How to Fix a Bad Concrete Stain Job: Restoring Damaged Concrete Stains

A concrete stain job gone bad can be an absolute nightmare. It’s easy to see the importance of getting the process done right from the start. The entire look and feel of a project can be thrown off by one simple mistake.

Sometimes, however, it happens and we’re left with a stained concrete surface that looks anything but beautiful. Luckily, there are ways to restore the finish and make sure your concrete staining job comes out looking professional.

Bad concrete stain jobs can be a result of multiple factors. It can be because of a bad brand, an incorrect application, the wrong type of surface, accidentally using the wrong kind of concrete stain at the wrong spot, or the improper mixing of colors. Luckily, most of these issues can be remedied.

how to fix bad concrete stain job

Fixing a Bad Concrete Stain Job Because of a Questionable Product

Yikes – you’ve used the wrong product or a brand that turned out to be bad. Unfortunately, many people make this mistake and it might feel like it might be too late to save the job.

Unfortunately, most of these issues are from questionable products sold by large e-commerce stores, online marketplaces, and “discount” stores labeling these products as “concrete stains”.

In reality, they are nothing more than paint. Luckily, these products can be removed and replaced with a quality concrete stain. If this is the case, your first step is to completely remove the product before you apply the correct product, which is a true acid stain.

Note: Based on personal experience, checking the label before using them is always a great idea. Carefully read the instructions and if the product asks you to acid wash the concrete even before application, this means that this product is no good. Again, these products are nothing but disguised paint – and won’t do you any good, or won’t help you with your project.

Instead, look for products that indicate it’s a concrete “acid” stain – this is what you need. This is the only way to get a true concrete stain for your project.

In the event that you’ve already applied the disguised concrete paint in an area that’s too noticeable, you can use heavy-duty paint strippers, mastic remover, or an acid etching solution to remove the paint.

It can be time-consuming, but it’s the only way to get back to where you started and begin again with a proper concrete stain.

Close up of hand using steel trowel to finish wet concrete floor of polished concrete surface

Fixing a Bad Concrete Stain Job Due to an Application Error

Sometimes, it’s not the product itself, but rather how the product was applied that’s causing a bad concrete stain job.

If you’ve mixed up two or more colors and they don’t look right due to improper application, your best bet is to strip off the stained area and start again.

Fortunately, this is not as tricky as it may seem – all you need is a muriatic acid solution. This is a very strong acid and should be handled with caution – make sure you wear protective gear and follow the instructions for use carefully.

To begin, apply a generous amount of muriatic acid solution to the stained area and let it sit for 15 minutes or so.

After that, use a scrub brush to remove the bad concrete stain, then rinse the area thoroughly with water. Once it’s dry, you can start again and apply a concrete stain in the correct manner.

Fixing a Bad Concrete Stain Job Due to an Improper Mix of Colors

If you’ve applied multiple colors at once and they don’t look as great as you’d hoped, there is still hope.

As before, begin by removing the stained area with a muriatic acid solution. Once you’ve done that, you can start again and use a single color or mix subtle shades together to get the look you’re going for.

Tip: When mixing colors and unsure of how it’s going to turn out, you can try it in an inconspicuous area. This can be applied to all kinds of projects, so it’s best to test the colors before applying them in a larger area.

You can also visit your local paint store for advice on how to mix subtle shades or special effects that will work with concrete stain. Asking an expert is always a great idea and they can also help you find the right product for the job.

Fixing a Bad Concrete Stain Job Due to an Inadequate Prep Work

If the problem isn’t with the product itself or how it was applied, inadequate prep work could be at fault. Concrete staining doesn’t just rely on the product or the technique of how the stain is applied. Most of this process relies on the surface being prepared correctly.

If you’ve skipped this step, then you’ll likely get a bad concrete stain job. How do you do it?

The first step of the prep work is to clean the concrete surface thoroughly. This includes removing any oil or grease, paint residue, dirt, debris, etc.

Degrease, and strip off all paint, wax, or other curing agents. This is an important step because the concrete stain won’t adhere to a dirty surface properly.

Depending on the filth level, you may have to use a power washer or some other heavy-duty cleaning tool. Once the surface is clean, you need to let it dry completely before applying the concrete stain.

Car engine oil stains on the cement floor.

Additionally, you may want to check on the concrete’s surface. Does the water soak into it or does it create a puddle?

If the latter happens, then you’ll need to use a concrete sealer before applying any stain. This may be a time-consuming step but it’s worth it if you want your project to look great in the end.

If the water gets soaked in the concrete, this means that the surface is ready for the concrete stain. If the water can penetrate the concrete surface, then this also means that your concrete stain will do too.

If your product does ask you to etch the concrete surface, again, don’t use the product.

This simply means that the product has not been formulated for your particular concrete surface and is simply a paint. You don’t want to end up with a bad concrete stain job, so if it looks suspiciously like paint, avoid using it.

Fixing a Bad Concrete Stain Job Due to Weather Conditions

Sometimes, even if everything has been done correctly and the prep work was up to par, weather conditions can still affect the outcome of your project.

If you’ve been working in a humid, hot climate, for example, the concrete stain may not dry as fast as it should or even start to peel off quickly.

This is what happens when the stain isn’t given enough time to cure properly and settle into the concrete surface. Even if the surface seems dry, it’s still important to wait a few days before walking on it or applying any sealer.

With that being said, it’s highly recommended to check the weather conditions prior to staining. If you’re expecting high temperatures or humidity, plan your project accordingly and wait until the weather has cooled down a bit before starting.

This will give the concrete stain enough time to settle in and cure properly, which should result in a much better outcome.

Close up of hand using steel trowel to finish wet concrete floor of polished concrete surface

Applying Concrete Stain: Best Practices

Concrete staining is a great way to add some character and flair to any concrete surface. It’s an easy DIY project that can be done rather quickly, but it does require a bit of prep work to ensure a great outcome.

  • First and foremost, make sure that you purchase a concrete acid stain and not just regular paint. Acid stain has been formulated specifically for concrete surfaces and it will provide the best results. This means you don’t need to perform etching beforehand or acid washing.
  • Prepping the concrete surface is also key. Remove any dirt, paint residue, oil or grease, etc.
  • Always check the instructions on the packaging. Different brands call for different methods. While the entire process may seem similar for most acid stains, small differences are important and can make a big difference in the end.
  • Ensure that the surface is completely dry prior to applying the stain, and then apply it in thin coats. Too much of the product will create an uneven finish and you’ll end up with a bad concrete stain job.
  • Postpone staining when the weather doesn’t cooperate. High temperatures and humid environments will increase the drying time, and this means that your project won’t turn out as expected.
  • Finally, let the concrete stain dry completely before applying any sealant. The curing time may be as long as 24 hours.

Final Thoughts

Bad concrete stain jobs may seem frustrating at first, but if you take the time to understand all the nuances associated with staining, you should be able to create a beautiful finish.

Generally speaking, bad stain jobs may require different methods, depending on the situation. Following the steps outlined above will significantly increase your chances of success.

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