What Should I Know About Deck Cleaning?

Margo Upson

Deck cleaning is a wonderful way to brighten up your home and yard, and doesn’t require much work. By following a few simple guidelines, it is easy to have a great looking deck.

Deck sealant can be applied to a clean deck, helping to repel water and prevent fading.
Deck sealant can be applied to a clean deck, helping to repel water and prevent fading.

Deck cleaning always starts with sweeping the deck clear of any debris. Use a hose or a broom with sturdy bristles to get as much dirt off as possible. Be sure to clean between the boards. If necessary, repair any cracked boards, and sand any rough spots. Always sand in the direction of the wood’s grain.

A power washer may be used to clean decks.
A power washer may be used to clean decks.

Most deck cleaners are toxic to plants. Water and then cover any plants near the deck with a sheet of plastic to protect them. When working with cleaners, be sure to wear goggles and long-sleeved shirts and pants. Don’t wear open-toed shoes.

When preparing the deck cleaning solution, be sure to read the instructions carefully. Some cleaners need to be diluted before use, while others are used straight from the container. Also check to see if the cleaner is supposed to be used on wet or dry wood. Cleaning products can be applied with a power washer, a stiff broom, or a paint roller.

Apply the product quickly, and do not allow it to puddle in any one area. The easiest way to do this is to use two people — one to apply the cleaner and one to spread it around. Work up any dirt that is stuck on, and don’t let the solution dry until you are done with the deck cleaning. When the deck is clean, the solution will need a chance to soak into the wood for a few minutes.

After the recommended soak time, rinse the deck cleaner off, and allow the deck to dry thoroughly. This usually takes about two days, but it could be more or less depending on the weather and other factors. When the deck is dry, it is a good idea to consider using a sealer on the wood. A sealer should repel water, prevent fading, and protect the wood from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.

After a deck cleaning, applying sealer is easy. Apply the sealer in two or three thin, even coats, allowing it to dry completely between applications. A small paintbrush works well for getting the sealer into corners and other tight areas. Before throwing out any rags used for sealing the deck, remember to spread them out and allow them to dry. The fumes rising from a pile of wet rags can cause heat, and then start a fire. By spreading the rags out, not as much heat is generated, lessening the fire hazard.

Deck cleaning should be done once a year. Sealing the deck is only necessary if water has begun to soak into the wood, or if the sealant is peeling. New decks require a new-wood treatment, instead of deck cleaning. New-wood treatment is applied similarly to a sealant. After applying a new-wood treatment, the deck should not be cleaned with chemicals, or sealed, for at least six months.

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