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Neutralizing an alkaline cleaning product

While I was applying a driveway degreaser and cleaner to my concrete, I accidentally let the solution dry in my concrete while working under the sun. Now, despite hosing off my concrete over 20 times, foam and soap suds still arise to the concrete’s surface whenever wet. Whenever there is no water, one cannot see any residue or deposits with the naked eye. The company of the degreaser I purchased told me to add more cleaning solution to the previous application area, then scrub and rinse once again— this time without drying. I’m hesitant to do that, because I’m not sure how that will help. They claim that adding more of their Degreasing solution would “reactivate” the dried-on chemical deposits in the concrete, but, to me, this doesn’t make sense, as these deposits have already been reactivating whenever they come in contact with water (hence, the production of foam and suds), yet it still fails to wash out completely. To me, following their recommendation would just increasing the production of foam and suds. Does anyone understanding their reasoning? Other degreasing product companies told me to add a diluted solution of white vinegar with water and apply it to my concrete, if I had been using their company’s product. Do you think that this idea would also work for the product I used? I believe that their logic is that the acid of vinegar would neutralize the alkalinity of the degreaser, thus preventing the surfactant from reacting and producing foam when it comes into contact with water. Here are some, but not all, of the ingredients in the degreaser I used, 2-(2-Butoxyeethoxy)ethanol, Ethylene Diamine Tetraacetic Acid, Pentasodium Tripolyphosphate, Amides, coco, N-[3-(dimethylamino) propyl, N-oxides, C9-C11 Alcohols Ethoxylates, and Diprpoylene Glycol Monomethyl Ether. If a diluted white vinegar solution is not an answer, what is? Lastly, removing these chemical solution is important to me, as I am concern that my driveways runoff would eventually kill my plants (especially in the rainy season).
Any recommendations are welcome.

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Contributor III

Re: Neutralizing an alkaline cleaning product

First, if pollution due to runoff is a concern, you shouldn’t use the product in the first place! WHERE do you think the product and “washed” compounds are going, especially if no residues are left on the cement? In any case, prolonged leaching from rain over months would be less toxic to anything than the immediate discharge during the application.

Second, there really are no alkaline compounds in the list of ingredients (except possibly the amides), so the application of an acid may not have any effect. If you do want to apply an acid for neutralization in this or other cases, vinegar is certainly one of the best ones to use for personal safety and availability.

My own experience in both degreasing and persistent compounds in cement is that a water pressure washer (NO soaps) will be the most effective at cleaning most adhered materials, and certainly in washing away any soluble compounds.

Best regards,


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New Contributor II

Re: Neutralizing an alkaline cleaning product

If concerned about an alkaline product, vinegar (which itself is diluted acetic acid) would be a great at-home solution for neutralization. Regular white vinegar is usually 3-5% acetic acid and should neutralize things just fine. 

However, I see no potassium or sodium hydroxide (a common main ingredient in degreaser) listed in your ingredients list. So I wouldn't worry about neutralization. Therefore, rehydration and removal becomes the issue.

Since a degreaser is most likely non-polar by nature (hence ability to absorb and remove "grease"), I would think physicality of a power washer would help. Power washers themselves are a "greener" cleaning tool than chemical degreasers.

If I were you, I would use some pH paper / litmus paper to test the "suds" you get when your driveway gets re-wetted. If it's neutral, great. If it's basic / acidic, neutralize with vinegar / baking soda. Then scrub it away with a power washer under it runs clear / no more "suds". 

Definitely don't reapply the product. I can see the logic of adding more of a non-polar substance to rid yourself of the dried, potentially non-polar degreaser, but let's not get more chemical runoff in the sewers than necessary. 

Lauren E. Ragle, PhD
Chair-Elect | Chemical Society of Washington
Assistant Professor | PBPM Program
The George Washington University
Pronouns: she/her/hers
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