How To Clean Concrete Floor In Basement

How To Clean The Concrete Floor In Your Basement

Many of us have concrete floors in our basements. This is usually the original flooring, and it seems like a nice low-maintenance floor for an extra living space. But how many of us really know how to clean a concrete basement floor?

We often think of concrete floors as low maintenance. But low maintenance doesn’t mean no maintenance! While they certainly don’t need the same attention as carpet or hardwood floors, they do need some maintenance if they are going to keep looking good and pass the test of time.

In today’s article, we are going to look at exactly how to clean cement basement floors. We’ll look at the process involved, the best cleaning products to use and ones to be avoided, and also the other little things you should be doing to maintain your basement concrete.

So, read on to learn the best way to clean your concrete basement floor.

How To Clean Your Concrete Basement Floor

There is no one way to clean a basement floor, but there are good principles to follow to make sure you get it right. It’s pretty simple, and you should take the time to do this kind of thorough clean at least twice a year.

1. Start By Removing As Much As You Can From The Floor.

Cleaning around things means more work for you, and you are likely to push dirt and debris underneath things as part of the cleaning process, meaning there will be hidden spots of your floor that are still dirty.

How To Clean Your Concrete Basement Floor

If you can’t move everything out of the room, clean the room in two halves, moving everything to one side of the room and cleaning the other side, then vice versa.

2. Thoroughly Sweep Or Vacuum To Remove Debris.

You don’t want to leave any dust and debris on your floor when you add your cleaning agent, as dust plus water equals sludge.

You are better off using a hardwood floor vacuum cleaner than a standard carpet vacuum. While your concrete slab probably won’t be damaged by the carpet vacuum’s beater bar, the sucking technology of carpet vacuums is different from hard floor vacuums, so you’ll pick up debris more easily with a hard floor vacuum.

Check out our list of the best vacuums for hard flooring here.

3. Treat Any Stains.

If you are dealing with specific stains such as rust or efflorescence (a crystalline or powdery deposit), you are going to want to treat those stains before you do your overall clean. How this is best done depends on the type of stain. You’ll find recommendations for the best cleaning products for different types of stains further down.

4. Scrub Your Floor With Your Chosen Cleaning Product.

Again, which cleaning product is right for you depends on the type of concrete you have (sealed or unsealed), and the type of staining that you might be dealing with. Scroll down for more information on this.

But whatever product you use, you will probably dilute the agent in water, apply it to your floor, and then you will want to get scrubbing.

Use a wire brush to work the cleaner into the concrete. But don’t use a metal wire brush, as tiny bits of metal can break off these brushes and get stuck in the pores of the concrete. Over time they will rust, discoloring and damaging your floor.

If you are using a cleaner that gives off fumes, make sure the space is as well ventilated as possible throughout the cleaning process.

5. Thoroughly Rinse Your Floor.

You are going to want to thoroughly rinse the cleaning product off the concrete when you are done. First of all, it is the rinsing that leaves your floor clean, as the cleaning solution takes dirt away with it. Secondly, cleaning residue can stain, and can also be toxic if it transfers from the floor onto your skin. This is particularly problematic if you have children or animals.

If you have a drain, great: Start in the corner of the room furthest away from the drain and work toward it. If you don’t, work toward a place where the water can be pooled to be removed.

When it comes to rinsing, a power washer can be a great tool.

A wet dry/shop vac is also a good tool. It can be used as part of the scrubbing process, and also to rinse and remove cleaning products and liquids.

You can find our list of the five best wet/dry shop vacs here, as well as instructions and tips on how to use them.

6. Let The Floor Dry Thoroughly Before Returning Furniture And Using The Room.

Depending on the type of concrete you have, if it is exposed to moisture, you can develop mold and mildew. Minimize the likelihood of that by making sure the area is thoroughly dry before returning items that might trap moisture or hinder the drying process.

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Sealed vs Unsealed Concrete

While the overall cleaning process is the same whether your concrete is sealed or unsealed, you do need to apply a bit more care if you are dealing with unsealed concrete. Why?

Sealed vs Unsealed Concrete

Sealed concrete has been treated with a waterproofing agent that stops water from soaking into your concrete. This means that spills shouldn’t soak in, and that you can use water liberally when cleaning.

Unsealed concrete does not have this protection, so water soaks into the porous concrete. This means that spills tend to stain, and, if you aren’t careful, you can make staining look worse when cleaning.

So, if you have unsealed floors, dry clean as much as possible using the minimum amount of water. This means it will be easier to remove and dry faster, so there is less chance of residual liquid damaging your floor.

If you do find that you have unsealed concrete in your basement, it is a good idea to go ahead and seal it. There are a variety of products available to do this, for example:

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Cleaning Agents

There are many different cleaning agents you can use to successfully clean the concrete floors in your basement. Which is right for you depends on personal preference and what kind of stains you are dealing with.

Below is a list of the best cleaning agents for concrete and when it is best to use them.

pH Neutral Cleaner – Day-To-Day Cleaning

If you are looking for a commercial cleaner for your concrete, make sure you get something that is pH neutral. These types of cleaners won’t damage your sealer if your concrete is sealed, and are also non-corrosive, so they won’t eat away at your concrete over time.

Baking Soda – Chemical-Free Cleaning

If you are looking for an alternative to the chemical-based cleaners you can buy, make your own with baking soda. Simply mix half a cup of baking soda with a gallon of warm water and a mild cleaner such as dish detergent, and you have a cleaner powerful enough to remove all of your stains, all without nasty chemicals.

Lye Soap – General Cleaning

Good old-fashioned soap is one of the best agents for cleaning your floor. Though look for lye soap or, alternatively, something that is olive oil-based. These are strong enough to remove even the toughest stains but won’t damage your concrete.

Degreaser – Grease And Oil Stains

If you are dealing with grease or oil stains, look for a soap or cleaner that also contains degreaser. The degreaser penetrates into the concrete and lifts away grease and oil when rinsing. However, it is non-corrosive, so it will leave your concrete intact.

Dry Cement – Rust Stains

If you are dealing with rust, you are going to have better luck with abrasion than with detergent. Simply sprinkle dry cement onto the stained area and rub it in with a piece of flagstone. This acts like a kind of pumice stone to remove the rust. You can then sweep or vacuum up both the dry cement and the rust.

Trisodium Phosphate – Glue Stains

Trisodium phosphate is the cleaning solution you need if you have glue stains on your concrete, maybe from an old floor covering such as carpet. Mix three ounces of trisodium phosphate with a gallon of warm water and let the solution sit for an hour. When you start scrubbing, the glue should come up with relative ease.

Wash Solution – Deep Cleaning

If you feel like you need to give your basement floor a really deep clean, consider using a wash solution. These contain 70 percent alcohol, which makes them effective and also means they don’t evaporate. This in turn means that you have more time to work when doing a deep clean.

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Cleaning Agents To Avoid

While we have a nice long list of cleaners that are great for using on concrete floors, we also have three common cleaners that are best avoided when working with concrete.

Ammonia

We have two very good reasons why you should avoid using ammonia for cleaning concrete basements. First, it can break down concrete sealant, doing more harm than good to your floors. Secondly, it produces a poisonous gas that is terrible for your lungs if you breathe it in, and also irritates the eyes. Basements don’t tend to be the best ventilated rooms, so ammonia is best avoided.

Bleach

Bleach has similar problems to ammonia. First, it can disintegrate your concrete floor if used over a period of time. Second, bleach also tends to produce chemical fumes that are not good for you, and you don’t want to be breathing them within the enclosed space of your basement.

Cleaning Agents To Avoid

White Vinegar

White vinegar and other acidic cleaners should also be avoided when cleaning concrete. The vinegar can strip away the sealing coat and leave your concrete floors vulnerable to further water damage. In the case of unsealed concrete, it can etch into the concrete and change the overall finish of your floor.

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Protect And Maintain Concrete Floors

Regularly cleaning your concrete floors is important to keep them looking good. But if you really want to maintain your floors, there are a variety of things that you should be doing to keep your concrete in tip-top shape.

  • Sweep or vacuum regularly. How regularly depends on traffic, but minimizing debris minimizes the chance of damaging abrasions.
  • Damp mop regularly. Again, how regularly depends on the type of use your floor gets. But a quick damp mop once a week to target stains you can’t see means that you can pick up on stain-causing agents before they have a chance to set in.
  • Clean up spills as they happen. This is especially important with unsealed concrete, as liquids can soak in quickly. But it is always a good idea to clean up liquids before they have a chance to stain.
  • Deal with cracks. If you see a little crack develop in your concrete, don’t leave it assuming that it isn’t a big deal. Dirt can easily get trapped in these tiny grooves.
  • Seal your concrete. If your concrete isn’t sealed, it is a good idea to do so. This will make it more resistant to water damage and abrasion damage over time.
  • Invest in a dehumidifier. If you find yourself repeatedly dealing with moisture-related stains such as white efflorescence stains, this is a sign that there is too much moisture attacking your concrete. Invest in a dehumidifier to limit this problem.

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FAQs

How Do You Clean An Unsealed Concrete Basement Floor?

The process for cleaning unsealed concrete floors is the same as for sealed concrete floors, except that you want to be careful not to let cleaning agents or water, used to rinse cleaning agents, sit on the floor for too long. If the liquid sits, it can soak into the concrete and cause further staining.

Dry clean as much as possible, and remove liquid as quickly as possible, perhaps using a wet/dry shop vac to remove sitting liquids.

What Is The Best Concrete Floor Cleaner?

The best concrete floor cleaner depends on the type of stains that you are dealing with. However, if you are looking for a good overall cleaner, get something with a neutral pH balance, or use baking soda or lye soap.

You have other options if you are dealing with specific types of stains such as grease or glue. Avoid cleaners containing ammonia or bleach, as these can be corrosive on your floors, and they also give of poisonous fumes that are not good for you.

What Kills Mold On Concrete Floors?

Dish soap or lye soap should effectively remove mold that may have developed on concrete. If this proves ineffective, you can try bleach. However, bleach should not be used as a regular concrete cleaner, as it can erode the concrete over time.

Also make sure that the room is well ventilated when using bleach as it can give of poisonous fumes that are not good for your lungs and can irritate your eyes.

Can I Mop A Basement Concrete Floor?

Yes, you can mop your concrete floor, and it is a good idea to do this on roughly on a weekly basis to pick up on any spills, visible or invisible, that might stain your concrete if left to sit.

If your concrete floor is sealed, you can safely wet mop your floor. However, if it is unsealed, dry mop and remove moisture as quickly as possible. Sitting moisture can soak into the concrete and cause new staining.

Can I Pressure Wash A Concrete Floor?

Yes, pressure washing is a great way to clean sealed concrete floors. It is best avoided for unsealed floors, as they are likely to absorb much of the water that floods your basement. A pressure washer will be able to remove most stains without any cleaning agent, including grease, rust, and mold.

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The Verdict

Deciding to leave your concrete basement floors exposed does not mean resigning yourself to having “slightly grimy” floors in your basement. Concrete floors are easy to maintain, and you can keep them looking like new, as long as you clean and maintain them properly.

In addition to regular sweeping or vacuuming and mopping, you should be giving your basement concrete floor a thorough clean at least twice a year. This is simple to do and means that your floors will always look sparkling and fresh.

Do you have concrete floors in your basement? How do you keep them clean? Share your tips with the community in the comments section below.

Maricel Dee

About Maricel Dee

Maricel Dee is a writer & blogger on all things home improvement. When she's not writing on her favorite home improvement topics, you can find her immersed in her own home projects.

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