Concrete Dye vs Stain- Understand the Difference


Concrete Dye Application & Tips

Concrete surfaces are usually dull and gray. However, they should not remain this way. Color and other decorations can be added to concrete to enhance its aesthetic appeal, using concrete dyes and stains. The method used will ultimately depend on whether the concrete surface is outdoors or indoors as well as the expected effect. For example, if you want to achieve intense color, then you should use concrete dyes. On the other hand, if the concrete surface is outdoors, then you should use a concrete stain. Concrete stain is more resistant to normal wear and fading, thus more preferable for outdoor surfaces.

Concrete Dye Colors

Dyes are a coloring matter or material, which impart a certain hue to a surface. They are a great way to enhance and color existing concrete slabs. They also give you a wide range of options to choose from, when you want to color your dull concrete. Furthermore, they dry very quickly.

concrete dye colors

Dyes are mainly available in the form of a super-fine powder, which can be dispersed in water or a solvent, depending on the manufacturer. UV rays affect most true dyes, which makes them unsuitable for outdoor concrete surfaces. Recently, manufacturers have moved to pigments, which are available in vibrant colors. These pigments are also resistant to UV rays.

Concrete Stains Adding Color

Contrary to dyes, concrete stains are usually classified into 3 main categories: penetrating, film-forming and acid stains. All the 3 types of stains are available in different colors, shades, textures, and tints. However, each form uses different technology, to achieve the distinctive decorative look.

Film-forming stains are among the oldest. They work like paint, simply coating the surface and adding color. However, after exposure to the elements and human traffic, they fade, flake or peel. Penetrating stains are a better alternative to film-forming stains. They penetrate to the deeper layers of the concrete, giving it decorative color.

These dyes can be mixed with water or solvents such as acetone or alcohol. The carrier penetrates the concrete allowing the dye to spread within the pores, and effect color change. Concrete stains are made up of water, salts and hydrochloric acid. A chemical reaction occurs with the calcium hydroxide present in concrete, leading to color change.

The Results 

As highlighted before, concrete dyes are available in a solvent or water-based formulas. They produce a wide range of different effects, from opaque to translucent. Water-based dyes usually create a variegated or marbled color, close to the effects of a stain. On the other hand, solvent-based dyes lead to a more uniform or opaque coloration.

Stains tend to etch concrete’s surface, instead of penetrating. This leads to a mottled or variegated finish. The color of stains and dyes is quite different, once it is applied on concrete. For example, a stain may appear dark green when you buy it from the shop. However, it might take a reddish-brown color, after reacting with the concrete. In short, you cannot know the final color, unless the chemical reaction has taken place.

Application Tools and Time 

Application of concrete stains and dyes requires specialized and protective equipment like goggles, rubber gloves, and respirator. Both types of coloring agents are applied using a sprayer. If you are working on small areas, you can use a spray bottle, sponges or brushes. However, if you are applying acid-based chemical stains, then you can only use a sprayer since they are highly resistant to hydrochloric acid.

These sprayers are made of plastic. They don’t have metal parts. Furthermore, containers used to mix or hold the stain should be purely made of plastic. Both stains and dyes are easy to apply. However, chemical stains need a minimum of 5 hours to dry, to give stains sufficient time for reacting with concrete.

After around 5 hours, the stain residue should be neutralized with a water solution, combined with baking soda or ammonia. Concrete dyes dry within a couple of minutes. In addition, they don’t require any form of rinsing.

Options and Versatility 

Concrete dyes are not UV stable. Therefore, you will notice that most manufacturers recommend them for indoor use only. On the other hand, concrete stains have remarkable UV stability. They are also resistant to fading and wear, making them perfect for both indoor and outdoor concrete surfaces. However, they are limited when it comes to color. They are usually available in earth tones like reddish-brown, greens, blues or terracotta. Dyes are available in different colors. This means they have more versatility.

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