How To Clean A Wood Deck

A deck is a great place to relax and spend time with family and friends. But a deck can see a lot of traffic and dirt. Muddy shoes spilled food, decaying debris and pets can leave it dirty and stained. Even natural elements like pollen and leaves can create mildew, taking a toll on your deck and its appearance.Regular maintenance and upkeep by cleaning and protecting it from stains can make your deck last longer and fix problems before they become a problem. There are many deck cleaning products out there, but on the other hand, you can easily make a homemade cleaning product on your own for regular maintenance. Learn how to clean a wood deck naturally and without a pressure washer for your new or old decking projects!

Why Clean A Deck?

When not properly cared for, decks, especially wood ones, will develop permanent stains, can splinter, and even grow mold, algae and mildew. Wood is a porous substance that will expand and contract with the weather, letting in more dirt over time. This can cause your deck to warp and rot faster, making it unpleasant to look at and potentially dangerous. With regular cleaning, you can prevent rotting and know when these problems are occurring faster.

What Is The Best Way To Clean A Wooden Deck?

A broom is on the wood deck next to a pile of leaves.

Scrubbing and rinsing is the safest method to go with as power washing can do the job, but you are more likely to damage your deck doing so. You can purchase wood deck cleaners from a hardware store but you can always make a homemade solution too.

Whatever type of deck cleaner that you choose to use, a long-handled brush is something worth getting to scrub down your deck. Any hard bristle or deck brush will do to work over your deck’s dirt and grime, but long-handled brushes help prevent strain on your back or knees when scrubbing by hand.

How Do I Clean My Deck Without a Pressure Washer?

A regular garden hose, a cleaning solution and a brush are all you need to clean your deck properly. Pressure washers, although handy, are not needed and can even be damaging to your wood deck or its stain if not used correctly.

Homemade Cleaners

There are a lot of household products that can be made into a DIY deck cleaning solution and leave your deck looking fresh.

Oxygen bleaches, unlike Chlorine bleach, are an environmentally friendly cleaner (it’s safe for your plants) and won’t compromise the colour or integrity of your deck’s wood. Common oxygen bleach products are Oxiclean, Oxy-Boost, Ajaz, Borax, and Clorox Oxy Magic. To make a deck cleaner, mix the powder with the recommended amount of warm water (usually one cup to two gallons of water).

A broom and a bottle of cleaner on a wooden deck.

If you don’t have oxygen bleach products readily available you can use some laundry detergents. Make sure that it’s made with sodium percarbonate or sodium perborate, these are the active ingredients in oxygen bleach products and you can mix the laundry detergent in warm water just as you would the oxygen bleach.

Another cleaning alternative made of household products is white vinegar and baking soda mixture. Mixing one part of water with the same amount of white vinegar and baking soda makes a good deck cleaner. Vinegar will eliminate bacteria and fungus that have grown while the baking soda will deodorize and freshen up your wood decks.

You make a batch of dish soap (ammonia-free), rubbing alcohol, oxygen bleach and warm water as another alternative to clean your decking.

If you own a power washer, pressurized water can be a fast way to clean off dirt and grime from your wood deck. But be aware that the force of the spraying water can potentially damage your deck. Use 1500 lbs/psi or less, but still use with caution. Don,t aim the power washer as one spot for too long and work outward from your home and keep a good distance from the hose and the deck. Do not use homemade cleaners in power washers as undissolved granules can clog spray nozzles.

a person with a mop on a wood deck.

Treating Stains

Making a paste with oxygen bleach can be used to treat stains on your deck surface. Mix just enough warm water with a small amount of the powdered bleach to make a paste. Apply the paste directly on the stain with a stiff-bristle brush and let sit for 30 minutes before further scrubbing or rinsing.

Steps To Clean A Wood Deck

Step 1: Clear & Sweep

Begin by removing all furniture, all plants and any other items off of the deck. Use a screwdriver or putty knife to remove any debris stick in the spaces between the boards, then sweep off all leaves and other debris from the deck.

Step 2: Pre-Rinse

Spray the deck amply with water from your garden hose to loosen and soften any dried cellulose fibres and other debris like mud, making them easier to remove. This rinse will also allow your cleaning solution to be easily dispersed over your deck’s surface. This is a good time to treat any stains before washing.

Step 3: Mix & Apply Your Solution

Mix your homemade cleaning solution of choice or follow the instructions on the deck cleaning product’s label. Use a stiff-bristle brush to spread the cleaner on your decking. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes, or for how long the label states. You may see some bubbling as your solution cleans stains. It’s best to clean and work in sections depending on the size of your deck. This can be used on railings and stairs as well.
A wood deck with chairs and an umbrella.

Step 4: Scrub

With some elbow grease and a scrub brush, scrub away dirt from your deck boards with the grain to a light lather. Rewet your brush and use more products as needed. Give another 15 minutes for the solution to sit after scrubbing to allow the oxygen bleach or baking soda and vinegar to really clean.

Step 5: Rinse Thoroughly & Let Dry

After you finish all the scrubbing and waiting, rinse your deck off with a garden hose or power washer. Rinse or power wash from top to bottom, including railings and stairs to remove all cleaning products or your DIY deck cleaner.

Wait until your deck is completely dry before moving items and other things back onto it as damp wood is fragile and can easily be gouged. Putting outdoor rugs or furniture on wet wood can cause mould to develop.

It is good to apply a sealer once a year to make your deck last longer and retain the board’s shape from decaying. The best time to apply is right after cleaning your deck but after it is completely dry. Usually done the day after cleaning due to drying time.

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