How to remove oil/grease from cement or pavers

A few days ago, if you remember, I spilt vegetable oil all over my flagstone backyard while teaching you how to light a charcoal grill.

I wasn’t thrilled about it, but I wasn’t too worried about it either.  I mean, it’s a backyard. Things happen back there that would never happen in your house.  For instance when’s the last time you dumped the remnants of a can of pop into your living room plant? Or witnessed a raccoon orgy?

The first month or so after building my backyard I was convinced it was at least partially, if not entirely, possible to maintain that “just photographed for a BBQ ad” look.

You know the type.  Happy family, smiling at each other over a perfectly dressed pork chop, clinking neon plastic glasses filled with lemonade as the dog who never poos romps in the grass.

I now realize my backyard is actually outside.  Bit of a downer when I realized that little piece of truth.  So that never-a-leaf-may-fall look, isn’t gonna happen.  Ever.  Unlike the brochure shots for BBQs and outdoor furniture, MY backyard has bugs and bird poo and dried up dead leaves and a sad, empty bread bag that floats in after every garbage night.  Bread bags are notorious party animals and every garbage night they seem to call on “empty coffee cup” to wander the neighbourhood wreaking havoc.  Occasionally Gatorade bottle joins in, but that’s only on especially wild nights.

So when I spilt vegetable oil all over my flagstone I figured … well … I’ll try and get it out but I’m not gonna kill myself over it.  Because of the whole “it’s a backyard and it’s outside” thing.

Plus I’m trying really hard not to be insane lately.

First up.  Rinsing.  Just trying to wash away the oil with soap and water.  It didn’t work.  I didn’t think it would.  But why not try the cheapest, easiest thing first just in case.

Second up, Kitty Litter!  My old standby for fixing just about everything.  Plus I had some just sitting in the closet.  So again … other than the fact that I’ll have to find something else to sprinkle on the salad tonight, this option isn’t costing me any money.


Original Stain

Oil 1


I swept the area, then dumped some kitty litter down.


oil2 kitty litter


Then I crushed it in with the heel of my foot.  Squashed it right in there.  Then I left it for a day. Which showed remarkable restraint on my part, because normally I’d be screwing around with something like this almost immediately after putting it down.

After a day passed, I swept up the kitter litter to reveal … get ready for the TA DA!


Oil 3 post litter


Poo-stinkles! (I’ve decided I’m overusing “Asshead”!)   Kitty litter rarely lets me down, but evidently today was the day.  Well … today and yesterday when I found a whack of of it solidified in my cat’s puffy trousers.

Third up!  TSP.  Otherwise known as Trisodium Phosphate.  $2.99 for a little milk carton type box.  So technically it’s even cheaper than kitty litter, only I had to go out and buy the TSP and already had kitty litter handy.  ‘Cause I have cats.  And eat salads.


Oil 4 TSP


You can mix TSP into 3 different strengths.  Household, Heavy Duty, and Super Heavy Duty.  Getting sick of this cleaning the backyard thing you can guess which route I went.

Mix up the TSP into a paste, rub it into the oil/grease stain, scrib it then leave it alone for 1/2 an hour.   Did I say scrib?  I meant scrub.


Oil 5 TSP paste


Rinse with water.  Ta DA!!


Oil 6 TSP post


Asshead!  Let’s try that again …  Paste … Wait … Rinse.  Ta Da!!


Oil 7 TSP 2nd post


The second round of TSP got most of the job done.  It’s not perfect, but it’s an improvement.


And since this isn’t a BBQ brochure and I am working on being not insane … I’m going to live with it.

For an hour.

Then I’m going to try dishsoap and water one last time.  But this time with some vigor.


Oil ofter soap copy


Even better.  As you can see, none of the methods that I used worked completely, but  by working away and combing them I had some success.   Here’s  a side by side of the original stain compared to the final stain.  ‘Cause I’m a professional blogger and I do things like that.  Give side by side comparisons.



Again.  Not perfect.  But this time I really am going to live with it.  Until tomorrow.  When I’m thinking of doing what I should have done in the first place … paint all the pavers with  vegetable oil.




  1. Valerie says:

    Don’t know if the pavers look the same on both sides, but what about turning the now only partially stained paver stones over to the other side?

    • Karen says:

      Valerie – I thought about that for a millisecond. But I laid each and every one of these flagstones myself so I know exactly how difficult it is. They’re all different sizes and not symmetrical. So you can’t just flip them over. And because they’re natural stone with imperfections getting them to lay flat is a struggle. Too much work and moving flagstone that’s set like this isn’t a good idea. You rarely get them set perfectly again. I’d rather the stain than a wiggle. 🙂 ~ karen

  2. Pati says:

    Karen, you are so…….so…….ME !! I could NEVER had left that alone 4 the alloted time ! Did I say N E V E R ????

  3. Pam'a says:

    Winter will kill the evil stain DEAD.

    • Karen says:

      Pam’a – That’d be GREAT. But I’m not sure if it will or not. I have a few other oil spots that … well … seem to like it here regardless of the seasons they endure. 🙂 ~ k!

  4. Shauna says:

    I’m not going to lie…. I’m troubled by the salad sprinkling reference… I can’t remember what this post was about…. and I’m going to make darn sure if you and I are ever at a pot luck…. don’t eat YOUR salad!! 😉 good luck with that stain!

  5. Laura says:

    HA! I really thought that would be your solution: pour oil everywhere!!!!

    • Lauren says:

      The stain looks a ton better. Perhaps the TSP loosened the oil for the soap and water? Maybe it just needs a few more going-overs with the soap & water? Although I tried that method with a great glop of rust coloured greyhound barf on a beige carpet last week with less than stellar results.

      My pet peeve is chewing gum on concreate. If I ever find out who is spitting out their gum on my front steps I am going to rip the tongue out of the little rat bastard. Any ideas? On how to remove the gum, not the tongue.

      • Karen says:

        Lauren – Goof Off works for chewing gum .. but you’ll have to test it to see if it stains the pavement first. ~ k!

    • Julianna says:

      Yeah, me too! Sometimes it’s easier to match the mistake than the original. And stones look good wet, so rubbing a bit of oil in would be kinda nice… But I’ve seen your yard, and that’s at least a Costco drum of oil and a giant mop…

  6. Michelle says:

    Next time, try GUNK engine degreaser (cleaner) from an auto parts store. It cuts thru grease.

    You are funny 🙂

  7. Sue says:

    There is an aerosol that garages use to get oil stains out of the floor – just called degreaser. You should be able to get it from an auto shop (Super Cheap Auto here in Australia)

  8. Kitt says:

    I would’ve covered the pavers with oil, too. That’s how I deal with some stains on clothing. I have a couple of lovely wine-colored shirts that used to be white.

  9. linda says:

    Earlier this summer I spilled gasoline on my flagstone patio while filling the lawnmower. I wiped it up and washed it down, it was still stained but lighter. I found that Mother Nature took care of it, as the stain is gone. I think the sun bleached it out or the oil soaked into the natural stone.

  10. Ricki says:

    I wonder if muriatic acid would do the trick? My husband used it to clean stains on our pool deck before. Worth a try?

  11. magali says:

    puffy trousers!! I like that so much!

    • Karen says:

      Magali – Trousers would be my boyfriend’s name for that general bum/leg area on the cat. I added the puffy. 🙂 ~ k

  12. blake says:

    poo-stinkles and asshead…**snicker**
    my new favorite words…that and Oh. My. Gaga!

  13. blake says:

    oh and TSP rules!

  14. Joanne says:

    Have you ever sealed the pavers and would that at least minimize future stains? I’m so impressed you laid all of those, BTW!

    • Karen says:

      Joanne – I haven’t sealed the pavers. I try not to do things around the exterior of my house that will require me to do them again and again and again. Like sealing the pavers or painting/staining the fence. Once you start, there’s nooooooo goin’ back! 🙂 I do like the look of the sealed pavers though. ~ karen

  15. Leanne says:

    lestoil! baking soda! rubbing alcohol! hydrogen peroxide! lemon and vinegar! barkeeper’s friend! comet! (Probably none of these will work. I’m totally guessing.)

  16. Babie Knoop says:

    Go ahead paint them all! Then they will look brand new and everything will just wipe right off when you spill anything!

  17. Babie Knoop says:

    …..with vegetable oil I mean….

  18. Andrea Clem says:

    I’m wondering if baking soda and vinegar would do the trick. Vinegar is a great grease cutter. Combined with baking soda creates that volcano fizzing that might just lift out that stain. They are probably in your pantry, natural and safe. It’s worth a shot anyway. Good luck!

    • Crystal says:

      That’s a big no! I have just this morning spilled veggie oil on the front step which is pavers and a cement slab!! I’ve now tried baking soda and vinegar, dish soap and water, javex, and drano!!! And it’s still there ?

  19. christine hilton says:

    How about putting sealer on all of the stones?The stain won’t show with a wet look and you can spill to your hearts content next year!Then post a tutorial so I can do mine.

    • Karen says:

      Christine – Hah! LIke I mentioned to someone else, I don’t want to seal the backyard because then I have to maintain it. Once you seal … you have to keep doing it. Blech. Like the look though. ~ k

  20. JBB says:

    Next time, light the oil on fire and let it burn away rather than soak in.

    Something tells me there’ll be a next time. 😉

    • Karen says:

      Hey JBB – Nope! I can guarantee there won’t be a next time. I’m not as klutzy as I look. I’m just one of the few who’s willing to let other people see their mistakes. I know … shocking! 🙂 ~ karen

  21. I dunno if it would work but another great thing for soaking up icky wet stuff (oil?) is wood pellets. They are dry pellets that expand into sawdust when wet. We get them at the local feed store and use the for horse bedding (cheapest). Also can get some at home depot for heating pellet stoves – more expensive as it is hard wood pellets.
    I have a bucket (left over from when we got rid of our pellet stove ) that I keep for such things and because I didn’t know what else to do with them.
    Pellets work well on wet spills. Use them in barn floor sometimes for water. I tried pellets on a dish soap spill that went un-noticed for ages in basement. It cleaned it up well but took a while as the soap was not super liquid-y. Scraped watered the “stain” then covered with pellets. Vacumed up wet saw dust with shop-vac. Took a few tries, but is acceptable now.
    Oh and as a kid, my neighbours had some sort of green “sand” for soaking stuff up off garage floors. That may suck up the last of your oil spill. Btw, was it Dawn dish soap you first tried? Apparently they use that to get oil tanker spills of animals. Not sure if it is just strait soap or if mixed with water though.

    • Karen says:

      LeeAnne – It wasn’t Dawn. Every website / forum I looked at recommended Dawn but I didn’t have any and couldn’t be bothered to go get any. It was Sunlight. Like I said .. I’m not gonna kill myself over the stain. For once in my life I can’t be bothered. I must be growing up. 🙂 ~ karen

      • I get it. Perhaps some nice raccoon or group of insects will come and lick up the remainder. Bet just plain old time will dull it down. If you wanted it to stay, like some divine naturally occurring portrait of some god, it will disappear in no time.

  22. Roxanne says:

    Try these:

    – Cola: Pour (Coca) Cola on the oily or dry stained areas,and leave the cola on OVERNIGHT;
    squirt a generous amount of dishwashing liquid (preferably Dawn) into a bucket until you have a good lather; rinse with the soapy water, then with a garden hose:

    – automatic dishwasher detergent: sprinkle on the oily concrete; leave it for several minutes, then pour boiling water on the stained area; scrub with a stiff brush or push broom, then rinse

    – powdered laundry detergent: sprinkle the laundry detergent directly on the stain; apply enough water to make a paste, scrub it, and LEAVE IT OVERNIGHT; add more water, scrub and then wash off

    – oven cleaner

    – baking soda

    – Krud Kutter

    Good luck!

    • Karen says:

      Roxanne – Thx., LOL. The problem is, as I’ve mentioned before on this site “THE INTERNET IS A BIG FAT LIAR”. Honestly. Every one of the methods I used were recommended and guaranteed to work on the “Internet”. That’s why I take so much pride in this little site of mine. I don’t recommend a single thing unless I’ve done it and I know without a doubt it works for me (be it a recipe, cleaning method or whatever. ) So … having said that … I’m happy with my somewhat lightened stain. 🙂 I have too many other things to do/show you at this point to put any more time into it. Canned peaches await … 🙂 ~ karen

  23. JZ says:

    I second the baking soda, and also the vinegar. Baking soda has helped me with some stain on granite countertop. Just make a paste, cover with seran wrap for a day or two and rinse off. GL!

  24. Liz S. says:

    I’ve heard cornstarch works well on oily stains on furniture. Wonder if it would work on the pavers?

    My first thought was to dump oil on all the pavers. Just make sure they won’t be slick when it rains.

  25. Matthew says:

    Sign your name next to it and call it art?

  26. Cindy says:

    My cats and Golden all had “fuzzy pants” rather than “puffy trousers”. And poopidoop is a word at our house.

  27. Shauna says:

    I have a strange suggestion, that may or may not work…buy some Pert shampoo and pour it on the oil stain, let it sit, then scrub. My ex-mother-in-law was a professional housewife and turned me onto Pert for ring around the collar – reason being it’s the harshest shampoo out there and will strip your hair (or other things) of all the oil. Thinking it might work in this case too. I would love to know if it works;)

  28. Evalyn says:

    Has anyone mentioned trying DishWasher Soap? While I believe strongly in the ability of Blue Dawn to clean up any mess I am capable of making, dishwasher soap has some secret ingredient that eats up stuff. Including your skin, so wear glives.

    I love that you have a reationship with kitty litter. Alarmed, true, but charmed at the same time.

  29. Denise Leavens says:

    I am SO looking forward to Thursday’s post!

    I have a fluffy cat, too. Has your long haired puffy trousers cat ever jumped onto your lap and stuck its hind end in your face demanding that you relieve it of the turd stuck there? My fluffy-pants little girl does this frequently – even when I’m trying to eat. That is when she becomes my husband’s cat!

  30. Nicole says:

    I know you’re over it, I know it won’t likely happen again, etc., etc., but I have been waiting all day to get home from work so I could check the bag in my garage – Moltan brand Safety Absorbant. Works like nothing else. So for anyone else who might be vegetable-oil-accident-prone (or any other oil), you can get it at the hardware store (big box, maybe; Ace Hardware south of the Canadian border, definitely).

    BTW, I can’t remember how I first came to your site but I wanted to hate you for your abs in your photo so I avoided your page. I ended up linked back to it another time and you were just so darn entertaining that I forgave you the abs. 😉 Actually, good for you! And thanks for the guaranteed chuckle in my day. – Nicole

    • Karen says:

      Nicole – I feel the same way about that picture actually. It’s a bit show offy for me … but I like the fish and … honestly … the abs are pretty much genetics in my case. They’re my consolation for not being able to do math. ~ karen

    • Karen says:

      Oh! And thanks for the info. I’ll keep an eye out for it. ~ k

  31. Nicole says:

    Eh, math is overrated, hardly ever useable, unless you’re building a chicken coop or something. Clearly an obstacle that can be overcome with Diet Coke and Ruffles. 😉

  32. Erin {i can craft that} says:

    CLR makes a grease and oil magnet exactly for this sort of thing as a last ditch effort. looks pretty good now though.

  33. Tina says:

    Simple Green & a scrub brush works wonders on oil on concrete — I learned the hard way when my old car leaked oil on my parents’ new driveway. Perhaps it would work well on your slate. It’s fairly cheap and isn’t as harsh as TSP.

  34. As the owner of a bluestone patio that is weeks old I can totally relate.

  35. I’ve heard of powdered dishwasher soap taking care of motor oil on concrete….wonder if it would work on this?

  36. Kim says:

    By now you would think I would know better than to be eating or drinking A N Y T H I N G while reading your blog!! For reals!! I always end up either choking on something, getting iced latte or Diet Coke up my nose, or hacking something onto my laptop…

    Seriously, I applaud your laid back ‘tude about the stain, although I would love to know how long you’ll be able to hold out. I’m planning on using some of these power-cleaning suggestions to remove the greasy BBQ sauce stain that DH left on our antique brick pavers on our back patio over the weekend….smoker + full pan of saucy ribs + massive quantities of beer = mess for me to clean up….

  37. Kandi says:

    Looking at your picture, it looks like bluestone pavers. If you go to a landscape supply yard, you can get a cleaner for your flagstone, and like the LSY that I work for, they should be able to give you a sample. Then I would suggest sealing it. Then the natural stone will not be so porous and wont absorb everything that it comes in contact with. Also you could try powerwashing it. Just a few more thoughts.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kandi! Thanks for the advice. It’s squarecut flagstone from India. I know because I ordered it and laid it all down. Stupidest thing I ever did. next to the chicken coop. 🙂 I don’t want to seal the flagstone because then I have to continue to seal it. I try to avoid outdoor things that require regular and routine maintenance at all costs! Hence … my fence isn’t stained or treated either. I think I’m just going to live with it at this point. it is a backyard afterall and it’s never going to be picture perfect. ~ karen!

  38. Stephanie says:

    My husband uses Dawn dishsoap undiluted on oil spills at work (he does hazardous waste cleanup) and swears by it. Just squirt it on and let it sit for a while.

  39. Leanne says:

    I am amused by the fact that since you are ok with your stain everyone else feels like we have to help you fix it. lol… You could always photoshop it. 😉

  40. dana says:

    My husband just had this happen from our RV dripping oil and he used laudry detergent. It removed it presto! Try it, it might work for you.* I guess it was surf.

  41. toothfairy says:

    CLR Grease Magnet

  42. Laura says:

    In college my friend spilled olive oil on one of her berkinstocks and complained bitterly about not being able to get it out – my response was just douse the other shoe too. She did not seem to go for said suggestion….

  43. Kelly says:

    The following method has worked for me 100% of the time. The tip originally came from a guy who worked on cars in a very greasy garage. Here goes: First wet the stain with gasoline, then immediately pour on a generous amount of kitty litter right over top of the gasoline/stain. Now here’s the hard part for me: Wait 5 minutes. Then sweep up the kitty litter. The oily stain will be gone or faded very significantly! The best thing of all is you can REUSE the kitty litter on the next oily stain (do NOT use it in your litter box!). By the way, love your blog and I have almost the exact same kitchen floor! We need to share ideas for redoing them!

  44. Kevin says:

    Diatemacious earth. Go to a car parts store tell them you have to clean up an oil spill. It’s cheap and effective. It took the motor oil right off the driveway.

    • Karen says:

      Kevin – The stain is longggg gone now. But I’ll keep it in mind. I actually have a huge bag of DE for my chickens. ~ karen!

  45. michael scully says:

    In your comments, didn’t you mean to say spilled on my patio not spilt???????

  46. Allan Samuels says:

    I have an oil stain. I also have a steam cleaner. Would a blast of steam be likely to help the kitty litter follow up?

  47. Gosia says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience with the stain.
    I just spilled a whole bottle of olive oil on my front door cobble stone front walkway; the bottle slipped through the plastic grocery bag:(
    I sprinkled the cat litter over it – the first remedy my husband found online.
    In your last post, you mentioned that your stain is gone (congratulations!). Did you try any of the suggested cures? If so, did any of those helped? Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      The stain is gone with the use of Kitty Litter and then Dawn dish detergent. (has to be dawn) Cover the stain with Dawn, scrub it a little then leave it. Come back and wash it off a few hours later. ~ karen!

  48. Gosia says:

    Thank you, Karen!!! i will try that!
    thanks for your blog!gosia

  49. Debbie says:

    Karen – Oh my, you had my husband and me hysterical! We laughed heartily as I read your post aloud. Yours was the first site I clicked on to find out how the get rid of three inexplicable oil stains on our pavers – directly in front of the door – two weeks before we are hosting the Senior Class Parent Brunch (yeah, seriously, the school asked us, though we don’t know where we will put the cars or the parents – thankfully it is a small school). We are new to the school and this is not what I needed! I will be laughing heartily as I take my Dawn and scrub brush outside. I have to figure out how to receive your blog!

    • Karen says:

      Glad to oblige Debbie! I’ll get you set up to receive my posts by email. All you’ll have to do is reply to the confirmation email once you get it. Good luck with your party! Heh. ~ karen!

  50. Andi Gibson says:

    Please sign me up.

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