How to Clean Driveways

You don’t really need a set of instructions to remove trash from your driveway, only the will and the energy to do it regularly. It also doesn’t take much to sweep down a paved driveway every few days. What might be tough, though, is getting rid of stains. Here’s the lowdown:

Concrete and Brick Driveways

Oil, Grease, or Antifreeze Stains

The most common stains are caused by oil or radiator fluid dripping from vehicles. Putting kitty litter on oil that’s fresh should soak up most of it. After a day or two, shovel it up and discard it. But if the oil has been on the driveway for a while, it’s probably going to ruin your day – or even several of your days. Here are some suggestions from the Michigan State University Extension Service. The suggestions apply to antifreeze and grease stains as well as oil stains:

  1. Apply liquid laundry detergent straight from the bottle, let it sit, then scrub it off with a stiff, wet broom. Rinse, let dry, and repeat.
  2. Spread dry dishwasher detergent on the stain after wetting it. Allow it to stand before pouring on boiling water, scrubbing, and rinsing.
  3. Substitute trisodium phosphate for dry dishwasher detergent, wet, scrub, rinse, repeat A variant is to dissolve 1 cup of TSP per gallon of hot water and pour it on. But don’t use this stuff on asphalt driveways.
  4. Try a commercial product available at auto supply and paint stores. Follow the directions.
  5. Scrub the concrete with a grease solvent like benzene. Have a fire extinguisher handy. This stuff ignites easily.
  6. Make a thick paste of 1 part sodium citrate, 6 parts water, 6 parts glycerine, and some whiting or fuller’s earth. Spread it on the stain and allow it to stand, adding new paste when it dries. After one week, flush it with water after brushing the dry paste away. Repeat.

When none of these approaches has worked, put on your gloves and goggles and get out the muriatic acid. This is the method of last resort for cleaning any kind of stain on concrete or brick.

Rust stains

  1. Wet the area
  2. Sprinkle on powdered oxalic acid (Often referred to as wood bleach, it is available at hardware and paint stores.)
  3. Spray on a light water mist
  4. Allow to sit
  5. Scrub
  6. Rinse
  7. Repeat until the stain is gone.

Removing Tire Marks

Spray on automotive brake cleaner until the marks disappear.

Mold, Mildew, Fungus, Dirt, & Bird Droppings

Rent a power washer to try to blast this stuff off or hire a contractor with a combination power scrubber and high pressure hose, used along with an application of mild chemicals.

Asphalt Driveways

Any petroleum derivatives (such as driveway cleaners and solvents) will dissolve into the asphalt, weakening or dissolving it. These substances include not only cleaners but also motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, gasoline, and household solvents. This is why asphalt driveways should be sealcoated yearly to protect against damage while maintaining a new-looking black appearance. (Sealing concrete driveways is also advisable; it protects against the ravages of weather and helps resist staining.)

So be careful to read the label of any commercial driveway cleaning product to ensure it contains no solvents. For oily stains, the best approach might be a biodegradable cleaner or plain dishwashing soap. But if staining is heavy or extensive, the best recourse is to coat the driveway with a black asphalt sealer available at any hardware or home store. This is a coal-tar product that will easily mask any stains with a more attractive black finish.

Crushed Gravel or Crushed Stone Driveways

Crushed gravel driveways are commonly composed of sand, silt, clay, and larger aggregates; crushed stone driveways are more elegant. In either case, maintenance is low-cost; oil and grease stains can be “turned under” with a shovel. As these drives typically need the addition of new layers every few years, at that time, any and all stains are covered over. Anyway, most of these kinds of drives are found in rural areas where there is more concern for keeping an area wild and natural than competing for “cleanest driveway” honors.

Epoxy Pebble Finish

Epoxy pebble concrete overlays make concrete driveways more attractive and decorative. The epoxy seal keeps the gravel in place and also repel stains. Such surfaces should be cleaned as needed with a TSP solution, power washed at least once a year, and re-glazed every two to three years.


  1. Kitty litter will absorb anything, it’s easy to clean up, and it’s easy to get. Use the cheap kind, not the expensive scented clumping kind or the crystals. Pour a bunch of kitty litter over the oil spot and let it sit for a few days, then sweep the litter up and throw it away. Works for grease and other fluids too.

  2. If you know a woodworker or live near a mill, you can use sawdust the same way you would use kitty litter so soak up spilled oil or grease – just spread it over the spill and come back to sweep it up a couple of days later. And the sawdust smells much nicer than kitty litter does!

  3. Don’t use bleach, it won’t work. Try scrubbing the stain off with a little bit of hydrogen peroxide mixed with hot water. Or if the stain is really tough, you can make a thick paste by adding some peroxide to a cup of flour and spreading the paste over the stain. Let the paste dry. If that doesn’t take up all of the stain, apply more paste and try it again.

  4. You need a shop broom, the kind that looks like a long scrub brush on the end of a broom handle. Hose off the driveway first to get off big clumps of mud or other messes. Then get a bucket of hot water with some non-toxic soap like dish soap or maybe laundry soap in it and pour some at the top of the driveway. Use the broom to scrub the driveway the way you’d use a scrub brush to clean a floor. Work your way down the driveway until you’ve scrubbed the whole thing, then go back up to the top and use the hose again to rinse off all the soap.

  5. My uncle did this once to get stains out of the driveway where his leaky truck had been parked. First, you have to soak up whatever made the stain (oil and tranny fluid) with something absorbent (kitty litter), then once you’ve soaked it up, pour dry cement mix over the stain and leave it alone for two days. Make sure it can’t get wet or you’ll end up with a weird cement mess on top of a stain. On the second day, go sweep the dry cement up and the stain should be gone – or at least as gone as it’s going to get, how well it works kind of depends on how old the stains are.

  6. The product “Simple Green” cleans driveways, garage floors, and even automotive parts the best. It is non-caustic, environmentally safe, and evens cleans the embedded “mechanics hands.”

  7. Atazerxes says:

    Better than kitty litter on fresh spills is baby powder. Be sure to choose one with no additional additives, etc. Completely cover the spill and leave it several days or until the next rain. It has worked like a charm on my driveway.

  8. Barbara says:

    People drove through our exposed aggregate driveway from a newly paved street (blacktop) and now we have black tire marks on it. We tried using our power washer, but it was ineffective. Any suggestions?

  9. Barbara,
    It is the tar in the blacktop that would cause those marks. This is the article that you need: How to Remove Tar from Concrete. Some of the tar removal methods mentioned in other posts include WD-40, Dawn dish soap, Goo Gone, peanut butter, gasoline, or a commercial tar remover (from an auto parts store). If you have more than one of those products, you could try each one in a small area first before tackling the whole driveway. Put whichever cleaner you choose on the tracks and scrub the area with a brush (or power washing might work). If that’s not enough, put the cleaner on again and allow it to sit for 30 minutes before scrubbing/washing. Good luck!

    Source: HowToCleanStuff – How to Clean Tar Off of Your Car
    Source: HowToCleanStuff – How to Remove Tar/Asphalt from Shoes

  10. I need to get petrol/diesel stains out of my girlfriend’s new drive (tarmac).
    Tried Jet Wash, Gunk, Fairy liquid and lots of water… comments and suggestions welcome please!

  11. Joe,
    This is the article that you need: How to Clean Automotive Fluid Spills. There is a section in that article about cleaning diesel fuel from a driveway.

  12. Hi, They put new asphalt on our streets and they drilled a core sample and now core dust has stained the street. The contractor says Mother Nature will take care of it. I tried pressure washing and the stain is still there.

  13. My van has been sitting for about a month and a half and the transmission has leaked and has now covered most of the driveway. How do I clean this up? I’ve tried crushing kitty litter. Is there any chemical that can be bought at a local hardware store or Walmart maybe to clean this?

  14. Thanks; this is a great site. I just spilled some antifreeze on the drive, and was pleased to find a solution that worked on concrete.

  15. The tree trimmers from the electric company just trimmed some neighborhood trees…they decided to chip them up at our concrete drive and some of the wood chips got wet and have left reddish stains on our nice clean driveway.
    I could use some ideas of how to clean them; I never thought clean fresh wood chips would stain within 24 hours…this will keep me from using sawdust to soak up spills in the future!

  16. Kae,
    Those stains are basically the same as stains from nuts that fall onto driveways. This is the article that you need: How to Remove Nut Stains from Concrete

  17. Good Morning.
    I am looking for a wee bit of advice if possible if yous actually do that. I have a front driveway of those wee small paving blocks and it’s a slow back-breaking job to get down and clean between the bricks where there’s weeds and stuff like that. If you would have any advice, for example, is there anything available that can be mixed with water and then scrubbed in with a yard brush and then that would burn all those bits of driveway away?

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