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How to Correct Acid Stain Colors on Concrete

Question: I put a textured concrete overlay on my concrete floors. I did all the cleaning processes, and I applied acid stain in buff, cola and amber colors. My problem is that I wanted more of a yellow tone, and instead, it is more orange with some yellow! I have tried sanding some of the orange off and it has lightened it, but not enough. I am a DIY person and have never tried this in my life. What can I do now to fix this? What are my options?

Concrete Questions Correcting Acid Stain Colors - A DIYer used a mild acid solution to remove some orange from this acid stained concrete floor, then added darker stain colors to correct the acid stained concrete floor. Photos courtesy of Candace Reese
A DIYer used a mild acid solution to remove some orange from this acid-stained floor, then added darker colors. Photos courtesy of Candace Reese

While I advocate hiring professional decorative concrete installers for projects, I also realize that there is a large segment of the decorative stain market that is made up of weekend warriors and DIYers. Even after more than 20 years of industry education on staining, I get as many questions like this from do-it-yourselfers as I do from people who hired a professional installer.

Stain remains a popular finish, and while the number of problems or complaints has decreased over the last few decades, the problems remain the same, and they don’t discriminate between professionals and DIY homeowners.

Because of this, I begin my response to most of these types of questions by saying, “Welcome to the world of acid staining!” Variations in color are to be expected.

A sample area would have saved a lot of time and heartache. This is a classic example of why the industry preaches samples. Making a mock-up or small sample of the different colors on the floor would have shown that certain stain colors were creating an orange color and not the yellow or light brown the homeowner wanted. Unfortunately, that is water under the bridge. The good news is that a sealer had not yet been applied, which saved the major headache of having to strip the floor before doing any color correction.

At this stage in the project there are a few options.

You can use a mild acid to remove some of the color. A solution of 40 parts water to 1 part muriatic acid, a scrub brush and cotton rags will help remove the stain.

Keep in mind that acid stains are not soluble in water. This means that water alone will not do much in regard to removing the orange-colored stain. A small amount of acid added to the water will pull the stain out of the concrete without etching the concrete surface.

In essence, the acidic solution reverses the reaction, allowing you to pull the color back out of the concrete. You can let the surface dry and then work back into the floor with the stains to get the desired color. This method is by far the most successful when wanting to pull stain back out of concrete.

You can work other acid stains (or most any kind of stain) into the floor to try to get the desired color. You may get what you want or you may not. This works best when you want to go from light to dark colors. I would not try it if you are going from dark to light, as in this case.

Concrete Decor Correcting Acid Stain Colors on floors. Made a mistake while coloring your concrete and used darker concrete stains to correct the problem.

You can apply a dark stain in just certain areas to try to produce highlights to offset the orange. This is more of an artistic approach, and having a comfort level with how stains react and produce colors on concrete is recommended.

A tinted sealer can be applied over the stain to try and hide the orange. This is the cheapest option and produces a Band-Aid fix. When you use this method, the repair color is tied up in the sealer, so if the sealer wears so does the color.

Whatever method you decide to use, test in a small area until you get the desired results! In this case the homeowner/installer used the mild acid method with great results, as you can read in the response that I received:

“Thank you so much, Chris! I took your advice and removed some of the orange. I also added in some darker colors. I could not be more excited! I am very pleased. It is beautiful, or at least I think so ;) ..LOL..Thank you again for your help!!”

Another satisfied customer, or at least I like to think so.