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How to Remove Paint from Concrete

Close up worker hand scraping old paint on concrete wall.
Tomas Mikl / Shutterstock

Concrete is one of the least expensive and lowest maintenance flooring options. If you accidentally get fresh paint on a concrete surface, it’s easy to clean up: just cover the surface with water and then use a hard-bristled brush and detergent to scrub it away.

Removing dried paint from concrete, however, can be a rather frustrating process because concrete readily absorbs the paint. While removing dried paint can be time-consuming, it’s not impossible. Learn how to remove paint from concrete, step by step.

How to remove paint from concrete

  • Step 1: Give the concrete surface a deep cleaning and allow it to dry.
  • Step 2: Apply paint stripper.
  • Step 3: Give the paint stripper some time to set.
  • Step 4: Scrub the surface.
  • Step 5: Follow up the scrubbing with a power wash.
  • Step 6: Repeat as necessary until all the paint is removed.
  • Step 7: Clean the area to get rid of all paint stripper.

A deeper look at how to remove paint from concrete

Safety precaution: Before starting the project, wear protective clothing such as goggles and a respirator to protect yourself from paint fumes or lead.

1. Give the concrete surface a deep cleaning and allow it to dry

You’ll first need to clear the area of any dirt or debris using a broom or a vacuum cleaner, which makes the cleaning process easier. Prepare a solution of warm water and soap, or warm water and a trisodium phosphate (TSP) alternative, then use a wide-wire brush to scrub the surface. If you use TSP rather than opting for an alternative, remember to wear long sleeves, goggles, and a pair of gloves. Give your solution about two to three hours to dry.

Note: TSP is toxic, so make sure to handle it with care and wear the proper safety equipment. Some states have even banned phosphate detergents because they are harmful to the environment. To be safe, consider using a TSP substitute.

2. Apply a paint stripper

After the cleaning, some paint may have already started to chip. Scrape off as much as possible and apply paint stripper to the rest of the area. You can use turpentine or mineral spirits. If this doesn’t work, use a paint stripper recommended specifically for concrete.

3. Give the paint stripper some time to set

The paint stripper takes some time to do its job. The length of time depends on the extent to which the paint has affected the area. You can leave it for as little as under 30 minutes to as many as eight or more hours. Avoid applying the paint stripper in windy or extremely hot conditions as it might dry prematurely.

4. Scrub the surface

Again, use your wide-wire brush to scrub off the loosened paint. Continue until no more paint comes off. If the stain was from latex paint, using warm soapy water as you scrub should be enough. Oil-based paints are harder to clean, therefore, proceed to the next step.

5. Follow up the scrubbing with a power wash

Use a high-powered garden hose or a power washer to eliminate any stubborn paint residue. A power wash is especially helpful for outdoor surfaces such as concrete walls, driveways, and walkways.

6. Repeat the process as necessary until all the paint is removed

If the paint doesn’t fully come off, re-apply the paint stripper and repeat the subsequent steps.

7. Clean the area to get rid of all paint stripper

Once all the paint has been removed, hose down the area to rinse off all the paint stripper and any other chemicals you might have used. After the surface is completely dry, you can seal or paint it as you desire. Sealing or staining the concrete surface not only improves its appearance but also protects it from harmful UV rays and the elements.

Products and tools you’ll need to remove paint from concrete

  • Protective gear: Make sure to wear gloves and a respirator when dealing with paint fumes.
  • A vacuum cleaner or a broom: These will help you clean up the affected area.
  • TSP alternative: This will help you clean your paint surface thoroughly.
  • A scrub brush (preferably long-handled): This helps scrape off the paint.
  • Putty knife (optional): A putty knife can help you peel off chipped paint after you’ve applied the TSP alternative, if necessary.
  • Paint stripper: This is a chemical product designed to remove the paint from the concrete while cleaning the underlying surface.
  • Hose or power washer: Using a high-pressure washer or hose helps wash away the chipped paint.

Don’t want to use chemicals? Here’s how to remove paint from concrete naturally

If the paint affects a large area, you might want to consider soda blasting. Soda blasting is a relatively new way of stripping paint from concrete, and it works in the same way as sandblasting but is gentler on your concrete surface.

When soda blasting, you will need a soda blaster and special sodium bicarbonate. Prepare the blaster and spray the sodium carbonate evenly from a safe distance so that you do not end up blasting off the concrete. Remember to wear a respirator while doing this.

If you don’t want to make the purchase, you can rent a soda blaster as well as the special sodium bicarbonate from a local hardware store. (Regular sodium bicarbonate or baking soda will not work.)

And if you’re unsure of how to operate a soda blaster, you might want to consider enlisting the services of a professional. Be sure to remove any plants in the area so that they’re not affected by the high pH levels in sodium bicarbonate.

The bottom line

Removing old paint from concrete can be a frustrating task. But if you follow the step-by-step process above using the right tools, you can have that concrete surface looking like new in no time.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you remove dried latex paint from concrete?

Latex is fairly easy to remove from a concrete surface compared to oil-based paints. Most of the dried up paint will easily come off with a little scrubbing. If there are stubborn paint stains, apply a paint remover (not stripper) and let it sit for a few minutes. Once it dries up, scrape-off the stains.

How do you remove oil-based paint from concrete?

While oil-based material is durable, it’s rather difficult to remove. You might need to use a paint absorbent along with the paint stripper. Mix the two and apply them to the affected area. Let the solution sit for 30 minutes to one hour and scrub the surface with a nylon brush.

Can I use a floor grinder to remove paint from concrete?

Yes, you can. A floor grinder is normally used to level, polish, and clean concrete surfaces. Depending on how hard the concrete surface is, use the correct pressure so that you do not end up creating pits.

What will happen if I don’t seal the cleaned concrete surface?

As mentioned, concrete is porous and will readily absorb liquids. The expansion and contraction of liquids in free-thaw weather conditions may end up destroying the cleaned concrete surface.

How soon can I use the surface after sealing?

As the chemical formulation of sealants varies, check the manufacturer’s instructions. However, most coatings can withstand light traffic after 24 hours.

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