How to Protect Against Concrete Splatters and Color Stains

Installing decorative concrete is a dirty job. Many of the products used can damage or permanently discolor abutting structures such as homes, buildings, or other concrete. Splatters of wet concrete, color hardener, and antiquing release can all stick tenaciously. If surrounding structures are not protected from such substances, an otherwise beautiful project can turn into a nightmare.

There are several ways to protect adjacent areas while pouring and finishing concrete. Many contractors mask off the walls with plastic sheeting or craft paper. Both of these products are great for protecting the surroundings, but have disadvantages as well. For instance, if a slight breeze kicks up the masking material can fall onto the slab. If this happens after antiquing release has been applied, the fallen sheeting can cause permanent scarring and discoloration of the slab’s surface.

protective soap film
A worker sprays on a protective soap film

There is another method of protection that eliminates this problem. It involves applying a protective soap film to the surroundings. The film keeps concrete and coloring products from sticking and staining. Any type of soap works, but I have found that liquid laundry detergent is the easiest and most economical to apply.

Simply pour the soap into a pump-up garden sprayer, add just enough water to make it sprayable, and apply the solution to the home’s surrounding walls, windows, concrete slab, asphalt driveway, or wood deck. After the initial coat dries, a second coat is recommended for added protection and to ascertain that no spots were missed. I find it helpful to allow the solution to dry before pouring concrete, but I have also poured concrete while the soap solution was still wet. Either way, once coloring products stick to the surrounding surfaces they can be easily removed the following day with a pressure washer or simply a hose and a stiff scrub brush. Make certain to wash it off the following day. If allowed to remain on too long, the concrete splatters and color may end up sticking after all.

I’ve used this method over the course of 15 years with no problems. Surfaces to which I have applied soap include treated or painted wood, concrete, asphalt, vinyl siding, aluminum siding, anodized aluminum, glass, stucco, EFIS, brick, cultured stone, and natural stone including porous cut limestone. In all cases, the soap worked effectively as a barrier against color or concrete splatters.