DECK UPKEEP: Cleaning your Deck

Cleaning your deck on a regular basis protects its color and the wood itself. Using the right cleaner can make all the difference. Cleaning your deck isn’t just about appearances. It also helps protect your deck from mold, mildew, algae, dirt and the natural weathering of the wood. Different types of wood cleaners yield various results, but it’s what in the cleaner that counts.


Oxygen-bleach wood cleaners (also listed as sodium percarbonate) are safe and effective at removing most substances from your deck. They’ll tackle dirt, mold, algae, and other foreign substances while protecting the wood fibers. These cleaners are environmentally friendly, so you don’t have to worry about your plants, pets, or family being exposed.


These cleaners are good for taking care of tannin stains, but not for removing mildew stains. Use these in specific cases as a supplement to oxygen-bleach cleaners when tannin stains are causing problems .


When attacking tough stains, I recommend using a sodium-hydroxide based wood stripper, NEVER a methylene-chloride based or other “paint” stripper. It works well and usually does the trick in one application. Be careful, though; wood strippers are caustic and can burn your skin and eyes and are dangerous to plants. After applying a wood stripper, ALWAYS use an acid-based wood brightener to neutralize the wood.


Power washers make cleaning easier by eliminating the need for scrubbing. Be careful, however, as the pressure from these washers can damage the wood. I recommend spraying at 1000 to 1200 psi. Test your power washer on a hidden piece of the deck to ensure that it meets your needs.

Cleaning your deck on a regular basis is a necessary responsibility if you want to keep your deck looking nice and protected. Be sure to use a mild detergent (such as Dawn dishwashing liquid) so you don’t do more harm than good.

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