How to Clean a Deck
How to Clean a Deck TIPS
- Pressure washers ruin wood
- Stain Solver cleans organically
- WATCH pressure washer damage video below
- Oxygen bleach bubbles clean like magic
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DEAR TIM: I'm having a spirited debate with my husband about how to clean a deck. Deck cleaning doesn't seem that hard, but my husband wants to use a pressure washer thinking it will save time.
I want to use a green cleaner that's non-toxic and environmentally safe. What's the proper way to clean a deck and keep it looking nice? Lisa T., Burlington, NC
DEAR LISA: Cleaning a backyard deck is not supposed to create marital strife. In this instance, I think you and your husband might be able to reach a compromise that allows each of you to clean the deck in the manner you see fit. I have cleaned countless decks, and there are pros and cons to each of the methods you mention.
Pressure Washing Hazard
Let's talk about pressure washers. These tools are extremely popular that appeal to homeowners.
Pressure washers are like shoes - they come in all different sizes and the end of the spray wand can be equipped with different tips that concentrate the high-pressure stream of water.
The stream of water that is thrust from the tip of the wand mechanically agitates the surface of whatever it strikes. This is what cleans.
Pressure Destroys Wood
A pressure washer can clean a wood deck much faster than you can do it scrubbing by hand. That's a terrific advantage.
But one of the side effects of a pressure washer is that it frequently destroys the surface of the wood. The stream of water can be so powerful the light-colored spring wood fibers are eroded by the water.
Those that are not eroded can be dislodged so that the wood is fuzzy or rough after it dries.
Pressure Washer Damage Video
Watch this corny video to see the damage done by a pressure washer and the alternative organic cleaner. I taped it for the ABC-TV affiliate in Cincinnati, Ohio and they wanted me to have some fun with it.
Professional deck cleaners argue with me that this only happens when an inexperienced user is working with the tool, the pressure was too great, the tip used at the end of the wand produced a stream of water that is too harsh and/or the tip is held too closely to the wood surface.
Because they have a dog in the fight, that's what I'd expect them to say. The truth is any extreme pressure much more than a regular hose nozzle, will harm wood.
Test For Damage
If you decide to use a pressure washer, then you better test it or have the professional prove to you they can use the tool and not damage the wood. Go to some remote part of the deck and clean one half of one board with a pressure washer.
Wash the other half by hand, rinse and compare for wear.
Gasoline & CO2
If you're really interested in making your deck-cleaning project a green-cleaning activity, you should give serious consideration to the secondary effects gasoline or electric-powered machines have on our environment. How much CO2 will you add to the atmosphere that local trees will have to gobble up to make oxygen?
I'm a big proponent of non-toxic cleaners. The older I get, I have this sneaking suspicion that certain chemicals we encounter in everyday products are responsible for many health issues.
I'm not a doctor, but common sense tells me that harsh chemicals are not processed well by our bodies.
Certified Organic Cleaner
Years ago, I discovered there are different types of bleaches - one of them being oxygen bleach. Many people think bleach is bleach, but the bleach found in most homes is chlorine bleach.
The active ingredient in chlorine bleach is sodium hypochlorite. Check the label of many bleaches or deck cleaners, and you might see this chemical name. Chlorine bleach is toxic. Very few will argue that it's not.
Stain Solver is a powerful certified organic oxygen bleach cleaner. I own the company along with my wife. We discovered this magic cleaner back around 1995.
It's a powder you mix with warm tap water. When you mix Stain Solver with water to make a deck-cleaning solution, all you create is more water, oxygen and soda ash.
The oxygen bubbles in the solution do most of the work done by the pressure washer. The solution soaks into the dry wood and the oxygen ions deep clean the wood by breaking apart dirt, algae and mildew molecules.
The solution is not toxic. It's safe to use around the plants, bushes or trees around your deck. You can't say that about chlorine bleach. My neighbor systematically murdered her gorgeous maple tree around her deck by cleaning the algae off the concrete patio every spring.
I warned her to stop, but she thought I was an idiot. I'll never forget the day the tree company came and cut down that amazing tree she had poisoned.
Scrub A Dub
When you decide you're going to use a green cleaner, you'll discover you need to spend time and elbow grease to clean the deck.
Here's the simple steps to minimize the work:
- Start early in the morning working in the shade
- Apply the Stain Solver solution to dry wood
- Keep the surface very wet with the solution
- Wait 15-20 minutes then scrub
- Rinse with a garden hose