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How to Remove Old Paint from Concrete Without Chemicals

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Between years of DIY and being a notoriously messy painter, our garage floors had seen better days. The concrete was stained with all sorts of paint, oil-based wood stains, and even some spray paint overspray.

We tried three different methods before landing on the one that worked like a charm: a wire cup brush. The best part: no harsh chemicals required!

how to remove paint from concrete text overlay on image of garage floor stained with paint and stain spills

The Fastest Way to Remove Paint From Concrete Without Chemicals

Before I tell you exactly what we did, let me say that we used this method on old paint and stains. All of the stains on our garage floor were completely dry.

This isn’t the method I would use if you just spilled your paint on your garage floor 1 minute ago. If your paint stain is fresh, I’d recommend trying one of the alternative methods listed down below. 

To remove old paint stains from concrete you’ll need a wire cup brush and a drill. We also used Dawn soap and hot water, but I don’t think the soap is completely necessary. Up to you on if you want to use it or try getting those stains up without it. 

close up of wire cup brush drill bit in front of Dawn soap

First, you’ll add a little Dawn soap to the stain. Then, add some hot water on top of it.

Insert your wire cup brush into your drill and place the brush on the stain. Press the trigger to power on your drill and continue moving your brush around until the stain is gone. 

Once you’re feeling good about it, you can wipe up the excess water and soap from the floor. 

Out of all of the methods we tried, this was by far the most effective, and it was the easiest. The drill and brush do most of the hard work for you. 

This method won’t get out every single dot and stain from the floor, but it will definitely make a big difference. Check out the before and after of one section of our garage floor: 

before garage concrete floor covered in various paint stains
after concrete with majority of stains removed

This wire cup brush is grinding away at the floor and removing the top layer, which is why is it so effective. That being said, this is a great method to try if you have unfinished concrete.

If you have concrete that has been sealed and the top layer has some shine to it, you might not want to use this method. If you do, the spots that you hit with the brush will likely lose their sheen.

Alternative Methods We Tried

Before stumbling upon the wire cup brush method, we tried several different methods to remove the old paint from the garage floors. We tried every combination of the options below and the hard work we put into each of the options was not worth the result. 

That being said, if your stains are new, these might be great options for you to try out! 

  1. Warm Vinegar 
  2. Dawn Soap and Hot Water 
  3. Pressure Washing 
  4. Scraping

Warm Vinegar 

For this method, heat up a cup of white vinegar in a microwave-safe bowl until it is close to boiling. You want to get it nice and hot, but don’t let it actually boil. 

Once it’s at the right temperature, carefully remove the vinegar from the microwave. 

Use a sponge to apply the vinegar to the stain. Then let it sit for approximately 15 minutes. 

After this time, the paint should supposedly* start to bubble, making it easier to lift off the surface. 

If your paint hasn’t started to bubble after 15 minutes, repeat the process of heating up vinegar, applying to the stain, and letting it sit. 

Once the paint starts to bubble, you can use a paint scraper to scrape it up from the surface. 

*I say supposedly here because that’s what I’ve heard. Our paint never started to bubble, even after applying hot vinegar to it 4 different times. When we inevitably spill paint again, I’ll try this method when the paint is fresh. I think it would work well then. 

Dawn Soap and Hot Water 

After the vinegar attempt, we switched to Dawn soap and hot water. Dawn works wonders on so many things that we thought we should give it a shot. 

We mixed together Dawn soap and hot water and scrubbed into the floor. Then we attempted to scrape the stains off. 

It worked pretty well to get up things like dried wood glue and drops of paint/stain, but it was a pretty slow and back-breaking process. For the areas where we had large stains, it hardly made a dent. 

But again, I think if you had a fresh stain, this would definitely be an option to try. 

Pressure Washing 

I had really high hopes for this method, but it didn’t work as well as expected. It was a very slow process and would’ve taken forever to get out the bigger paint spills we had on our floor. 

If the stain was fresh, I would definitely try this method. I think it would be a lot more effective on something that hasn’t had time to dry deep into the concrete pores. 

For the pressure-washing method, you’ll want to use a nozzle that is between 10-25 degrees. Then spray approximately 1 foot above your surface. 

Scraping 

I don’t have much to say about this method. You’ll want to apply either hot vinegar or soap and water before attempting to scrape your floors. This is the most labor-intensive method we tried. 

Summary: How to Remove Paint and Stains From Concrete

remove stains from concrete text overlay on collage of wire brush and and garage floors

So the next time you spill paint on your concrete, try to take care of it immediately with some vinegar or soap and water. A pressure washer would also be a great option. 

If you’ve let your stains sit in your concrete for a long time, try the wire cup brush method. We found it to be the easiest, faster, and most effective way to remove paint from concrete floors. 

Related: check out the easiest way to remove paint from carpet

before and after paint stains removed
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  1. Michael Conroy says:

    Power washing claims to be effective also. It’s like pressure washing, but uses higher pressure and hot water.

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