Easy tips for cleaning and maintaining asphalt

Without a doubt, asphalt is tough stuff, but there are a surprising number of cleaning considerations where the rubber meets the road.

Easy tips for cleaning and maintaining asphalt

1. Annual cleaning

  • To clean an asphalt driveway, path or other asphalt surface, give it a good washing once a year.
  • Sweep off leaves and dirt with a broom.
  • Mix 1 scoop of laundry detergent in a bucket with 4 litres (4 quarts) of water.
  • Splash some onto the asphalt as needed for spot-cleaning and scrub with a stiff broom.
  • Then, working as quickly as possible so as not to waste water unnecessarily, give it a good rinsing with a garden hose. (High-pressure hoses or steam washing could damage the asphalt.)

2. Gasoline and oil spills

  • Clean these spills as quickly as possible. Asphalt is a petroleum-based material. This means a puddle of gasoline or oil could eat a hole in your path or driveway.
  • Sop up a spill with paper towels.
  • Spray away the remainder with a garden hose.
  • For a little more muscle, mix laundry detergent in water as described above, and work at the spot with a stiff-bristled scrubbing brush.
  • Next time, take preventive measures: lay down some cardboard, newspaper or plastic when you add oil or fuel to your lawnmower.

3. Stains on clothing

  • Pre-treat the stain with an enzyme stain-removal product from your laundry and toss the article in the washing machine.
  • You can also spray it with an orange-oil-based household cleaner, which will dissolve the stain, but you will have to rinse the cleaner out of the garment before putting it into the washing machine.
  • If you get asphalt on your shoes, spray them with orange oil cleaner or WD-40, or wipe with eucalyptus oil, and scrape the asphalt off with a paint scraper or putty knife. Make sure to rinse your shoes well before walking around.
  • If you do get asphalt on a carpet, try rubbing the mark with eucalyptus oil, then sponge over it with warm soapy water. Repeat if necessary

4. Asphalt stains on tools

  • Again, the orange oil cleaner, eucalyptus oil or WD-40 trick works. Spray or wipe it on, wait a few minutes and wipe it off.
  • WD-40 lubricant will do the job, too (as will mineral turpentine, paint thinner, white spirit or kerosene, but they're not recommended because they're highly flammable).
  • Don't forget the damage that these products can do to asphalt — it stands to reason that you should take precautions to avoid spilling any of these liquids onto an asphalt surface.

5. Your car

Drop by a hardware or automotive shop and pick up an asphalt- or tar-removal product designed for that purpose and follow the package instructions.

6. Asphalt maintenance tips

  • Reseal your asphalt with a commercial sealant every two or three years to protect it from the weather and to maintain its looks. However, if you reseal an asphalt surface more often you'll get too much build-up of the material, which will start to crack.
  • Fill cracks in asphalt a.s.a.p. Eventually, areas of heavy traffic will crack — that's just par for the course. Use an asphalt-patching product (available at hardware and home improvement stores).
  • This is not just a cosmetic consideration. Filling cracks prevents weeds from growing in the holes and deters erosion, which can undermine your driveway or path and cause more cracking.
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