Now that spring is finally here, you’re probably starting to think about all the chores that need to be done around your house and garden. Tasks like lawn maintenance and spring planting are often at the top of many homeowners’ to-do lists, but it’s important to remember that your driveway deserves some attention as well.
Driveways may be made of strong, durable material, but, just like a garden, they still require regular cleaning and maintenance to stay in top condition, especially after a winter of challenging weather. Fortunately, with some planning and a little elbow grease, you can make sure that your driveway looks great all year round. Read on to learn about five essential spring cleaning tasks to do for your driveway this season.
Conduct a survey.
A thorough spring clean of your driveway starts with a careful survey of the territory to see what, if any, damage the driveway has suffered due to snowfall, heavy rains, and cold temperatures. For example, if rain has seeped underneath the driveway, or if there have been several freezes and thaws during the winter, the ground may have shifted and caused some spots of the driveway to crack or crumble. Examine the surface and perimeter of the driveway closely, checking for cracks, potholes, or crumbling areas. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for any areas of standing water, or any low spots or dips on the driveway where water is likely to pool.
Patch and repair.
Once you’ve taken stock of the post-winter condition of your driveway, it’s time to fix any damage you’ve found. If you have a concrete driveway, caulk and seal any cracks, and clean out and re-seal any damaged expansion joints. If there are dips or low spots, level these out using a concrete re-surfacer. For an asphalt driveway, fill any holes or cracks using a cold set asphalt repair patch material, or an asphalt crack repair material and a caulking tube. This is best done in warm, dry weather so that the repair material can set more quickly.
Remove any weeds.
It’s surprising how quickly weeds can grow in even the tiniest cracks in your driveway, and although they might look small and harmless now, many types of weeds and grasses are tenacious enough to push right through asphalt and concrete as they grow. To prevent the damage that this can cause to your driveway, it’s best to remove weeds as soon as you spot them. If you’re able to, you can pull the weeds up by the roots, or you can use a simple solution of salt and table water to kill the plants. Keep an especially close eye on the perimeter of your driveway: this is not only a particularly vulnerable area for your driveway, it’s also where weeds can more easily gain a foothold and spread themselves out.
Clean the driveway.
After a winter of cars tracking slushy dirt and mud onto your driveway, a good springtime scrubbing is in order to get the surface sparkling clean again. If you have a power washer, now is the time to use it; if you don’t, you’ll need a stiff-bristle push broom and a garden hose. First, give the driveway a thorough sweeping to remove loose dirt and other debris. Then, use the garden hose to dampen any areas of caked-on, dried mud. Once the mud has loosened, scrub it with the push broom to break it up, then give the driveway a final hosing down.
If you notice stains or other discolorations on your driveway, you can also take care of those as part of your spring cleaning activities. Common driveway stains include:
Oil or solvent spills—Spills of auto-related fluids such as motor oil, gasoline, and brake fluid should be cleaned up promptly to avoid deep staining. On either concrete or asphalt driveways, you can use an absorbent substance such as kitty litter to soak up as much of the fresh spill as possible. Then, use a cleaning product such as a biodegradable oven cleaner (for asphalt) or liquid trisodium phosphate (for concrete) to remove the rest of the spill.
Decomposing leaves—If you didn’t manage to rake up all of last fall’s leaves before winter, you may find that the decomposing organic matter has left deep brown stains on your concrete driveway. These will eventually fade over time, but you can hurry this process along by using a solution of half a cup of liquid dish detergent and three gallons of hot water. After scrubbing the stained area with this mixture, rinse with the garden hose, then sprinkle some powdered laundry detergent on the stains and scrub again before giving the whole area a final rinse.
Seal or re-seal the driveway.
Depending on the age of your driveway, your spring cleaning checklist might include applying an initial seal coat to a new driveway, or re-sealing an older driveway. A seal coat is an important protective layer for your driveway: it helps preserve the driveway’s strength and appearance and prevents the driveway from drying out, becoming rough, and cracking or crumbling. If you have a new asphalt driveway, experts recommend applying the first seal coating no earlier than one year after the initial installation. After this, resealing every two to three years afterwards helps keep the driveway in top condition.