Can You Clean The Driveway With Soap And Water?

Good old soap and water is usually enough to clean a driveway. It easily gets rid of dirt and with a stiff brush, you can even tackle mild stains. 

But in some cases soap and water may not be enough. Things like oil and grease stains, mold or algae and tire marks may require stronger cleaners. 

Can You Clean A Driveway With Just Soap and Water?

Can You Clean A Driveway With Just Soap And Water?

Yes, you definitely can. In fact, soap and water is often the best way to clean a driveway. Unless you have some serious stains or the driveway hasn’t been washed in months, soapy water and stiff brush are all you need.  

As for the best kind of soap to use, regular dish soap is fine. Just mix it with water and apply it onto the driveway. It will clean up dirt, mild oil stains and recent tire marks. Basically, any kind of surface dirt or stain. 

It’s only when the stains have had time to settle into the driveway that they can be tough to remove with just soap and water. 

If you are using a pressure washer to clean your driveway, look for pressure washer detergent. It’s formulated specifically for use in a pressure washer. Many pressure washer detergents also have additives such as degreasers that help clean your driveway.   

You can use dish soap in a pressure washer, but you would need to dilute it to keep it from clogging the machine. This significantly reduces its cleaning power. 

How to Clean A Driveway With Soap and Water

Here are some tips on how to get your driveway looking like new with soap, water and a brush. 

  • If the driveway is very dirty, consider sweeping it first to get rid of dust, leaves and other loose debris. You can also use a leaf blower to blow away the leaves.  
  • Make sure you are using a concentrated dish soap like Dawn. You want the best cleaning power you can get especially if you have oil stains on the driveway. 
  • Fill a bucket with water and add about half a cup of dish soap. Mix the solution and then spread the soapy water onto a section of the driveway. Then use a stiff brush (not a wire brush) to scrub that section. 
  • Don’t let the soapy water dry on the driveway. It’ll just re-deposit dirt on the surface. So keep a hose nearby and rinse as you move from one section to the other. 
  • If you have particularly tough stains, apply dish soap directly on them and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Then pour water on the area and scrub with a stiff brush then rinse. 

Tip: Start from the highest section of the driveway and work your way to the other end. For most driveways this is towards the street. This allows the water to run off the driveway instead of flowing back to sections you’ve already cleaned. 

In many cases, soap and water are enough to clean the driveway. But there are situations where they won’t be effective. These include: 

  • If there are old oil and grease stains on the driveway. These stains have probably settled deep into the asphalt, pavers or concrete. You’ll need something stronger to clean them.
  • There’s a lot of mold and algae on the driveway. This usually happens if the driveway has not been used for awhile, has drainage problems or has cracks. Soap and water will probably not be enough to get rid of the mold. 
  • There are old and extensive tire marks on the driveway. As with old oil stains, you’ll need something stronger to get rid of the marks. 
  • You have paint stains on the driveway. Soap and water can remove some paint stains, but you’ll need to scrub hard. A paint remover or even a pressure washer is more effective and faster. 
  • Your driveway is long. Using soap, water and a stiff brush will take forever and it will be tiresome. A pressure washer is a faster way to clean the driveway.  

How to Clean Oil Stains On The Driveway  

Use a Degreaser

If you have old and widespread oil stains on your driveway, a degreaser is the best way to clean them off. Outdoor degreasers are designed for use on a wide range of surfaces including concrete, brick, metal and wood. 

A degreaser works well on most oil stains, even old ones, and doesn’t require as much scrubbing as soap and water. 

Check the instructions on the label before using the degreaser. But usually, you apply the degreaser on the stains, let it sit for a while then scrub and rinse with water. 

Driveway degreasers will also remove most other kinds of stains from your car like brake fluid, transmission oil and so on. This is handy if your driveway doubles up as an outdoor car workshop. 

Here’s a great video comparing the effectiveness of three types of stain removers. You can see how the degreaser does a great job with minimum effort. 

Grind Away The Stains

If you have oil stains that go really deep, the other alternative is grinding the driveway. This is sometimes called resurfacing and is usually used when repairing an old and worn out driveway. 

Grinding the driveway removes oil stains that have sunk deeper into the concrete. You can rent a grinder or hire someone to do it. Note that you’ll need to apply concrete resurface on the areas that had stains. You’ll also need to re-seal the concrete. 

Power Washing or Pressure Washing

A pressure washer can get rid of some oil stains, especially if they’ve not gone too deep into the concrete. Make sure you use a pressure washer detergent that contains a degreaser. 

Spray the detergent on the driveway and let it sit for a few minutes before spraying with the pressure washer. 

A power washer is even more effective because it uses heated water. That combined with a degreasing detergent should be enough to get rid of tough oil stains. 

Tip: For better results, get a rotating brush attachment for the pressure or power washer to scrub away at the stains. 

How to Remove Tire Marks From The Driveway 

Soap and water will remove most tire marks from the driveway, but only after a lot of scrubbing. A degreaser works just as well on tire marks as it does oil stains. 

Apply degreaser on the marks, wait for the recommended time then scrub and rinse. 

You can also try using a pressure washer or power washer.  

How to Remove Paint Stains On The Driveway 

As with oil stains and tire marks, soapy water and lots of scrubbing can remove some paint stains. But there are easier options. 

If it is a few small spots, use acetone (nail polish remover). Apply it on the stain and let it dissolve the paint. Then rinse with water and if necessary, give the spot a little scrub to get all the paint out. 

If you are dealing with a paint spill or a large area with spray paint, a paint stripper is the best option. Some people use paint thinner, but it doesn’t work well on dried paint. It also works only with oil-based paints. It’s not as effective on latex and acrylic paints. 

On the other hand, you can get a paint stripper for any kind of paint. Just apply the stripper on the paint, let it sit for the recommended time then scrub or hose off the residue. 

Tip: If you have a pressure washer, give it a try before ordering a paint stripper. A pressure washer can remove some paint stains. 

How to Remove Mold and Algae From The Driveway

If you only have a little bit of mold, moss or algae growing on your driveway, you can easily get rid of it with soap and water, plus some scrubbing with a stiff brush. 

But if your entire driveway is filled with it, you’ll need a more aggressive approach. There are three solutions that will do the job. 

  • Buy a mold and algae cleaner and use it as directed. Typically, you apply it onto the driveway, let it sit for the recommended period then scrub and rinse. 
  • Use a pressure washer to spray away the mold and algae. For best results, add a mold cleaner to the pressure washer. 
  • Make your own mold/algae-killer by mixing bleach and water and pouring it onto the driveway. A vinegar and water solution also works great. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes then scrub the driveway with a stiff brush. 

To prevent the mold and algae from reappearing, figure out why it’s growing and fix it. Common culprits include poor drainage, too much shade and cracks in the driveway. 

If the mold or moss is growing in between pavers, spreading polymeric sand (after removing the mold) between the pavers will keep it from reappearing.  

If you’re looking for more cleaning guides, here’s a good article on how to deal with culverts cleaning.

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