Acid-Based vs. Water-Based Concrete Stain by Redi-Mix Colors November 14, 2018 0 Uncategorized

Contractors are often asked by their clients: What is the difference between acid-based concrete stains and water-based concrete stains. Are they equally good? Is one better than the other? Is the only difference that one is better for the environment? The answers are yes, no, yes, but, yes, and—well, you get the idea.

What’s the Difference Between Acid-Based & Water-Based Concrete Stains?

To start, acid-based stains contain solvents, and water-based stains do not. What does that mean? Let’s delve a little deeper.

Acid vs. Water, Round 1: Color Selection

Acid-based concrete stains: Rely on metallic salts, which makes for a limited colors palette.

Water-based concrete stains: Have an extensive color selection and are available in both bright primary colors and subtle, muted earth tones.

Acid vs. Water, Round 2: Safety

Acid-based concrete stains: Contain dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can make worksites unhealthy for contractors and others exposed to the unpleasant acid smell.

Water-based concrete stains: Have a very low VOC content which makes them safer for indoor and outdoor use. Also, depending on the formulation they may even be acceptable for use in LEED projects.

Acid vs. Water, Round 3: Clean Up

Acid-based concrete stains: Require neutralizing and clean up resulting in residue and water that must be handled and disposed of properly before sealing.

Water-based concrete stains: Can be sealed immediately after stain has cured with no additional neutralization steps.

Acid vs. Water, Round 4: Evaporation Point

Acid-based concrete stains: Evaporate more quickly making for less vibrant colors.

Water-based concrete stains: Evaporate at a slower rate meaning that stain stays on the concrete longer for deeper coloration.

Acid vs. Water, Round 5: UV Susceptibility

Acid-based concrete stains: Stand up to UV light

Water-based concrete stains: Not as long-lasting but now some water-based stains are formulated with UV stabilizers to prevent fading.

Acid vs. Water, Round 5: Surface Prep

Acid-based concrete stains: Only interact with the surface of the concrete so don’t require extensive surface prep.

Water-based concrete stains: Need to penetrate into the concrete so it’s important that the concrete is dry as moisture will make it difficult for the stain to absorb and penetrate.

Hopefully this serves to help clear up the acid- and water-based stain debate. Keep in mind that when looking to keep your project environmentally friendly, there are also low-VOC, water-based sealers. The sealers have little to no fumes in comparison to their solvent-based counterparts and will not darken the color of the stain. These eco-friendly sealers are available in matte or gloss finishes.

If you need help deciding which products are best suited to your project, contact the experts at Redi-Mix Colors today! We’re ready and happy to answer your questions or create a custom shade to perfectly match your needs. To contact: (508) 823-0771 or

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