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Acid Stains vs. Acetone Dyes

When it comes to choosing concrete colors, there are a wide range of hues and shades available in both acid stains and acetone dyes. However, it is important to understand the differences between these two options in order to choose the best coloring for your decorative concrete projects.

Acid stains, which are a combination of acid, water, and mineral salts, are applied to the concrete. The color is transferred into the concrete due to a chemical reaction that occurs when the acid in the stain reaches the calcium that is in the concrete. This type of concrete coloring results in marbled or mottled colors with varying shades within the concrete.

Acid stains do not provide uniform coloring options as there are different levels of calcium across the surface of the concrete. This also means that each piece of concrete that is colored with the same acid stain will have its own unique color, which is an important consideration if you are trying to match colors across different decorative concrete pieces.

Acetone dyes are colors that have an acetone base mixed with particles of pigments. Acetone dyes deposit color just as acid stains, but there is a major difference. While the acid stain reacts with the surface of the concrete to create the color, the pigments in acetone dyes are actually absorbed into the pores of the concrete slab. This difference results in remarkable differences in color between these two options for concrete colors.

Dyes provide colors that are as pale or as bold as you would like – it all depends on how much you dilute the solution before applying it. Acid colors are generally much lighter, with areas that are much lighter, or not stained at all, if there is no calcium within the area that is applied.

Another significant difference between stains and dyes is the ability to polish the completed project. Acid stains can be polished but can result in color loss they are often used with only a sealer over them to avoid disturbing the color. Acetone dyes can be polished once application is complete, providing a high gloss finish.

The final difference between dyes and acid stain concrete colors is the control that each provides. Acid stains color based on where the chemical reactions occur, and these cannot be controlled. If you want crisp clean color lines, or you plan to use multiple colors, acetones dyes will be the better option. However, if you are looking for a natural stone finish, acid stains are best.