How to stain concrete floors with water-based stains

How to stain concrete floors with water-based stains


Are you looking to transform the look of your floors with a new stain but aren’t interested in using harsh acid or film-forming stains? Or you’re drawn to the vibrant and varied colors that water-based stains can provide.

Regardless of your motivation, I’ve crafted a comprehensive guide to help you achieve a beautiful and successful outcome on your first attempt.

This guide will provide you with essential guidelines commonly used in this type of project. The great news is that water-based stains are generally less challenging and a more beginner-friendly option.

To delve deeper into the world of water-based stains, read on.

Water-based concrete stains

Water-based concrete stains are a great alternative to acid stains. Instead of getting its colors from a chemical reaction between the acid and the minerals in your cement, the water-based stain acts more like a dye.

Since concrete floors are very porous, the water-based stain is absorbed into the floor without toxic chemicals. Water-based stains create an opaque appearance, while acid-based stains produce a rich and deep appearance.

Those wary of working with an acid concrete stain can get a similar effect with water stains. It is also ideal for exterior surfaces because you do not risk damaging your lawn as you do with acid.

However, the main benefit of working with this type of concrete stain is the wide range of available colors. Acid-based concrete stains are usually limited to earth tones, which attempt to mimic the look of expensive stone or marble.

With a water-based stain, you can get nearly any color you can imagine and make the final result much more consistent.

Applying a water-based concrete stain is similar to the process in our How to Stain Concrete Floors guide. However, when working with a nonreactive stain, we will cover a few differences in this article.

Fix cracks before staining

Staining with water-based products

Before you start, check out this list of concrete staining supplies and ensure you have everything needed for your job. It would help to have a pressure bottle for spraying the stain, a thin paint roller for sealing, and tape and plastic for covering areas you don’t want to stain.

You will also need some cleaning tools like a vacuum that can handle concrete dust; if you have to fix the concrete, you need supplies. Remember that the more time you spend preparing, the better the result will be.

At this point, I’ll also remind you that you should familiarize yourself with the manufacturer label on the staining product. It might have specific conditions for cleaning or other areas you must meet.

Begin with cleaning

The first step is to prepare the concrete to accept the stain. Water-based concrete stains are opaque, thus more forgiving of blemishes than an acid-based stain, but you will still want to get your surface as clean as possible.

Fill any cracks, and remove any glue or other gunk on your floor. After your floor looks clean, seal off the walls and doors (or the border of the area if you are working outside) with tape and plastic.

Staining the floor

Before you start applying the stain, make sure to wear your protective gear. Then, with a sprayer, use your water-based concrete stain smoothly and consistently.

Start in the left corner and continue the application in a “typewriter” fashion. After the first coat is on, please wait for it to dry (per the manufacturer’s instructions) and apply a second coat.

Depending on the desired look of your floor, there are various techniques for applying the second coat. Additional coats may also be necessary.

While the stain is drying, keeping everything off your surface is essential. Any footprints left in the wet stain will be there for good.

Unlike when using an acid-based stain, neutralizing the surface is unnecessary because no chemical reaction occurs.

Seal the stained concrete to finish the job.

Once all layers are dehydrated (up to 24 hours in some cases), it is time to apply a sealer. Check the manufacturer’s recommendation for a sealer, and use one designed to go with your type of stain.

Apply the sealer with a paint roller, ensuring no brush strokes are left behind. Depending on the stained area, consider including a slip-resistant additive.

You can also spray the sealer on the surface, but I prefer a paint roller for most sealing jobs. It’s a matter of preference, and I’m too lazy to clean equipment, so I use 1-time use paint rollers.

Now you know how to stain concrete floors with water-based stains. This is an easy and affordable way to change ugly concrete into gorgeous art. With the suitable materials and this guide, you can have a new stained concrete floor by the end of next weekend.


You now know how to stain concrete floors with water-based stains. Water-based stains are a safer option than acid stains that cause chemical reactions in the concrete.

Additionally, you don’t need to neutralize the water-based stains, which makes the process easier.

The availability of a variety of colors to choose from is a massive plus for water-based concrete stains. I find water-based concrete stains beginner-friendly.

Working with acids can be difficult, but anyone can approach water-based stains, regardless of their level of expertise.

Always keep in mind some basic rules when working with concrete. Always work on a clean surface, ensure you have enough space, and cover everything valuable that may get in the way.

Before you commit to staining your floor, do a test sample somewhere. This is important, regardless of what kind of staining you’re doing. Testing helps you to determine if the result is what you’re looking for.

Once satisfied with the test sample, you can proceed with the rest of the floor.