If you are looking for a simple and relatively inexpensive method of altering the appearance of concrete in your business or home, concrete staining is a great option. There are two types of concrete stains to choose from, and we explore their differences below.

What Is Reactive Stain?

Reactive stains create a chemical reaction when they are applied to concrete. They are water-based acidic solutions and are added to the top of the cement. A reactive concrete stain contains metallic salts, and these react with the lime content in concrete. As it reacts with existing minerals in the concrete, it provides you with the look and feel of natural stone. It forms a permanent bond with the concrete and does not peel or chip.


What Is Non-Reactive Stain?

Non-reactive stains are water-based acrylic stains that don’t need a chemical reaction in order to work. A non-reactive stain will penetrate the surface of concrete and deposit pigment particles in open pores. There are more available non-reactive stain colors than acid stain colors, and these colors are usually more opaque than those of acid stains. This form of concrete stain is often favored because it is so easy to apply.

Differences Between Acid & Dye Stains for Concrete

  • Scratch resistance: Reactive concrete stain has far greater scratch resistance, as it changes the surface to ensure a scrape does not leave an obvious mark. The coating on non-reactive stains is not that thick, so even the slightest scratch will leave a noticeable mark on the surface.
  • Project difficulty: Non-reactive concrete stains typically require an acid wash to ensure proper adhesion. While a reactive stain may not need an acid wash, it can take a lot longer to complete. In most cases, it will be necessary to hire a professional contractor to apply a reactive concrete stain, but it is also good practice to get a professional to complete the acid wash process.
  • Expense: All things being equal, a reactive concrete stain project will be more expensive because of the extra labor hours required. However, you have to factor in the additional cost of an acid wash if you are considering a non-reactive concrete stain.
  • Colors: With reactive stains, the available colors tend to be earth tones, such as browns, terra cottas, tans, and blue-green shades. It is possible to mix stain colors, apply one stain on top of another, or add two coats of similar shades. No matter which one you choose, the result will be different. With non-reactive stains, even more colors are available. Indeed, you more or less have the same choice as you do with paint colors, including standard black or white. These colors can be mixed, so you have a virtually limitless choice.

No matter which concrete stain you choose, you will need to perform concrete grinding on the surface, as it has to be free of dirt, grease, and debris in order for the stain to be fully effective. Please remember that concrete stains are designed to enhance surfaces rather than disguise cracks, blemishes, and other flaws in a concrete surface.

Get a free estimate in the Metro Phoenix area today by contacting Sledge Concrete Coatings!