How to Remove Concrete Sealers: 5 Easy Steps

I know what you’re thinking, the cost of getting your concrete stripped professionally is outrageous. But that’s ok, below you’ll find out which stripper is right for you and how to remove concrete sealers (or coating) yourself.

If you’re ready to save on cash, let’s get started.

What is the Best Way to Remove Concrete Sealer?

You have two choices when it comes to removing concrete sealer, mechanical and chemical.

Mechanically removing the concrete sealer requires special tools and creates a big mess. You’ll also need to be extra careful to not damage or change the appearance of your concrete.

This guide will cover chemical stripping as it’s going to be the most practical way to remove concrete sealers at home.

Picking the Right Chemical Stripper

Depending on what preexisting coating/sealer is on your concrete, you need to choose the right chemical stripper. You should be able to find all three chemical strippers at your local hardware store.

Solvent-based

Solvent-based strippers are used to stripping epoxy, polyurethane, polyspartic, polyurea, and sealers. They’re are effective at removing the thickest coatings out there.

As of 2019, the Obama administration has banned the powerful methylene-chloride-based solvent strippers because they are harmful to human health. You’ll still be able to choose from other options that contain N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) and dibasic esters which are powerful enough to strip thick floor coatings.

Solvent-based strippers only work when wet, so you’ll need to keep an eye on your concrete. You should always use protective gear when working with a solvent-based stripper. It’s beneficial to also strip your concrete when it’s cool and it isn’t a windy day. This will prevent the stripper from evaporating rapidly.

Caustic

Caustic strippers are made from strong water-based alkaline materials. The alkaline reacts with oils, esters, latex, and enamel in some coating/paints.

Caustic strippers aren’t a good choice to remove typical coatings and sealers because the resins are resistant to caustic chemicals. Avoid using them if you have epoxy, urethane, or acrylic sealer or coatings.

While caustic strippers are less harmful, you’ll still want to follow the instructions and take the proper safety precautions.

You’ll need to apply several thick applications and ensure that the temperature is above 50°F for best results.

Biochemical

Biochemical strippers are made from plant-made materials. The active ingredients are esters and acids derived from plants. They’re eco-friendly and will do minimal damage to any plants you have nearby.

Biochemical strippers are ideal if you want to stay safe and want to preserve any plant life you have around (like around your driveway).

While biochemical strippers are safer than caustic or solvent-based strippers, they can take 12-24 hours to remove coatings.

Choosing the Right Sealer for You

You need to first identify what type of sealer or coating you have on your concrete. If you’re indoors, it’s likely an acrylic sealer. If the coating is thick, it’s either solids-based epoxy or polyspartic/polyurea.

If you know your concrete has been sealed previously but doesn’t have a coating, then you should go with a biochemical stripper.

When to Choose Solvent-Based Strippers

Solvent-based strippers should be used when you’re removing thick coatings epoxy, polyurethane, polyspartic, polyurea. If the condition of your coating is poor(flaking or loose), then you’ll be able to get away with using a caustic or biochemical stripper.

If you’re using the stripper near plants or ponds, you should avoid using solvent-based strippers as they can kill any plants or contaminate water sources. I recommend going with biochemical strippers for most at-home applications.

When to Choose Caustic Strippers

Caustic strippers are ineffective against epoxy, polyurethane, polyspartic, and polyurea. If you know your concrete has water and oil-based paint on it, you can use a caustic stripper.

When to Choose Biochemical Strippers

You should use biochemical strippers if you’re working around plant or animal life. You can use it to remove even thick coatings like epoxy but it will take up to 24 hours. Read the instructions for a time estimate.

How to Remove Concrete Sealer

If you’re utilizing a solvent or caustic stripper, ensure you have the proper safety gear, ventilation and avoid working near any fires or sparks. They’re flammable, so be careful.

Step 1

Start by removing as much peeling or flaking coating with a scrub brush as best you can. Sweep the floor before you proceed.

Step 2

Use a sprayer, brush, or roller to spread the stripper of your choice over the concrete. If you’re using an aggressive solvent stripper, you’re going to want to be careful as you disperse it around your floor. Make sure you keep the slab wet to ensure it strips properly.

You’re going to now have a waiting period that will depend on your coating or sealer. Check your stripper’s instructions for how long you need to wait.

You’re also going to need to keep the floor wet so that the stripper can continue working. Work in small sections to keep this manageable. If you can, avoid working over direct sunlight and wind.

Be careful as the floor will get slippery.

Step 3

For smooth concrete, you’re going to need to use a scraper to strip both the stripper and the remaining coating or sealer. Dispose of the material in a nonreactive container.

If you’re working with stamped or textured decorative concrete, you’re going to need to use a stiff brush to loosen the remaining coating. Continue this process until you’ve gotten up as much of the coating or old sealer off your floor.

Step 4

Depending on your stripper, you may have to use a vinegar and water solution to neutralize the area. It’s a good idea to wash your floor anyhow.

Pressure washing your concrete surface will make cleanup easier.

Step 5

If your floor hasn’t been stripped completely then you’re going to need to repeat this process a second time. Otherwise, your floor should be good to go for a fresh seal of coating or sealer.

Final Thoughts

The most important thing during this entire process is that you keep yourself and everyone around you safe. Read the instructions to ensure you’re using the stripper correctly and you shouldn’t have any problem removing sealer from concrete.

You’ll be surprised at just how easy it is to do this job yourself when you finish. Check out the best concrete sealer if you’re looking for a great product to seal your concrete. If you prefer to paint your garage floor, check out the best garage floor paint.

Photo Credit: http://www.decorativeconcretekingdom.com/

About Roy Cohen

I'm Roy, founder of Hack My Garage. I started out like most not knowing how to hammer a nail, but now I know more than most people about home improvement and DIY. I want to spread my wealth of knowledge with the world and hope to make it a better place.