Chemical concrete acid stains can be applied to new or old, plain or colored concrete surfaces. Although they are often called acid stains, acid isn't the ingredient that colors the concrete. Metallic salts in an acidic, water-based solution react with hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide) in hardened concrete to yield insoluble, colored compounds that become a permanent part of the concrete. Several companies manufacture chemical stains that are variations of three basic color groups: black, brown, and blue-green.
The acid in chemical stains opens the top surface of the concrete, allowing metallic salts to reach the free lime deposits. Water from the stain solution then fuels the reaction, usually for about a month after the stain has been applied. Other factors that affect the outcome include:
Cement properties and amount
Type of aggregate used
Concrete finishing methods
Concrete age and moisture content when stain is applied
Weather conditions when stain is applied