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How to Clean a Concrete Basement Floor (6 DIY Methods)

The time has come to clean your concrete basement floors.

But where do you start? What’s the best way to tackle the job?

In this article, I teach you how to clean your concrete basement floors step-by-step. You’ll learn six proven do-it-yourself methods and the pros and cons of each.

By the end, you’ll be ready to get to work and make your concrete basement floors shine again.


Use the links below to navigate this guide:


Method 1: Concrete Cleaning Solution

The easiest way to effectively clean a concrete basement floor is by using a commercially sold solution specifically formulated for this purpose.

These concrete cleaning solutions are sold at major retailers such as Home Depot or Lowe’s, and you can purchase them online. Many floor and all-purpose cleaners will work just as well, and the tools needed and steps are very similar.

Zep Neutral pH Floor Cleaner Concentrate 1 Gallon ZUNEUT128 - Pro Trusted All-Purpose Floor Cleaner with No Residue,Blue (packaging may vary)

Tools and Materials

Before you get started, you’ll want to gather the following materials: 

  • Large broom and dustpan
  • Sturdy bucket
  • Rubber brush
  • Concrete cleaning solution (like these on Amazon)
  • Clean water

Steps

To properly use your cleaning solution, check the packaging for detailed instructions. However, these are the steps you’ll need to take in most cases:

  1. Thoroughly sweep the concrete floor and dispose of all visible dust and debris.
  2. If applicable (check the instructions), dilute the cleaning solution with clean water before using it on your floor.
  3. Use a sturdy rubber brush to apply the diluted solution.
  4. Scrub the floor thoroughly, paying particular attention to stains and set-in grime, which may require additional scrubbing and application of the solution.
  5. Mop the floor with water to rinse the solution. Note: many cleaners do not require rinsing; read the instructions for the cleaner you buy carefully.
  6. Allow the floor to dry completely before walking on it.

Pros of This Method

Concrete floor cleaners are easy to use and usually inexpensive, depending on the brand you choose. A quick Amazon search reveals options at a variety of price points, most under $30.

Despite requiring a bit of “elbow grease,” concrete cleaning solutions require a single afternoon of your time and effort.

There are many concrete cleaning solutions to choose from, so you aren’t stuck with one particular formula. Although cleaning solutions designed specifically for stone and concrete will provide the best results, you can use an all-purpose cleaner, too. 

If you or a family member is sensitive to certain chemical cleaning agents, you can swap concrete cleaner for a plant-based all-purpose cleaner such as Seventh Generation. This dye-, fragrance-, and VOC-free formula works well on concrete without the harsh chemicals sometimes included in other cleaning products.

Cons of This Method

Although concrete cleaning solution is a relatively simple method for cleaning your floors, it may not be as effective as advertised.

Depending on the product, these cleaning solutions can be only effective on a short-term, surface-level basis. They do not do a thorough job of removing more stubborn stains such as those left by rust or oily liquids. If your floors are filthy, these cleaners may not be powerful enough.

In addition to this potential downside, the more environmentally conscious homeowner may object to using chemical cleaners — especially inside the home. Depending on the product and manufacturer, some solutions may use harsh chemicals that can leach into the porous concrete and cause it to fade over time.

Considerations

Before choosing this method for your basement’s concrete floors, there are a few things you should consider.

First, commercial cleaning solutions may not be effective on all floors – make sure you do your research and pick a product that can work on the particular type of concrete flooring you have in your basement (i.e., sealed vs. unsealed concrete).

You’ll also want to keep any personal or family allergies in mind and check the solution ingredients to make sure this won’t be an issue. That is especially important if your basement is used as a playroom where young children might crawl or have direct contact with the surface.

If you need to remove rust stains, oil, or other more severe grime from your floors, you may need a stronger solution.

Method 2: Bleach

If your basement has mildew, mold, or is generally musty-smelling, using bleach is the best way to clean the concrete floors. Here’s how to clean your concrete basement floors with bleach safely and effectively.

Clorox 764442854668 Liquid Bleach-121-Oz. Bottle-Case of 3, Original Version, 343 Ounce

Tools and Materials

To effectively clean your concrete floors with bleach, you need a few other tools. Before getting started, you should gather the following materials:

  • Broom
  • Bucket (preferably a large, rubber one)
  • Rubber brush or mop
  • Gallon of bleach
  • Warm water
  • Protective gear (rubber gloves, sturdy shoes, a mask, and protective eyewear)

Steps

Once you have your tools and materials, the steps for using bleach on your concrete floors are as follows.

  1. Ventilate the basement by opening doors and windows and setting up fans at proper intervals (such as aiming up the stairs).
  2. Thoroughly sweep the floors and dispose of dust and debris.
  3. Mix ¾ cups of bleach in for every gallon of warm water.
  4. Put on gloves, eye protection, and other safety gear to avoid skin, respiratory, and eye irritation.
  5. Use a rubber brush or a mop to apply the bleach solution to the floor, scrubbing it as you go.
  6. After allowing the solution to sit for ten minutes, mop the floor with clean water to rinse the bleach.
  7. Allow the floor to dry completely before closing ventilation avenues and using the space again.

Pros of This Method

Bleach is a common household item that you likely already have on hand. That makes it a simple-to-use method that can save you some money. Even if you need to purchase bleach from a store, it is inexpensive.

When it comes to mold or mildew, bleach is one of the most dependable and effective methods for removing spores and stripping the stubborn grime off porous concrete surfaces. Bleach is also a proven disinfecting agent, so lingering bacteria will also be removed by its application.

Cons of This Method

Due to the concentrated strength of bleach, you have to be wary of using it indoors. Ensuring you have proper ventilation in a basement – which may or may not have windows – can be a hassle and sometimes impossible. o

Mixing bleach with certain other chemicals can be extremely dangerous, and if you store chemicals or other cleaning products in your basement, it can be unsafe to use bleach in that same space. Some people find bleach to be too much effort due to the need for protective gear, especially if you don’t already have such equipment handy.

Considerations

When using bleach in any context, never mix it with ammonia, vinegar, or rubbing alcohol. These combinations are dangerous and can even be deadly in sufficient concentrations. In fact, the only substance you should ever mix bleach with is water.

Bleach may be unsuitable for use in your basement if you have young children who often make direct contact with the floors.

Bleach residue may stain clothes, damage paint, or ruin other surfaces. Make sure you wear clothes you don’t care about and remove any items that could be damaged before using bleach to clean your concrete basement floors.

Method 3: Ammonia

Using an ammonia solution is another effective cleaning method for musty concrete basement floors with stubborn grime patches or mold issues. Here’s how this method works.

Austin's 00051 Clear Ammonia Multipurpose Cleaner - 64 Ounce

Tools and Materials

Before getting started, you’ll want to gather the following materials:

  • Broom
  • Large bucket
  • Rubber brush
  • Gallon of ammonia
  • Dish soap or detergent
  • Warm water
  • Protective gear (gloves, eyewear, etc.)

Steps

To use ammonia on your floors, follow these steps:

  1. Ventilate your basement to the best of your ability (see step 1 of the Bleach method section).
  2. Thoroughly sweep the floor and dispose of debris.
  3. Mix ¼ a cup of ammonia plus 2-3 “squirts” of dish soap/detergent (per gallon of warm water) in a sturdy bucket.
  4. Put on gloves and other protective gear.
  5. Use a rubber brush to apply the ammonia solution to your floor, taking special care to scrub those areas which may have built-up grime.
  6. Mop the floor with clean water to rinse the left-over ammonia.
  7. Allow the floor to dry completely before closing ventilation channels.

Pros of This Method

Like bleach, ammonia is a common household product that is cheap and easy to find. It’s strong enough to cut through stubborn grime or dirt, and it can break down oily substances if applied and left for several minutes.

Ammonia is also a deterrent for pests like mice, beetles, spiders, and rats. In basements where pests are a perennial problem, ammonia as a cleaning agent for concrete floors also keeps pests at bay.

Cons of This Method

Like bleach, ammonia is a harsh compound that can sting the eyes and cause respiratory irritation when used in a closed space. The need for protective gear and adequate ventilation can make this method more labor-intensive.

Also similar to bleach, ammonia is reactive and can damage delicate materials. If accidentally consumed, ammonia can be highly toxic and require medical attention. If you have allergies or asthma, the fumes from either ammonia or bleach may irritate your lungs.

Considerations

Before using ammonia in your home, you will need to be careful not to bring it – or its fumes – into contact with reactive materials like bleach. Always read safety instructions and exercise your due diligence before using it.

Make sure you remove all other cleaning agents and delicate items that can be damaged before using ammonia in your basement.

Method 4: Dry Cement

When dealing with a concrete basement floor with rust damage, dry cement is simple and easy solution. Unlike the other methods, using dry cement doesn’t require you to soak your floors in cleaning solution or water. Here’s how it works.

Hartline Prod. 3703-6076 15m Anchor Cement, 10 lb

Tools and Materials

To start, you’ll need these tools and materials:

  • Broom and dustpan
  • Container of dry cement
  • Stiff bristle brush

Steps

Once you have all your materials, you’re ready to use the dry cement. The steps are as follows:

  1. Thoroughly sweep the floor.
  2. Sprinkle the dry cement onto the rust stain you’re trying to remove (Note: DO NOT mix the cement with water when simply using it to clean, as this will turn it into cement)
  3. Use the stiff bristle brush to rub the dry cement into the stain, moving it in a circular motion and applying moderate pressure.
  4. Continue this process until the stain is completely removed, replenishing the dry cement as needed.
  5. Sweep up the residual dust.

Pros of This Method

Dry cement is a clean, non-toxic substance made from fine limestone, clay, and other naturally occurring materials. It’s one of the safest and most environmentally-friendly options you can use to clean your concrete floors, and it’s particularly effective at removing rust spots.

Rust spots on a concrete basement floor

This method doesn’t require water or any liquid solutions, which means there’s no need to wait around for your floors to dry. The “dry method” also means that the cleaning makes less of a mess and requires fewer tools.

In addition to these benefits, dry cement is cheap and abundant, and you can find it at any home improvement or hardware store as well as through online retailers such as Amazon.

Cons of This Method

Dry cement is generally more effective for spot-cleaning than larger jobs. If you need to clean an entire floor or a significant part of one, using dry cement may be more labor-intensive than it’s worth.

Also, this method can create a lot of dust in the air; good ventilation is essential.

Considerations

When using dry cement, wear a mask over your nose and mouth to prevent dust inhalation. Dry cement can also dry out your skin, so gloves may be appropriate if you want to avoid cracked hands.

After you’re finished using the dry cement, make sure you carefully sweep the basement floor and consider using some hand lotion. Proper ventilation can prevent a “haze” as a result of kicked-up powder.

Method 5: Pressure Washer

If you have a drainage system in your basement, a pressure washer can be a fast and effective way to remove large swathes of dirt from your concrete floors. Only use this if you have a drain set in the lowest part of your basement’s floor or some other kind of effective drain system.

Sun Joe SPX3000 2030 Max PSI 1.76 GPM 14.5-Amp Electric High Pressure Washer, Cleans Cars/Fences/Patios

Tools and Materials

To use this method, you’ll only need two tools: a large broom and a pressure washer. Never use a gas-powered pressure washer indoors. Instead, use an electric one that’s labeled safe for use in an enclosed space.

Steps

To use this method, follow these steps:

  1. Thoroughly sweep the floor.
  2. Fill the pressure washer tank with clean water.
  3. Carefully test the amount of pressure you’ll need to remove built-up dirt, grime, mold, and dust.
  4. Starting on the room’s edges and moving inward toward the drain, spray your floors with the desired force until all visible dirt is removed.
  5. Use your broom to push excess water toward the drain.
  6. Allow the floor to dry.

Pros of This Method

Pressure washers are designed to remove large amounts of stubborn dirt, grime, and stains, and few tools do it better.

Although brand new pressure washers are expensive, you can rent one at Home Depot and other home improvement stores for a reasonable price.

If your basement has adequate drainage and you feel confident enough to use a pressure washer indoors, this method is simple and not particularly time-consuming.

Cons of This Method

Unfortunately, pressure washers can only be used in an indoor space that a) has efficient drainage and b) is large enough to make a pressure washer safe/not a mess to use. If you try to use this method in a space that doesn’t have a drain or one that’s too small, you’ll end up with a big, wet mess.

Pressure washers also require some planning to use properly. They create a lot of mist and can have quite a “splash zone,” which can be messy.

Considerations

When using a pressure washer, wear clothing you don’t mind getting wet, and remove anything from the basement that could be damaged by water.

Protect appliances and other oversized items that you can’t remove with plastic or tarps, and make sure they aren’t sitting directly on the floor (anything touching the floor will get wet).

Never use a gas-powered pressure washer indoors; use an electric one that’s safe for indoor use. Contact the manufacturer if you’re unsure.

Follow the machine’s specific manufacturer instructions and always test the different settings outdoors before using it inside your home.

Method 6: Muriatic Acid

If you’re looking to remove years of grime build-up, or you want to strip your concrete basement floors before painting, staining, or refinishing them, muriatic acid solutions are a viable option. Muriatic acid, or hydrochloric acid, is a potent compound with very high acidity.

Klean Strip Green Muriatic Acid- Eco friendly, Brightens Masonry, Etch Concrete, Removes Excess Mortar from Bricks and Cleans Algae and Scum- 1 Gallon Plus Centaurus AZ Chemical Resistant Gloves

Warning: Muriatic acid is highly caustic and can corrode plastic, fabrics, and even metals. It’s extremely dangerous if it gets on your skin, so you need to take precautions. Read this guide on the best practices for using muriatic acid before you get started.

Because of these risks, think of this method as a kind of “last case scenario” for floors you either can’t seem to get clean any other way.

Tools and Materials

To get started, you’ll need these tools and materials:

  • Large broom
  • Bucket
  • Rubber brush
  • Muriatic acid compound (usually comes in one-gallon jugs)
  • Dish soap or some other type of plain liquid soap
  • Warm water
  • Protective gear (gloves, full face protection, a respirator, thick clothing with no skin exposure)

Steps

Once you’ve put on your protective gear, follow these steps:

  1. Ventilate basement using windows, fans, etc.
  2. Sweep the floor thoroughly.
  3. Mix soap and water until suds form.
  4. Mop the floor with a warm soapy mixture and allow it to dry.
  5. While wearing gloves, mix 1 part muriatic acid with 4 parts water (1 gallon for every 300 square feet). Be careful not to let the acid or solution come into contact with exposed skin.
  6. Apply the mixture to the floor using a broom or a rubber brush, keeping in mind that the tool will need to be discarded after use.
  7. Leave the mixture for 5-10 minutes.
  8. Mop the floor 2+ times until all fumes have been ventilated and the air is cleared.
  9. And allow the floor to dry completely.

Pros of This Method

Muriatic acid is a powerful substance and is one of the most effective ways to remove dirt, grime, and just about everything else from your concrete floors. It’s also widely available and inexpensive, with the average price being about $10 for a gallon.

Cons of This Method

Using muriatic acid safely requires special care, and because of how potent this compound is, you’re taking a risk whenever you interact with it.

Ensuring you follow all safety precautions and buying the proper protective equipment (most people don’t have respirators on hand) can be more work and stress than it’s worth.

Muriatic acid will easily strip paint and finishes off surfaces, so only use it if you plan to refinish your floor afterward. That makes the method a limited “last resort” option that most people won’t find suitable.

Considerations

When using muriatic acid as a cleaning agent, you must have adequate ventilation, wear protective gear, and keep all children and pets away from your basement.

Safety is a major concern when working with a compound as acidic as muriatic or hydrochloric acid, as it can cause chemical burns if you get any of it on your skin.

Read the safety guidelines printed on the muriatic acid bottle and follow them carefully.

Bottom Line: What’s the Best Way to Clean Your Concrete Basement Floor?

Cleaning your concrete basement floor can seem overwhelming at first, but there’s no need to stress.

All the methods in this guide require a little effort and patience, but they work and only take a few hours to complete.

The method that’s best for you largely depends on the condition of your floors, supplies available, and your budget.

If you want to keep things quick and simple, using a commercially available concrete cleaning solution is the safest and most efficient option.

The common household cleaners — bleach and ammonia — are also relatively simple to use and are cheap and abundant. As long as you keep safety in mind when using these compounds, they are a practical choice.

For stubborn rust stains, dry cement is your best method. It’s cheap and does the job without making a wet, muddy mess. All you need after you’re done is a broom and dustpan.

Using a pressure washer is undoubtedly effective at removing grime and dirt, but you should only use this method if your basement has a drainage system. If it does, this can be a quick, low-effort way to clean your concrete floors.

Muriatic acid offers superior results, but it’s a highly potent compound that will strip your floors. Use it if you plan to paint or refinish your floor in the near future and take special care to utilize safety precautions when working with this substance.

No matter which method you choose, take your time and always keep safety in mind.

By following these guidelines, you’ll soon have clean, shining basement floors.

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He’s been studying consumer buying behavior for over a decade and has managed marketing campaigns for over a dozen Fortune 500 brands. When he’s not testing the latest home products, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn or via email.

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