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How to Stain Concrete with a Rag Roller

By Robert Howard

Acrylic concrete stains give you the opportunity to transform your otherwise unsightly gray concrete into a beautiful part of your landscape. These stains provide tremendous versatility; there is a wide range of faux finishing techniques you can use to achieve a variety of different looks, one of which is rag rolling. This simple process can give your finished concrete an interesting, dynamic look and feel.

Preparing the Concrete

Concrete must be clean, dry, rough and porous before you can apply a stain to it. Clean your concrete with a quality concrete cleaning product. Make sure the concrete has a rough texture, similar to that of 120 grit sandpaper, and that it readily absorbs water.

Etch smooth concrete. Use a concrete etching solution to open up the pores of smooth, non-absorbent concrete. Apply the etching solution and let it sit for 45 minutes. If it is not rough enough after 45 minutes, etch again.

After etching, use concrete cleaner to neutralize the concrete and remove any concrete powder that might have been generated during the etching process.

Give the concrete 24 hours to dry before staining.

Applying Finish and Sealing the Concrete

Apply the base coat of stain onto clean, dry and porous concrete. Use a pump-up sprayer to apply the base coat. Adjust the sprayer's nozzle so that it creates a wide spray pattern. Start in a corner and move quickly, working in sweeping, circular motions. Spray the product until the concrete begins to appear wet, then move along.

Acrylic concrete stain looks milky clear when applied. You will not see the color emerge until the product begins to dry.

After your base coat is applied, give it four hours to dry. It will not be completely cured, but it should be set up enough to work on. Pick an accent color; now you are ready to rag roll some stain over the base coat.

You'll want to start with a number of clean rags. Pour some accent color into a paint tray. With your rubber gloves on, dip a rag into the stain and let it soak up some color. Then, wring out the rag so that the stain is not dripping.

Keep the rag rolled as if you are wringing it out. Then place the rag on the concrete and, using both hands, roll it towards you. As you work, you can alter the direction of the rag rolling to give the finish an organic, natural look.

Overlap each ragged pattern slightly in order to create continuity within the design.

Rag on more than one color to create a dynamic, varied look with veins and accents.

After the stain has dried for 24 hours, you can go over it with a clear concrete sealer. This will give the finished product greater protection and can enhance the colors. Sealers typically come in satin or high-gloss finish.

You can use a roller, sprayer or paint brush to apply the sealer over your concrete.


Things You Will Need

  • Concrete stain
  • Pump-up sprayer
  • Household rags
  • Paint tray
  • Rubber gloves


  • Always test an area first for color and adhesion.
  • You can practice your faux finishing techniques on a piece of cardboard. This will help you to understand the process before you work on your concrete deck, patio or floor.


  • Stained and sealed concrete can get slick. There are additives you can use to give it more texture and grip. Make sure anything you add is compatible with the products you are using.

About the Author


Robert Howard has been writing professionally since 2004 and writes a weekly column for the "Synthesis," a Chico, Calif.-based newspaper. He maintains a blog and has published articles and works of fiction in a variety of different print and online magazines. Howard holds a Bachelor of Arts in visual arts from the University of California, San Diego.