Cleaning pavers: How to keep your pavers looking new for longer
One of the selling points for natural stone pavers is that they are easy to live with. This is mainly attributed to their ease of maintenance and cleaning, very little of which is required to keep them in working order. There is however an acceptable level of cleaning that needs to be given to the pavers to keep them working for a long time. This will be necessitated by constant use, where basic household accidents and spills.
Depending on the area of the home the pavers are in, the spills and dirt you deal with will be different. Patios and driveways are most likely to have a wider variety of stubborn stains, mainly due to the amount of human traffic involved. In patios, the most common type of dirt will be food spills and children craft projects. If you have a barbecue grill in your home, you may also get charcoal dust, ash, and soot. The driveway will be vulnerable to harsher stains such as oil spills and anything tracked in by the tires. This is in addition to dust and leaves or debris from the yard.
What will you need?
The process of cleaning pavers is similar across most of the materials and the rule is to avoid acid-based cleaners. This is because the acid, no matter how weak, can dissolve parts of the pavers and cause staining. In granite, for instance, the high concentration of calcite in the pavers will react to the acid and cause wear over time. The same is true of marble and limestone.
Some cleaning supplies work across the board, however. These are the backbone of every natural stone cleaning kit, with additional products being specific to the type of stone you are dealing with. They include:
- A broom
- A Gentle, non-acidic cleaning agent (stain remover)
- Waterproof gloves
- Protective gear including eyewear (you do not want detergent in your eye if you can help it)
- Clean rags
- A gentle scrubbing brush, and a hose
- A bucket, measuring cups, and liquid household detergent
- Stain removal poultice
Steps to cleaning your pavers
With your cleaning kit put together, it is time to learn the basics of correctly taking care of your pavers. As a rule of thumb, always wear protective gear when cleaning to reduce the risk of injury. This is especially important when dealing with any of the cleaning supplies, which can cause burns to sensitive areas like the eyes, nose, face, and hands. Always ensure you read and understand the usage instructions as well.
- The first step is to assess the surface of the paving to determine what sort of dirt you are dealing with. This will include everything from dirt, leaves, and debris on the driveway, to smoke and grease stains around the grill or fire pit. Take note of any hard to remove stains such as food spills on the patio and pool area, and grease or oil stains on the driveway. This step will let you know what sort of cleaning supplies you need, and whether you are required to make a trip to the store.
- After the initial survey, take a broom and carefully sweep the entire length of the paving. If you are cleaning the patio, pay attention to any hard to reach areas such as corners and under any planters. Make sure to get all the leaves, debris, and gravel from the driveway as well. For the best results, make sure to sweep the whole length of the paving once vertically, and then horizontally. This will take care of any dirt that may be leftover the first time around, especially around the grouting spaces. You should also remove any movable objects that can hinder your cleaning. This includes grills, planters, toys, furniture, and your car.
- Take your hose and spray the entire paving with water. This should be done in sections to make sure you do not miss anything. The water will dislodge any debris that could be trapped between the pavers, making it easy to wash away.
- Remove grease stains from around the barbeque grill and on the driveway with soap and water. The process begins with pouring about one cup worth of liquid detergent into the bucket. Squirt some detergent directly onto the stain and gently scrub with the brush. This will break up the grease on the stone, and make it easier to remove. Make sure to periodically dip the brush into the bucket of water and detergent, to remove grease from the tip of the bristles. Rinse the area with water. If it is a persistent grease stain, use the non-acidic cleaning agent on the spot, then scrub with a brush until the grease breaks down.
- Remove any biological stains with ammonia or hydrogen peroxide. These include moss, lichen, algae, and fungi. When dealing with ammonia, there are certain precautions you must take. The first is to make sure you mix the proportions correctly, to avoid accidentally damaging the stone. The correct ratios are ½ a cup of ammonia, in a gallon of water.
The second and most important safety measure is to NEVER MIX AMMONIA WITH BLEACH! This will create harmful and lethal chloramine vapors.
Something else you should know
Other common stains you may encounter are ink, paint, and water damage. Water spots are caused by hard water accumulating on your pavers and are the easiest to deal with. They are removed by buffing the pavers with dry steel wool. Ink removal is a trickier and requires a hydrogen peroxide cleaner for light-colored stones and a mild acetone solution for the darker stones. Make sure you do not mix the two!
Paint, on the other hand, requires special care. Small stains can be scraped off with a small sharp object such as a razor blade or trowel. Heavier stains, however, require specialized care. This is because removing them will require commercial paint strippers. Most of these contain lye or caustic soda and will etch your stone, requiring a polishing after the paint removal. DO NOT USE ACID BASED CLEANERS ON PAINT.