Should you be cleaning patio slabs with vinegar? Landscaping experts give their verdict

Is cleaning patio slabs with vinegar a harmless and useful hack to pristine patios, or a myth to be avoided? Here's what the experts say

modern patio with gas fire in water
(Image credit: Derek Trask / Alamy Stock Photo)

Is cleaning patio slabs with vinegar worth it? We've seen this patio maintenance hack countless times online, and the results can look impressive. Besides, vinegar is a natural ingredient, so the temptation is to automatically think that you should replace your store-bought patio cleaner with the vinegar you use in cooking.

It turns out that you may want to keep away from the vinegar when learning how to clean a patio. Landscaping and gardening experts explain why. 

Backyard patio with light colored slabs

(Image credit: John Keeble/Getty)

Should you be cleaning patio slabs with vinegar?

We're sorry to disappoint, but the experts we've spoken to are clear on this: you really shouldn't be cleaning patio slabs with vinegar. Bryan McKenzie, a landscape designer and a gardening expert at Bumper Crop Times, explains: 'Although vinegar is a popular and very effective remedy for quite a lot of household cleaning projects, it’s a big NO for patio slabs (pavers). Vinegar is a harsh chemical that can damage the surface of the brick, concrete, pavers, etc. It may look like an effective remedy against mold and dirt, but it may weaken the integrity of the surface structure.'

Yikes. That would ruin your patio ideas in no time. Bryan's warning is seconded by Michael Dean,  a Co-Founder at Pool Research, which provides expert advice on all things related to pools and general landscaping. 'I'm constantly asked about cleaning patios, and the vinegar thing comes up a lot,' Michael said. But he always tells his clients that 'It is not a good idea to clean your patio with vinegar. Vinegar contains acidic chemicals that are harmful to any stone, concrete, brick etc. While it may look like it's cleaning, vinegar will actually degrade the cement binding and slowly strip away the protective sealant from concrete and stone tiles. You see it suggested all over the web, and although vinegar can be a useful household cleaner, it should not be used to clean your patio.'

This just proves once again that not everything you see on the Internet is to be tried at home without doing research. 

Landscaping and patio of modern condo building

(Image credit: Roberto Westbrook/Getty)

What is the best way to clean patio slabs?

Fortunately, the safest way to clean your patio is also the simplest and cheapest. Bryan recommends to 'use warm soapy water and a bristle brush to rub off the dirt. Soap doesn’t damage the surface, while warm water dissolves most of the contaminations without any problems.' He's also not averse to using the best pressure washer for the job, so long as you don't overdo it: 'If you have a pressure washer, you can skip mixing warm water and soap and clean the pavers on medium pressure. Avoid holding the nozzle too close to the surface to avoid damaging it.'

Michael is also in favor of the simple soap-and-water method – and a bit of elbow grease: 'The best way to clean your patio is to scrub the tiles using a stiff brush and some warm, soapy water. You can repeat clean for stubborn dirt or mold, or apply a paste of water and baking powder before scrubbing if your patio is particularly dirty. Make sure to wet the patio with your garden hose before scrubbing, too.'

The key, emphasizes Michael, is to avoid 'quick fixes: they 'will actually damage your patio.' That's us told – we're sticking with good old soap.

Anna Cottrell
Anna Cottrell

Anna is a keen urban gardener, with David Austin roses and Japanese acers among her favourite plants. She moved into the world of interiors from academic research in the field of literature and urban space a couple of years ago. She's always been interested in how people make houses into homes, and how our concepts of what's stylish change over time.