Homemade Composite Deck Cleaner: Revive Your Deck’s Beauty
For many of us, some of our best moments in life happen on our home’s deck. Whether we’re having a meal, enjoying a cocktail or coffee, or reading a book, our decks offer an escape we don’t have to leave home to experience.
To ensure the longevity and enjoyment of this memory-making space, we must take great care of our deck. Even though a benefit of composite decking is that it requires little to no maintenance, it’s still important to keep it clean to minimize any potential problems and to have a beautiful space.
Regular cleaning is an important aspect of composite deck maintenance. I advise homeowners to clean their composite decks at least twice a year – usually in the spring and the fall. The process includes a composite deck cleaning solution, bucket, scrub brush, and water. You can purchase cleaning products appropriate for composite decking from a local home improvement store or made at home using ingredients that many people already have on hand. Working in sections with a little elbow grease, you can revive a deck’s beauty with minimal effort, expense, and time.
Why Homemade Composite Deck Cleaners?
In working with Trex®, I am seeing a growing interest from customers for eco-friendly, DIY solutions for their basic home improvement and home maintenance projects. This trend toward green practices is only increasing, with almost all consumers (about 95 percent) saying they try to take some actions to live sustainably, according to a 2023 report from NielsenIQ.
An excellent choice for many is to make their own DIY deck cleaner, which allows homeowners to know exactly what ingredients are in their deck solution and to feel comfortable about the impact they are having on their health, the health of their families and pets, and the environment. By using ingredients already found in your pantry or easy to purchase from your local store, homemade deck cleaners can be gentler on composite material and more affordable. We all like the idea of that!
Essential Ingredients for Homemade Deck Cleaner
To make your composite deck cleaning solution, we recommend using the following ingredients:
- White vinegar – one cup
- Warm water – one gallon
- Baking soda – one-quarter cup
- Bucket – larger than one gallon
- Long-handle scrub brush
- Assorted soft bristle brushes or sponges
With its acidic nature, vinegar is a good choice for a cleaning agent, while baking soda is a neutralizing agent. When combined with warm water to facilitate dissolving the baking soda particles, the mixture creates an effective cleaning solution to remove grime and buildup by releasing carbon dioxide that can help lift dirt from the surface.
Combine all the ingredients in a bucket and mix using a long-handle scrub brush. You will want to use a bucket larger than one gallon to make mixing easier since the solution will naturally foam up as it’s mixed.
Please don’t use bleach in any form (e.g., chlorine bleach, oxygen bleach, etc.) or harsh chemicals to clean composite decking since it is porous, and the chemicals can cause damage. We also don’t recommend using a power washer or pressure washer when using a homemade cleaning solution because undissolved granules can cause a clog. Power washing can also damage composite deck boards if the pressure is too high or the washer is used incorrectly.
How to Clean Your Decking Using Homemade Composite Deck Cleaner
Before you begin cleaning your deck, check the weather and your calendar to ensure clear skies and an open schedule. We all know it can take some internal motivation (or external nudging from someone you live with, if you’re anything like me!) to set aside time for projects like these, so you don’t want to get interrupted when you’ve finally decided to do it!
We compiled the following simple steps below to help you as you clean your composite deck:
Clear your deck of all furniture and décor. Or clear your deck in sections by moving everything to one side to clean and then repeat on the other. If the space under your deck is used for living or storage, be sure to clear that area as well. Also, cover or remove nearby plants.
Use a broom or blower to remove loose dirt and debris from the deck surface and between deck boards.
Spray a small area of your deck with a garden hose. Choose an area that is not highly visible to use as a test.
Mix the homemade cleaning solution and apply some to the small test area. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, then scrub it with your deck brush or sponge. You should not see any discolorations or damage since the cleaning solution is natural and safe for composite decking. But it’s always good to be sure.
Once your test is complete, spray the rest of your deck with clean water from your garden hose.
Apply the cleaning solution in sections, letting it sit for about 15 minutes before scrubbing. You may need to apply more cleaning solution or use extra elbow grease if you have stubborn stains or mildew. Clean your deck in sections, and rinse as you go so your cleaning solution only sits on your deck for a short time. This is especially helpful if you are working in full sun and heat.
Once done, do a final rinse of the entire deck with your garden hose and allow it to dry before replacing your furniture and décor.
Safety Precautions When Working with Deck Cleaners
As with any home project, I believe that safety is the priority. We provide the tips below to help keep you safe as you work with deck cleaners.
- Anytime you use cleaning products, you should be in a well-ventilated area, so mix up your solution outside.
- Don’t introduce additional ingredients – especially those containing bleach or ammonia – as they could produce a toxic or damaging solution.
- When using soapy water, there is a risk of slipping. Wear waterproof shoes with a good grip.
- If you have sensitive skin, consider wearing water-resistant gloves designed for cleaning.
- Avoid pressure washing or power washing since undissolved granules from homemade cleaners can cause a clog or since too much pressure could damage the deck surface.
- Keep pets and children away while you are cleaning the deck.
An important point we want to make is that we’re talking about composite decks and how to clean them. If you have a wooden deck, you will want to use a wood deck cleaner and a process suitable for a wood deck.
Tips for Composite Deck Maintenance
We can all agree that the beauty and benefit of composite decking is its low maintenance and durability. Other than twice-yearly cleaning, I am glad that composite decks require minimal effort to be well-kept. But still, some care and general maintenance will help make your deck even more beautiful and lasting.
- Take care of mishaps when they happen. If you notice a spill, stain, mold, or mildew, spot-clean it immediately. A quick spot-clean DIY solution is one gallon of hot water to one tablespoon of liquid dish soap (ammonia-free).
- Put a mat under your grill to protect your deck surface and to catch any grease or food.
- Avoid sliding or pushing furniture across the deck to guard against creating gouges.
- Sweep or use a blower regularly to remove debris, paying special attention to the gaps between the deck boards.
- Don’t forget about cleaning the underdeck , too, by following the same process.
- Remove snow promptly. Use a plastic shovel and go in the same direction as the deck boards are positioned.
For additional guidance on deck maintenance, check out this Deck Maintenance 101 article for more information.
Trex® decking is made of a wood fiber-polymer composite recycled material that is environmentally friendly. Our composite deck is low maintenance, being resistant to rot, splintering, warping, fading, and mildewing. It stands up well to extreme weather and to wear and tear. But even with all these positive characteristics, a little time and effort will keep your deck even more beautiful, clean, and safe for all those memory-making moments yet to come.