How to Remove Oil Stains from an Asphalt Driveway

You park your car in the driveway all the time, which has led to the accumulation of unappealing oil stains. You’ve tried rubbing away at the asphalt, but the stains won’t budge. You’d hate to replace your driveway, especially if it’s new. Surely, there’s something you can do. How do you clean oil stains from asphalt?

Here’s how to remove oil stains from asphalt driveway:

  • If the stain is fresh, sop it up with an absorbent cloth or a mop
  • Apply cat litter, baking soda, or sawdust to absorb what remains of the oil
  • For an older stain, clean with dishwashing liquid or diluted vinegar and a wire brush
  • Rinse away the soapy residue
  • Apply a seal coat to prevent future oil stains

Ahead, we’ll elaborate further on the above 5 steps. Then we’ll discuss what causes stains on asphalt and even advise you on how to remove related asphalt stains.

The clean asphalt driveway with a simple house surrounded by snows of it.

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Follow These 5 Steps to Remove Oil Stains from Your Asphalt Driveway

If you’re tired of asking how to remove oil stains from asphalt driveway, it’s time to get proactive. Here are the 5 steps from the intro in more detail. 

Step 1: Sop up Fresh Oil Stains

It’s always best if you can clean an oil stain as soon as it happens. This prevents the oil from settling in, which requires more elbow grease to remove. 

If the oil is still fresh, then use an absorbent cloth, a towel, a rag, or a mop to sop up as much oil as you can. You should only do this once, as you won’t be able to get all the oil right now, and that’s okay. Just do what you can at this stage.  

Step 2: Draw Out the Remaining Oil

Next, switch to a product that’s known for its absorbency. You have many options, including commercial oil absorbers, coconut husks, gravel, non-clumping clay cat litter, baking soda, or sawdust. Sprinkle the absorber evenly across the entire stain, being very generous as you do, and let the product sit for a while. 

The longer the better here, even overnight if you have the time. To prevent wild animals or your own pets from sniffing out the cat litter, sawdust, or coconut husks, take a clean towel and cover the pile. This will not interrupt any oil absorption. 

In the morning, when you come back outside, use a broom and a dustpan to clean up the absorber you used. If your stain is especially bad, you might need to repeat this step for another day.

If you’re still asking how to remove oil stains from asphalt driveway, understand that the stain shouldn’t be gone at this point. You’re just absorbing the oil. For older stains especially, using an absorber on the stain will only do so much good.

Step 3: Use Dishwashing Liquid or Diluted Vinegar with a Wire Brush on Older Stains

For older stains or newer, stubborn ones, you’ll have to manually tackle the mess. You can try dishwashing detergent aka dish soap, especially one with degreasing properties. Diluted vinegar should also work. To properly dilute vinegar, you want one cup of water to one cup of vinegar. 

A wire brush with stiff bristles is also recommended. Dip your brush into the cleaning mixture and begin scrubbing. Be vigorous with your scrubbing, but not to the point where you risk scratching up the asphalt. Once you’re done scrubbing, you might want to repeat this step a second or even a third time.

Do yourself a favor and skip the heartier cleaners like those with solvents or citrus, as these products may be corrosive. Sure, they will remove the stain, but also part of your asphalt driveway too. 

Step 4: Clear Away Residue

When you’re satisfied with the condition of your driveway, turn your garden hose on again and rinse away all the soap or vinegar residue. Let the asphalt air dry and sweep it up a second time if needed. 

Step 5: Seal Your Asphalt Driveway 

Your asphalt driveway looks pretty great if you must say so yourself. Before you wrap up, you want to seal the asphalt. All that scrubbing you did took care of the stain, but it also may have removed some of the top layer of the asphalt. When you seal your driveway, you restore that layer and make it harder for spilled oil to settle back into the asphalt. 

Clean and green driveway near at the road.

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What Causes Stains on Asphalt?

Now that you know how to remove oil stains from an asphalt driveway, it’s time to address another important question. How do the stains get there in the first place? Here are some common sources of unappealing driveway stains.

Spilled Oil

Let’s start with the obvious one: oil stains on your asphalt are caused by spilled oil. Perhaps you decided to save a trip to your dealership this year so you took care of the oil change yourself. Only this was your first time doing it, so it got a bit messy.

Outside of that, a leaky car can also stain your driveway. Your vehicle shouldn’t leave puddles of fluid everywhere you park. Schedule an appointment with your mechanic soon and get the issue fixed. If you don’t, you’ll only leak more oil, leading to you having to do everything above all over again! 

Uncleaned Mulch

You planned on adding some mulch around the trees on your front yard, but the project got derailed. The mulch sat there in your driveway, first for weeks, then for months before you finally cleaned it up. What remains is sort of like a shadow of where the mulch was. 

You thought this was just leftover mulch you can sweep up, but no such luck. What you have now is another stain. Darn. 

Decayed Leaves

Leaves are so pretty when they begin falling off the trees in the autumn. While many homeowners prioritize raking their lawns, you don’t want the leaves to stay on your driveway either. As you step on them, you accelerate the decay of the leaves. Even if the leaves are untouched, by letting them sit on the asphalt all autumn, the leaves will again decay. As the leaves break down, they stain your driveway.  

This image shows a smooth asphalt driveway surface

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Steps for Removing Other Stains on Asphalt

Your question now isn’t how to remove oil stains from an asphalt driveway, but leaf and mulch stains. Oh, and you’re curious about how to get rid of paint and chalk stains too. Fortunately, the methods you follow aren’t all that different from what we discussed earlier. Here’s what to do. 

Step 1: Clean up Your Driveway

First thing’s first, you need a clean driveway. You won’t remove the stain with a garden hose, but you can wash away leaves, dirt, grass, mulch, and other driveway debris before it worsens the stain. Skip the pressure-washer, which can set in this debris and your stain even deeper into the asphalt. 

Step 2: Clean with Dishwashing Detergent or Diluted Vinegar + Bristle Brush

Just as you did before, squirt some diluted vinegar or dishwashing detergent on the stain. Use your stiff-bristled brush for scrubbing away that mulch stain or stubborn chalk residue. 

If you can, let the vinegar or dishwashing detergent sit for several hours or even overnight. This should remove the stain all at once so you don’t have to go back and clean and scrub again.

Step 3: Rinse the Residue

Clean all the vinegar or soap suds with your garden hose. You’re all finished!


You don’t have to scratch your head and ask how to remove oil stains from an asphalt driveway anymore. It’s easier to do than you might have thought, completable in only 5 steps. If your asphalt driveway has been marred by other stains from leaves, paint, mulch, or chalk, you now know what to do to clean away those stains as well. 

Above all, by resealing your driveway when needed and keeping it clean, you can prevent future stains. Best of luck!