Concrete in its own right is not oil resistant. I mean, at the end of the day it’s just a mix of cement, sand, gravel, air, and water. Nothing about that screams ‘oil resistant.’
However, oil resistance is important for a number of concrete applications. Your garage floor, for instance.
How, then, do we make concrete resistant to oil?
Most of the time, it’s with a sealant.
What is a Sealant?
A sealant or sealer is a substance that creates a barrier against water, air, or soundwaves. Most of the time, sealants are used on joins, cracks, crevices, and gaps to create a barrier.
You can also get liquid sealers which are usually designed for floors. These sealers are brushed, buffed, or spread onto floors to create a waterproof, anti-bacterial, abrasion resistant surface.
It’s the latter kind of sealant that we use on concrete floors to protect them from oil and other liquids.
Choosing Oil-Resistant Sealers
The difficulty you’ll come across when choosing an oil resistant concrete sealer is that there are lots of different types with lots of different properties.
It can be confusing and overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Luckily for you, we’re going to talk you through all the major decisions you’re going to have to make when choosing a sealant for your concrete.
Penetrating or Film Forming?
The first thing you need to decide is how your sealer is going to operate. There are two basic modes of operation.
Film forming sealer dry and cure to create a film on the top of the concrete. This film acts as a waterproof, abrasion resistant, barrier. Think of it like saran wrap but much stronger!
These sealers come in a gloss or semi-gloss options and can look lovely on your floors. They can bring out the colors of your floor and make it look polished and finished.
Like any polished surface, floors treated with film forming sealants tend to be slippery when wet. The film can also crack or delaminate if not cared for properly.
Most film forming sealers will be either acrylic, epoxy, or urethane based.
Penetrating sealers seep into the concrete and form bonds with the particles in the concrete. These bonds prevent the usually porous concrete from absorbing substances like water, oils, or dirt.
Penetrating sealers don’t alter the appearance of your concrete because they are absorbed into the material.
They also tend to be non-slip which makes them more appropriate for workspaces like garages and workshops.
Oil Repellant or Oil Resistant?
Pay close attention to what’s written on the bottle! These two terms are not interchangeable and they’re not equal.
Let’s take a closer look at the meaning of both terms.
- Repel – To force something away from you or to prevent something from being absorbed.
- Resistant – Not harmed or affected by something.
You see they’re actually quite different.
If your sealer is labeled as oil resistant, then it means that the sealant itself will not be harmed or degraded by oil. This is great because it means you don’t need to reapply the sealant after an oil spill.
However, the sealant will not stop oil from seeping into your concrete and staining. Obviously, this is less than ideal.
Resistance is actually the lowest level of protection.
If your sealant is labelled as oil repellent that means that it actively prevents oil from being absorbed. This is the top level of protection.
Substances that repel oil are known as oleophobic. Oleophobic sealants create a higher surface tension within the concrete which actively stops oil from entering.
When you need to prevent oil seepage and staining, look for an oil repellent sealer.
Where to Use Oil Resistant Sealant?
As we’ve briefly mentioned, oil resistant or repellent sealants are designed for use in places where oil spills are a potential hazard.
- Here are some places they are frequently used:
- Garages – both public and commercial garages. Usually require oil repellent sealants.
- Driveways – Sealant can help keep your driveway free from oil stains. Remember to use a penetrating sealant as they are non-slip even when wet.
- Patios – Oil repellent sealants can protect your patio slabs, especially if you have a BBQ area.
- Warehouses – The amount of foot and vehicle traffic that warehouse floors see is phenomenal. A sealer can help protect the concrete from damage and spills. Avoid film forming sealants though as they can cause slip hazards.
Sealants perform many jobs which is why they aren’t always listed specifically as oil resistant or repellent.
Remember to read the descriptions carefully to work out what level of protection you’d get from the sealant.