended. 

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