Concrete Floor Cleaning, Care & Maintenance

Concrete flooring is easy and affordable to care for, and that’s part of what makes it a good long-term value despite significant upfront costs. Use this concrete floor cleaning and care guide to keep your flooring looking great and resisting stains and damage in the years ahead.

Concrete Floor Cleaning

If you’re to the cleaning stage of concrete flooring, that means it has been poured or renovated, polished and sealed. Details on polishing and sealing are found in the next section.

These concrete cleaning tips don’t require a lot of work, but should be followed carefully.

Tip 1: Vacuum or sweep your floor regularly. Gritty dirt is the worst material your floors are likely to encounter. When it is walked on, the grit acts like sandpaper to dull the gleam and wear away the seal that keeps your concrete from staining. If shoes are worn indoors or pets go in and out frequently, then the floor should be swept every few days. For no-shoe homes, once a week might be sufficient.

Tip 2: The best tool for removing dirt is a hard-floor vacuum with the rotating brush turned off. This picks the dirt up and off the floor rather than pushing it across its surface.

Tip 3: Once the dirty grit has been removed, damp-mopping the surface using a just warm water or water and a gentle, neutral cleaner is sufficient. A microfiber mop will gently remove stubborn dirt left behind from vacuuming.

Tip 4: If your concrete flooring installer recommends a specially formulated cleaner, give it a try. They typically cost $12-$25 per gallon, which is enough for 6-12 months of cleaning. Most include conditioners that protect the floor with a dirt-resistant, invisible film that makes the floor easier to clean next time.

Tip 5: Clean up spills quickly.

Tip 6: To remove material stuck on the floor, cover it with a slightly damp cloth or paper towel. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, and then wipe away the dirt.

Tip 7: Avoid cleaning with bristled brushes, scouring pads, steel wool, harsh cleaners, bleach, soft-scrub cleaners or a strong scrubbing motion. These will jeopardize the seal and gleam.

Tip 8: These tips apply to sealed concrete. If you’re cleaning an old concrete floor to prepare it for renovating, then it’s a different story. The goal is to get the concrete as clean as possible for the best adhesion of what comes next. Use a strong scrubbing agent like tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) when needed. Concrete cleaner formulated for bare concrete work well too. A power washer is ideal for garage use or in basements with drains.

Concrete Floor Care and Maintenance

Keeping concrete flooring clean and sealed are the two most important aspects of maintaining its beauty and integrity. We’ve covered cleaning; let’s talk about sealing concrete and other care and maintenance issues.

The right sealer is the one recommended by your installer, if it’s a new floor. Most will be film-forming products. This means that they leave a durable coat of film that protects the porous concrete from staining. The most common sealer types and their advantages are:

  • Penetrating Sealers: Penetrating sealers are best used in garages. They leave a natural or matte finish rather than a sheen. Apply penetrating sealer every 2-4 years.
  • Acrylics: These are the economical choice. Water-based and solvent-based acrylics are available, and they do a good job protecting decorative applications like stenciling, staining and tinting. Some acrylic sealers must be used in combination with floor finish or wax. A range of sheens from matte to gloss are available. Apply acrylic sealer every 2-3 years.
  • Polyurethanes: These are the preferred and highly protective products available in water-based and solvent-based mixes, each in a range of sheens. Polyurethanes do a superior job protecting the beauty of polished and decorative concrete flooring. Apply polyurethane every 3-5 years.
  • Epoxies: These 2-part films are more of a coating than a sealer. Epoxy can be tinted or infused with metal fleck or stone chips to enhance the visual appeal. Epoxy coatings last for 15+ years in residential use.

If your concrete flooring cracks, the repair should be made by a professional for best results. The first step is to determine why it cracked. If the subfloor flexes, reinforcement from beneath will make it stronger and more rigid. Once that is accomplished, the crack can be repaired successfully.

Minor surface cracks don’t have a structural cause. Most homeowners consider them part of the floor’s character like knots in wood or patina on copper, especially if bending over is required to see them. Noticeable cracks can be filled and colored to match the surrounding concrete. A variety of filler and tinting products are used. If not filled, cracks collect dirt, so going over them occasionally with a vacuum hose is required.

Polishing a concrete floor when the gleam is gone is another maintenance item best left to professionals. However, if you have experience running a mechanical polisher, polishing compound is available. A polisher with a built-in vacuum is the best choice for dry polishing. Whether wet or dry, use a progression of polishing disks such as 30/80/150/400/1,500-grit. Clean the floor between disks. Seal the floor soon after polishing it.

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