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Clean Garages and Basements

Garages and basements can harbor dirt, leaves and insects. Resist the temptation to move without cleaning. Use these cleaning tips to get your garage and basement floors looking their best.

First Steps for Your Floors

  1. Use a heavy-duty vacuum to clean up the garage and basement floors.
  2. Snag cobwebs around baseboards and ceiling edges.
  3. Once the floors are vacuumed, identify where the floor is stained or damaged. Unpainted or unsealed concrete can become unsightly due to oil and grease, rust and other agents.

Remove Oil and Grease Spots

  1. Cover grease stains with a layer of sawdust (or cat litter). These materials absorb excess oil. Let the sawdust sit for at least one day.
  2. Use a pushbroom with rigid bristles to sweep the sawdust and dirt.
  3. Pour dry dishwasher detergent or a concrete cleaning agent on the stain. Let the detergent sit for 45 minutes, then pour boiling water on the area and vigorously scrub the stained section. Allow several hours to complete.
  4. For stubborn stains, use muriatic acid in combination with a power washer (set to at least 1200 PSI). Apply the acid according to the manufacturer's instructions, let it soak for a few seconds, and rinse. Use baking soda on the cleaned area to neutralize the acid, and rinse again. If a power washer is not practical, use a pushbroom and hot water.

Remove Rust Stains

Combine an ounce of trisodium phosphate (TSP) in a gallon of hot water. Wet the concrete and scrub vigorously with a pushbroom. Let soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, rinse thoroughly. You may have to clean the area several times.

Once you have cleaned the floor, you may want to consider painting or sealing the concrete surface to prevent further staining.

Preparing Your Floor for Paint/Sealer

Moisture Test. If you think that moisture issues might prevent paint or sealer from bonding, tape a 3' x 3' square of plastic sheeting to your floor. If after a day water collects on the underside of the plastic, you'll need to put down a vapor barrier before the primer coat.

Sealant/Etching Test. Pour water on a concrete floor to test for previous sealing. If the water beads, the cement has been sealed and probably needs to be etched before you re-seal or paint.

Etching the Floor. Apply a commercial concrete etcher, being careful to follow the manufacturer's instructions. If the etcher fizzes as it's applied, it's working. Let the floor dry overnight (or longer, if needed). The concrete will have a slightly grainy texture, which allows the paint to better grip the floor's surface.

Sealing a Concrete Floor

To prevent future staining, to minimize concrete dust, and to make it easier to sweep, you can seal your concrete floor. Sealant can also act as a primer if you're painting the floor.

Choose a water-based floor epoxy or a solvent-thinned epoxy. Apply the epoxy with a lint-free, all-purpose, solvent- and water-resistant roller (with a medium nap). Use a nylon brush to edge. Apply sealant liberally, thoroughly, and evenly. If you plan on painting, allow eight hours for the sealant to dry.

Painting a Concrete Floor

When selecting paint, choose an epoxy paint for use on concrete floors. You'll also need nylon brushes and roller covers.

Mix the paint and apply a thin, even coat. Let the first coat dry thoroughly (about 24 hours) before applying a second coat (if needed).

With the right information and a little work, your home will sparkle like new! Read more Lowe's articles about sprucing up your house in our Cleaning & Organization section.

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