Spring cleaning time is here, and while many homeowners focus on scuffed baseboards, dust bunnies, and smudgy windows around the house, it’s important to also remember the deck. Throughout the past year, your deck surface has faced many challenges: summer hot dogs rolled off the grill, fall leaves turned into tiny bits of grime in the crevices between deck boards, and winter weather assaulting your wood or composite decking.
Now’s the time for a refresh. We’ve got your guide to cleaning your deck the right way, just in time for warmer weather.
How to Clean Your Deck
Cleaning a deck doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming, but it is essential in making it last. While the steps are simple — remove anything on the deck, sweep, and clean — you will want to be sure you’re doing it right.
Deck Cleaning Solutions and Materials Needed
To prepare for your deck cleaning, gather a broom, scrub brush, bucket, garden hose, and cleaning solution.
Be sure to use cleaning products and materials that won’t harm your deck — or you. Never mix ammonia-based ingredients with bleach, which can create toxic chloramine gas that can cause respiratory irritation.
Instead, purchase a cleaning solution specially made for your wood or composite deck. Check out product options in your local hardware store.
What is the Best Homemade Deck Cleaner?
If you want to mix up something yourself, go for an eco-friendly solution that’s right for your deck material.
For a wood deck: Use 2 tablespoons of ammonia-free liquid dish soap, 1 gallon of water, 1 pint of rubbing alcohol, and 1 quart of oxygen bleach (for example., OxiClean, found in the laundry detergent aisle at the grocery store). The oxygen bleach is safe on wood decks and helps in removing mold. Avoid chlorine bleach.
For a composite deck: Combine a half-cup of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar to ¼ a cup of baking soda with 1 gallon of water. Swab this mixture on the entire deck and rinse well with clean water.
Avoid homemade deck cleaners or brighteners when using a pressure washer or power washer. Because of the tiny nozzles on the sprayer, any granular cleaner will clog the nozzle.
What is the Best Way to Clean Decking?
As already mentioned, the best way to clean decking depends on whether you have wood or composite boards. However, there are six basic steps for cleaning all decks.
- Remove all furniture, plants, and décor off the deck. Removing everything provides an excellent opportunity to visually inspect all of your decking to look for warping, discoloration, and spongy boards. Replace any rotten wood, tap in any popped screws, and tighten any loose fasteners.
- Sweep off the deck boards. Over time debris will accumulate on top of your deck, and you need to remove this as it can stain and hold in moisture. Use a putty knife or screwdriver to get any stubborn bits out from between the boards.
- Pre-rinse. This step allows the cleaner to be dispersed more easily.
- Clean with a solution geared to the kind of deck you have (wood or composite).
- Rinse the deck thoroughly, so you don’t leave behind a film or build-up. Hold the hose about 6-12 inches above the surface of the deck and spray a few feet in front of you. The water stream should be just strong enough to wash away dirt and debris. Never use high pressure, which can damage your decking and splinter your wood.
- Seal wood decking with stain with sealant or a clear sealant to prevent further damage. It’s easiest to use a long-handled paint roller or sponge applicator. Sanding before sealing may help the product to penetrate the wood more deeply.
A few helpful notes:
- Whether you’re using a homemade cleaner or a purchased one, wear gloves. Some cleaning agents, such as Borax, can cause skin irritation.
- It’s better to dispose of leftover homemade cleaner and make a fresh batch the next time you need it rather than storing it.
- Keep all cleaning solutions out of reach of children.
How to Clean a Wood Deck?
While the steps for wood and composite decking are similar, there are a few differences to note. First, pre-rinsing your wood will help soften dried cellulose fibers and allow the cleaning solution to be more easily disperse. Second, if you see tough stains, use a stiff bristle brush to remove the dirt, mildew, or mold. Third, avoid power washing that can splinter wood. Fourth, let your deck dry before sealing, especially because wet wood can take 24-48 hours to dry out thoroughly.
How to Clean a Composite Deck?
For composite decking, be sure to use the proper cleaning agent. If you choose to use a power washer, hold the wand at least a foot above the boards, choose a fan tip and use pressure no greater than 3100 psi.
How do I Naturally Clean My Wood Deck?
Vinegar and baking soda are a power couple when it comes to natural cleaners. To clean your deck, combine 1 cup vinegar with 1-gallon water. Sprinkle baking soda on any mildewed wood and use the vinegar and warm water to scrub over all the boards.
Borate is also a natural cleaner and versatile for indoor or outdoor cleaning. Use a ratio of one cup of Borax to one gallon of water.
How Do I Clean My Deck Without a Pressure Washer?
With the right cleaning solution and a little elbow grease, you don’t need a pressure washer. It may be faster for rinsing, but it also comes with the danger of damage to your boards.
Cleaning may not be at the top of your list of spring activities, but it will make a significant difference in the life of your deck. It’s an easy DIY project with big benefits. A couple of hours in the spring, fresh air will do you and your boards good!