How to remove red clay stains from concrete

Red clay is a leading type of soil in the southern regions of the U.S., but also present in other areas. The red clay stains are likely to show up after heavy rainfall when water transports the clay deep into the pores of concrete, stucco, or brick. 

Home foundations are often affected by this issue due to splash accumulation, but even the unassuming act of walking on a concrete driveway or pathway with dirty shoes can cause damage. Unfortunately, a power wash alone will not remove the red clay stains. Red clay stains on concrete are difficult to remove. The presence of iron oxide or rust in the soil is what gives the soil its reddish color, and it is highly insoluble in water. Iron oxide is often used as an inexpensive earth tone pigment in paints, coatings, and colored concrete. Read further to learn more about red clay stains and how to remove red clay stains from concrete effectively.

A guide on how to remove clay stains from concrete

The cleaning technique for red clay stains on concrete involves a combination of a chemical agent and mechanical force (power wash). An acidic based cleaning agent is more potent since it bubbles up the red clay that is deeply embedded in the concrete.

Be careful when choosing an acid cleaner because not all agents are equal. 

Straight acids or those that are highly concentrated might be too potent and can even burn or significantly etch the concrete. If an acid cleaner has been too diluted, it might not be able to break the bond of the iron oxide on the concrete or masonry. 

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Most home improvement stores have red clay stain removers available that they can recommend. Look for one that is buffered with water and surfactants that work by micro etching the concrete. This eliminates the red clay without adversely affecting the surface. Surfactants are compounds that reduce the surface tension between two liquids or between a solid and liquid. Carefully read and follow the directions on the packaging and wear protective gear such as gloves, safety goggles, and protective clothing while using the product. 

Power washing is also recommended to help get rid of the red clay completely from the surface. When performing a power wash, use a hand pump spray and let it sit for 3-5 minutes and then rinse away. After cleaning, consider the application of a sealer that permanently penetrates the surface without altering the overall exterior. This will make future cleaning easier since the red clay wont be absorbed into the concrete pores again. 


Will bleach remove red clay stains from concrete?

A rust remover can effectively get rid of red clay stains. Generally, rust removers contain oxalic acid which is bleach. You can use oxalic acid or cleaning agents that contain oxalic acid. When selecting a concrete cleaner, carefully check the label if it is effective on red clay.

During the application, make sure that the concrete is wet. After applying the cleaner, leave it in place for a while. Additional applications might be needed. You can also use the cleaner along with a pressure washer. 

Once the concrete is clean and dry, apply a few coats of penetrating concrete sealant. This helps prevent the entry of soil in the first place, as well as minimizes staining. 

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How do you get red clay stains out of carpet?

Unfortunately red clay stains aren’t only limited to the driveway. You can also drag the red soil in and stain your carpet as well, leaving behind an undesirable mark. Luckily, you can effectively deal with this type of stain with the steps below.

  • Vacuum the floor completely to get rid of any loose soil and dirt.
  • Apply a layer of Murphy’s Oil Soap over the site of the red clay stain.
  • If a wide area is affected, work in small segments.
  • Use a cloth or brush with soft bristles to gradually work the soap into the fibers of the carpet.
  • Leave in place for 15-20 minutes, but don’t allow it to dry on the carpet.
  • Rinse thoroughly with cold water. Mist water over the site of the stain and vacuum away. When spot cleaning, you can blot the site with a clean towel after soaking it with water. 
  • If the red clay stain persists, use a solution of one cup ammonia and one bucket of water. Pour this mixture into a spray bottle and mist on the carpet. Scrub the site gently with a soft cloth. 
  • Once the carpet is fully rinsed, leave the carpet to air dry. 

In case Murphy’s Oil Soap is not available, an alternative is mixing one tablespoon of Borax with a cup of water. Other products proven to be effective in dealing with red clay stains include OxiClean and Lestoil.

What is the best concrete cleaner?

For those who want the best results when cleaning concrete, there are several highly efficient concrete cleaners on the market. Let’s take a look at some of these recommended concrete cleaners.

  • Spray Nine 26801 Heavy Duty Cleaner/Degreaser and Disinfectant. When it comes to cleaning, this cleaning agent is a good choice. It is considered one of the best in the market and designed to provide excellent results. It can effectively eliminate dirt, grease, oil, stains, mildew, mold, bacteria and more. Despite its potent quality, it is environmentally-friendly and will not damage your concrete driveway.
  • ACT Microbial Concrete Cleaner. This concrete cleaner is designed to work on various types of concrete floors on driveways, deck, sidewalks or basements. It contains active components that can eliminate dirt, grease, oil, stains, bacteria, mold and much more. It does not include any toxic compounds and is environmentally-friendly.
  • Simple Green Oxy Solve Concrete and Driveway Pressure Washer Cleaner. This concrete cleaner is suitable for household, commercial and industrial use. It is highly effective in dealing with oil, dirt, grease, automotive fluids, tire marks, mildew, mold and more. This is also an environmentally-friendly cleaner without a strong scent. 
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Final thoughts

When it comes to red clay stains on concrete, they can add an undesirable appeal to the overall look of your house. With the techniques described about how to remove red clay stains from concrete, you can easily eliminate this type of stain and keep your concrete driveway or pathway clean.

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