Comparison Chart of Concrete Coloring Products

Acid Stain

Water-Based Stain

Concrete Dye

Integral Color

Dry-Shake Color Hardener
Color options available (See these sample color charts)
Limited to earth tones and soft blue-greensNearly unlimited; different colors can be mixed to create custom huesNearly unlimited; colors can be mixed or dilutedLimited to earth tones and pastel shadesComes in a wider array of hues than integral color, but tones are more muted than dyes or water-based stains
Can be used indoors and outdoors
YesYesCheck with the manufacturer. Not all dyes are UV-resistant.YesYes
Can be applied to new or existing concrete
YesYesYesNew concrete onlyNew concrete only
Can be applied to cement-based overlays
Ease of application and cleanup

After application, surface must be scrubbed to remove stain residue and to neutralize the acid.

No neutralization or rinsing is required; application tools can be cleaned with soap and water.

No need to clean the slab after application; dye particles are very fine and absorbed into the surface.

Must be hand broadcast, and can be labor-intensive and messy to work with.
Application tool requirements
A low-pressure sprayer, or brushes or sponges for detail work. All tools must be acid-resistant, with no metal components.A low-pressure sprayer, roller, brush or spongeA low-pressure sprayer, roller, brush or spongeN/AA bull float, to work the hardener into the surface

Because they penetrate the concrete surface, most acid- and water-based stains have excellent UV stability and wear resistance.

Some dyes are not recommended for exterior use because they can fade when exposed to direct sunlight.

The color goes through the entire slab and will not wear away.

Improves the strength and density of the concrete surface; also UV resistant.
Are safety precautions required?

May contain corrosive components that can cause eye, skin, and lung irritation. Wear impervious gloves and boots, eye protection, and a facemask to prevent inhalation.

Water-based stains typically have a low VOC content and are safe to apply without concern for odors or toxic fumes.
Yes, if solvent-based

Solvent-based dyes are flammable and can produce hazardous vapors. For projects in occupied spaces or where ventilation is poor, use a water-based dye.

Airborne powder can be harmful to breathe. Wear a respirator or facemask when working with these products.
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