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The four steps for staining concrete are: surface preparation, stain application (pictured), residue removal and sealer application.

Staining concrete is a great way to add color to an otherwise dull surface. The concrete staining process takes about 2 days, is moderately difficult and fairly affordable. New concrete should be fully cured before staining, which takes between 21 and 28 days.

Whether you're a professional wanting to add staining to your repertoire or a homeowner who loves a DIY challenge, here are the steps for staining concrete:

  1. Clean and prepare the concrete
  2. Apply the concrete stain
  3. Cleanup and neutralize the stain
  4. Seal your concrete for long-term protection


Before getting started, you’ll need to decide on the type of stain you’ll be using and what color. Acid stains are great for creating rich, variegated earth tones. Water-based stains offer more color choices, are user-friendly and safe.

There are a few differences between how acid and water-based stains are applied. Acid stains need more time to react with the concrete and require neutralization, while water based stains need additional surface preparation to open up the concrete.


  • Concrete stripper (sealed concrete only)
  • Concrete cleaner or degreaser
  • Etching solution (water-based stains only)
  • Stain
  • Neutralizer (acid stains only)
  • Sealer
  • Roller or sprayer
  • Mask or respirator
  • Gloves
  • Googles
  • Rubber boots
  • Scrub brush
  • Plastic bucket
  • Booties
  • Pressure washer
  • Scraper
  • Hose with spray nozzle
  • Shop vacuum
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Tape


  1. Prepare the Surface for Staining

    Whether you are staining new or old concrete, thorough surface preparation is essential. Unlike paints and coatings, which are opaque and can mask many evils, acid stains are translucent. Any residue remaining on the surface of the concrete is likely to be visible through the newly applied stain. When done properly, this initial step dramatically impacts the finished appearance of the project. Surface preparation can be done in two ways, either by mechanical grinding or with the use of a specially formulated cleaner (often available from your stain manufacturer). Learn more about surface preparation before staining concrete.

  2. Concrete Stain Application Tips
    Time: 05:32
    Learn how to stain concrete using acid stains. Get tips for applying stains to concrete floors as well as stamped concrete driveways, patios, walkways & pool decks.

  3. Apply the Concrete Stain

    After the concrete has been cleaned or ground, it is time to apply the actual stain. Here's how:

    • Mask off area to protect door frames, walls, etc.
    • Dilute stain with water to desired ratio (see your manufacturer’s recommendations for specifics).
    • Spray or brush on first coat. Popular sprayers include airless sprayers, HVLP sprayers, production guns, pump sprayers or even a trigger spray bottle. A brush or sponge may be used for cases that require precise control of the stain application.
    • Let the newly applied stain dry. Dry times will vary based on temperature, humidity and air flow. In optimum conditions, the concrete will be dry to the touch in 15-20 minutes; however, the total cure time is 24 hours.
    • Repeat if more color intensity is desired. Most stain manufacturers recommend waiting a few hours between applications.
  4. Cleanup & Neutralize the Stain

    Once the stain has been applied, cleanup is required. Here is a standard cleanup process:

    • Rinse the concrete with clean water until the water runs clear.
    • Neutralize the stain with T.S.P., baking soda or ammonia. This is only necessary if you are using an acid stain, water-based stains do not require neutralization.
    • Use a soft bristled brush or broom to loosen any stubborn residue before the final rinsing.
  5. Add a Protective Coat of Sealer

    After allowing the stained concrete to dry overnight or longer, apply your sealer of choice. Most stain manufacturers recommend applying two coats of sealer for optimum durability. The type of sealer you use will depend on whether the concrete is indoors or outdoors and what level of gloss is desired (see Concrete Floor Sealers). In addition to the sealer, a floor finish or wax can be applied for extra protection against scuffs and scratches.


Wondering if you can stain your concrete floor or patio yourself? Learn about whether applying stains is a DIY project or if you'd be better off to hire a pro.


  • Washing the concrete with muriatic acid before staining
    This depletes the lime in the concrete, preventing acid stains from reacting properly with the concrete and producing the desired color.
  • Skipping on-site color samples
    You should always do a color sample on the concrete you plan to stain since all surfaces are unique and the stain will react differently with each slab. Create your sample in an area that won’t be seen or will be covered up. Good places for samples are in a closet, under the stairs, in a utility room, or where cabinets or appliances will be installed.
  • Using masking tape or painter’s tape to layout designs on the concrete
    On concrete that has already been stained the tape’s adhesive may pull color off the floor. On unstained concrete the tape may leave behind a residue that prevents the stain from reacting properly with the concrete. When masking is required, cardboard, paper or other materials should be used instead.
  • Not neutralizing acid stains before sealer application
    When using acid stains, if neutralization is skipped or done improperly your sealer will not be able to form a proper bond with the concrete.
  • Not allowing sufficient cure time for new concrete before staining
    Fresh concrete must cure for at least 14 days before staining. For extra assurance, many manufacturers recommend 21 days.

Get more information on common staining mistakes: How to Fix Concrete Acid Stains

Shop for Concrete Stains
Single Component Stain EnduraStain by Newlook. Premium quality & performance.
Acid Stain by Surfkoat Makes up to 2 gallons. Great for marble look.
Water Based Stain 16 Colors - easy application & clean-up
Stain-Crete by Increte 9 standard colors. Useful for old or new concrete.
Water Based Concrete Stain Environmentally safe alternative to reactive stains
Renaissance Stain Discounts available for contractors. Up to 10%.
Reactive Concrete Stain Ready to use. Produces translucent, variegated, and other effects.
Stone Tone Stain 10 color options. Resistant to chipping and fading.
Metallic Stain by Westcoat Produces metallic ions that combine with concrete for a metallic look.

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