Tips for Removing Oil Stains from Asphalt

Modern asphalt is a combination of petroleum byproducts, fillers, binders, and a variety of different substrates. In other words – it’s oil and some rocks. Even though oil makes up a significant portion of asphalt, foreign oil is an enemy to your gorgeous asphalt driveway.
Not only are oil stains ugly, but leaks from your engine that seep down can also soften your blacktop by chemically weakening the bonds that make it durable. Areas below oil stains are more likely to crack, pit, and chip – no good for your curb appeal and no good for your asphalt.

Oil Stained Asphalt
  • Step 1
    Thoroughly clean your asphalt driveway of all dust and debris. Use a garden hose to gently wash away all dirt, leaves, and anything that shouldn’t be there. Do not use a pressure washer or high-powered nozzle, which can push the oil or foreign debris further into the asphalt. You’re only rinsing, not decontaminating.

  • Step 2
    Mop up excess and surface oil with an absorbent cloth until you can’t get anymore. The sooner you can get to an oil stain, the more likely you can soak most of it up without much further effort. After the initial mop, it’s time to draw more of the stain out.
    There are many different products you can use to absorb excess oil, but sawdust, baking soda, and non-clumping cat litter are the most popular methods. Pour a liberal amount of absorbing material over the stain and allow it to sit overnight. You can put a towel over your pile to help keep it secure from the elements.

  • Step 3
    Sweep up your absorbing material and dispose of it. Re-rinse the area with a gentle spray. If there’s still excess oil, add another batch of cat litter or proceed to step 4 if you can’t get anything else up.

  • Step 4
    If the stain was fresh, absorbing the excess might do the trick, but if the stain is older, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. You can use a stiff wire brush (not metal brush which will scratch your asphalt) hose, and a cleaning agent like dish detergent to scrub out the rest of the stain.
    How long and how hard you need to scrub depends on the size of the stain and how long it’s been there. You may not be able to get every trace of oil off at once, but a hearty scrub will make a significant change in the stain’s appearance and its ability to harm your driveway.
    Pro TipsAvoid any cleaning agents containing citrus or other solvents. They’ll clean the oil stains but cause more damage than any oil stain ever caused. Most homeowners use dish detergent or an all-around non-solvent based cleaner like Simple Green.

  • Step 5
    Follow up with a seal coat. If there’s one thing asphalt contractors agree on, it’s that not enough home and business owners regularly seal their asphalt. The area you cleaned may look better, but when you scrub off oil, but you can also scrub off the asphalt’s top protective layer. A proper seal will polish things off and can help keep oil from getting into your asphalt to begin with.

  • Step 6
    Mitigate future spills. Add an oil catch under leaky engines and ask any contractors to put tarps down before parking their vehicle on your fresh asphalt. The best offense is a strong defense.

Other Quick Tips on Cleaning Oil other Stains Off Your Asphalt

The steps above are primarily used for oil stains but can be used on stains from organic debris and other stains most likely to occur on asphalt.
There are commercial concrete and asphalt cleaners to help clean oil stains, but most homeowners only need cat litter, dish detergent, and elbow grease. If you’re working with a stubborn stain, consider a microbe-based asphalt cleaner. Microbe-based cleaning agents use tiny microbes instead of chemical bonding to eat the oil and convert it into harmless waste.
Try to take care of any oil stains before the colder months of winter. Stains are much more stubborn, and you’re much more likely to cause damage to your blacktop when you clean during freezing temperatures. Take care of stains during the even temperatures of fall.

When in Doubt Call the Pros

Most homeowners can easily clean oil stains off their driveway, but not all homeowners can or frankly want to. If you’re ever in doubt about your cleaning ability or don’t want to deal with the hassle of scrubbing, call your local asphalt contractor.

Clean Asphalt is Happy Asphalt

Now you know how to remove oil stains from your asphalt driveway. Follow the steps, be careful with your cleaner, and call the professionals if you’re in doubt. With these tips, you’ll have a beautiful blacktop that your neighbors will admire.