Iron Sulfate as a Concrete Stain

My concrete Platonic solids stained with iron sulfate.

I’m not a big fan of concrete in the garden. It raises soil alkalinity (a problem for us, here in the Southwestern US) and it prevents rain from infiltrating into the ground. That being said, concrete is occasionally useful and/or unavoidable.

But I also don’t like the color of bare concrete, nor can I afford the high price of concrete stains. Thankfully there’s a cheap way to stain concrete with iron sulfate, a mineral supplement you can get at nurseries in the Western US (it can be harder to find elsewhere, but Amazon caries it).

Iron Sulfate gives concrete a pleasing, rust colored stain. I recently ended up with a bunch of patio pavers that I stained with iron sulfate in a concrete mixing tray using about a quarter cup per gallon of water. You can also mop it on. Varying the strength of the iron sulfate/water solution you use will increase or decrease the intensity of the stain. Remember that there’s no going back, though. Once stained you can’t get it out.

For more info about iron sulfate as a concrete stain see How I Stained my Concrete Floor.

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  1. Can I use this on what appears to be concrete pavers that I scavenged? They may not be pavers, but they look like it. Also. the base of this 111-year old-home is rock, beautiful rock. In the 1950s, there was some expansion of a porch into a room, using cinder blocks as the base, with the house actually being above the base and clapboard on the space in which I live. Can I use this to camouflage the ugly cinderblock?

  2. @Parsimony: I think you can use it on any bare concrete item–both those you mention sound fine. Of course anything already stained or treated wouldn’t work.

    Try it out on a scrap first so you can get a feel for the process. It’s very irregular in its patterns, and loose and intuitive in the application. The colors can range from pale yellow to brown to rust. It also looks different when wet than when dry, so don’t judge the color until it dries.

  3. Where we lived in Florida, several folks had wells drilled to water their lawns. There was so much iron in the water that everyone’s driveways ended up stained like this! Some folks minded enough to give up their wells… others cared more about the green of the grass than the ochre of the concrete.

  4. what a great idea – I was wondering if you can tell me how permanent the stain is – i am planning on using it on a concrete pathway that was just poured 2 days ago. I am planning on staining certain areas of the pathway only, not the whole area. The fellow who poured the concrete told me using iron sulphate is not the best way to go as it will fade out over time this being exposed to the elements. I’m just not sure if it is just a line he he is giving me as he wanted to do the staining himself using an acid base product which I am not comfortable with. I live in Vancouver,Canada and we do get quite a bit of rain here most of the year.
    Any suggestions or comments would be most helpful and appreciated.

  5. Hey Anonymous, Not sure about the long term staying power of iron sulfate–I’m pretty sure it’s permanent, but I’m not speaking from experience. We don’t have much in the way of weather here in Los Angeles. One thing for sure–it’s a lot cheaper than commercial concrete stain.

  6. I’m looking to do this on my concrete patio & concrete pavers. (I also have 3 backyard chickens that patrol these areas.) Is this ok to do if you have chickens? And it works well outside? (The examples I’ve seen appear to be more indoor or covered patio pictures.) Do you seal the concrete or pavers after?

    Thanks! Love your blog.

  7. southcentralbungalow–should not be a problem with the chickens. I’d keep them off it while it dries.

    Sadly, I’m not an expert in concrete sealers. I’d ask at a place that specialized in concrete stains. In our mild climate the pavers I’ve stained have held up well.

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