10 Ways to Remove Oil Stains from an Asphalt Driveway

There are many different ways oil can get onto your asphalt driveway. Cars, lawnmowers, and visiting commercial vehicles are notorious for leaking oil, and it’s not difficult to accidentally spill while performing an oil change. It’s a bane on any homeowner and something that does need to be addressed, for both aesthetic reasons and for the integrity of the asphalt. Please know that an asphalt driveway is different from a concrete driveway, so be sure to know which you have when going about cleaning oil stains. What works for concrete can and will ruin asphalt.

Some homeowners may be tempted to replace their driveway entirely, especially if the problem is rampant and seems too labor-intensive. While replacing the driveway is certainly an alternative, it is an expensive one and often not cost-effective. Proper preventative maintenance is the best way to avoid most oil stains on your asphalt driveway. Keep newspapers, cardboard, or other materials beneath your car that will absorb any leaking oil. Ensure that your car is serviced and is free of any oil leaks. Another way to make your job easier is to take good care of your asphalt driveway-experts suggest homeowners sealcoat their asphalt driveways once every two to three years.

Most importantly, be sure to clean up any oil spill as soon as possible. Asphalt is a petroleum-based material, and any oil left on an asphalt driveway will soften and eventually corrode the surface.

Please be certain to remember that if the oil hasn’t been broken down completely, you need to dispose of it, or anything with it, as biohazardous material. This often means taking your oil and oil stained cloths to a special place nearby who will take care of your waste in a manner that will not harm the environment. To do this you can call your local auto parts store as chances are they will accept old oil and dispose of it for you.

In the meantime, here are ten different ways you can rid your asphalt driveway of those awful looking stains. It may just take one method, maybe more, but chances are your stain will be gone once you’ve finished.

1. Water and Soap

That’s right. Everyone should have this in their home. Columnist Tim Carter of Ask the Builder says, “…you can indefinitely keep the grease a liquid if you emulsify it. You do this by adding liquid soap and water to the warm grease. The soap surrounds small droplets of grease and does not allow it to congeal into a solid.

The lubricating fluids in a car motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering and brake fluid, etc. are all oils…All you need to do is squirt some liquid dish soap on the oil spill and add water from a garden hose. Use a push broom or scrub brush to create the emulsion. It will not take much work at all. Rinse with clear water and the oil should be completely gone. If you do see the rainbow coloration in the water after rinsing you need to add more soap and scrub.”

Sounds easy enough; however, while helpful, soap and water only works to lift some of the oil. It isn’t guaranteed to remove the entire stain. You could always use one of the other methods to lift the stain and then scrub it off with a soap and water solution. Still, many asphalt experts will tell you that dish soap and perhaps even a pressure washer is the best way to go. Not only is it cheap, but it’s environmentally friendly, too.

2. Kitty Litter

One of the most popular methods of removing stains from an asphalt driveway is by use of kitty litter. This, also, is something most households have-if not for cats, for various spills. As with all methods, first get an absorbent cloth and mop up any excess oil. Then, grab a cheap bag of clay kitty litter and cover the oil stain. Get out some aggression by stomping onto the litter. This will help the litter to reach and absorb most of the oil. Leave this overnight, then come back and brush the litter up with a stiff broom or brush and dispose the litter as biohazardous material (there is still oil here). After that is done, hose off the area.

While kitty litter is an effective enough method, it only works well on wet areas-not on established oil stains.

3. Seal Coating the Driveway

This method is best used for those old, established stains that will be difficult-if not impossible-to remove. Asphalt sealers, a coal-tar product, can be found at any hardware store and will work to mask the stain. This is probably best as one of your last efforts to remove the stain as perhaps it can be done using the other, cheaper methods mentioned here.

Of curse, seal coating can only be properly done once the driveway has been cleaned as best as is possible, so be sure to utilize one or more of the other methods to ensure you’ve removed as much of the oil stain as possible.

4. Baking Soda

Yes, not only is baking soda good for cookies, odor removal, and cleaning your teeth, it is also good for absorbing excess oil from your asphalt driveways. Just like TSP, sprinkle a generous amount onto the oil stain, scrub with a stiff brush or push broom, and then let sit for a half hour before rinsing it off with a hose.

5. Coca-cola

Your favorite refreshing soft drink also serves to clear your driveway of oil stains. Sound yummy?

To remove an oil stain using coca-cola, first remove excess oil with an absorbent cloth. Please be certain to dispose of this cloth in a biohazard container. Once you’ve done that, pour a couple cans worth of coca-cola (depending on the size of the stain) onto the oil stain. Let it sit overnight, then clean the area once again with a clean cloth.

This is an economical, eco-friendly method to use. Most everyone has a can of cola in their home, and even if they do not, cola is not a difficult product to find. The method should work well enough, but does not seem to be among the most efficient methods. It may be worth a shot, though.

6. SteamPressure Washers

While the use of a pressure washer is better than that of a hose when it comes to rinsing off the asphalt, if you choose to use it alone to rid your asphalt driveway of the oil stains, you’ll be best advised to use a steam pressure washer. The heat of the steam will liquefy and propel the oil from the asphalt.

Be careful, though. Pressure washers are powerful and, at the level you will need to strip the oil from your driveway, can rip flesh from bone.

Also, if pointed directly at the surface, pressure washers can rip up your driveway when the water enters small cracks and other voids in the asphalt.

7. TSP (Tri-Sodium Phosphate)

This is another popular method of removing an oil stain from your asphalt driveway. It is, however, a caustic substance and can be quite dangerous, so please be careful using this around children and pets. Homeowners, too, will have to take special precaution if they decide to employ this method by wearing appropriate protective clothing such as eye protection and rubber gloves.

To use this method, simply make a paste using TSP and water to the desired thickness. Scrub the paste onto the oil stain with a scrub brush, let sit for thirty minutes so the TSP can absorb the oil, and then hose it off.

8. Laundry Detergent

Another well-known method of removing oil stains from your asphalt driveway is the use of powdered laundry detergent. Kent Hansen, director of engineering with the National Asphalt Pavement Association says that if you want to try washing the spot with laundry detergent and water, do it carefully. Since oil acts as a solvent and thus softens the asphalt, the aggregate in the asphalt is at risk of being scrubbed away by the detergent–so proceed with caution.

After removing excess oil with an absorbent cloth, sprinkle some laundry detergent on the oil stain and, with the assistance of some water, scrub at the stain with a stiff brush. Let it sit for at least a half hour, and then wipe the surface.

9. Commercial Degreasers

Again, for removing oil stains from asphalt driveways, you have to be careful about which degreasers you choose. Anything with solvents in it will only hurt your driveway more. If you speak with anyone at the hardware store, be certain to inform them that your driveway is asphalt so they don’t recommend anything harmful. They should ask anyway, but tell them if they don’t ask.

What is important to remember about commercial degreasers is the volume of the actual product versus the propellant used to get it out. What you save in convenience, you are bound to lose in money. You may not be getting as much product for what you are paying.

Commercial degreasers for asphalt surfaces work by breaking down the oil into a bio-degradable substance that is safe for the environment and your driveway. Please ensure that you take the necessary precautions when using degreasers and to keep them out of reach of children and pets. Always better safe than sorry.

10. Muriatic Acid

Any place will tell you that the use of muriatic acid should be a last resort as it is quite caustic and will harm your skin and eyes. Like with the TSP, be sure to wear protective eyewear and gloves when using this substance.

Simply mix a mild solution and allow it to sit for about a minute, or per the directions. Then come back and rinse with a pressure washer.

As with any chemical, be careful to not mix with other chemicals to avoid a bad reaction. If you decide to use another chemical, wait until the surface is thoroughly rinsed and has dried before moving forward.

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