The Three Keys of Deck Cleaning Every Homeowner Should Know

For many homeowners, the first thought is to turn to pressure washing when their wooden deck looks worn and dirty. Unfortunately, that can be a poor decision. You may end up with splintered or gouged wood, or worse, damage to nearby structures like your siding. Cleaning and restoring a deck to like-new condition is a process that every homeowner should be familiar with. The following guide will walk you through it.


The Pre-soak

Instead of diving right in with a pressure washer, pre-soaking is a better choice. It serves two purposes:
1. It loosens the dirt so you can dislodge it with low pressure. Pre-soaking plumps up the wood so it is 2. less likely to suffer damage from the pressure washing.

The pre-soak is usually done with a deck cleaner diluted in water. There are many different cleaners to choose from, including those for specific woods or those for specific types of dirt. Just keep in mind that the cleaner you choose will likely end up on your landscaping, so avoid those with bleach since they can be especially harmful for plants.


You also have a couple of choices when it comes to washing – pressure washing or scrubbing. Both have pros and cons:

-Pressure washing – This is the industry standard for professional deck restoration. Low pressure is used to power away all the dirt, stains, and old paint. Generally, low pressure (usually less than 1500 PSI) is recommended, but the pressure really is dependent on the type of wood as well as its age and condition. Pressure washing has to be undertaken carefully, since it can damage the wood.

-Scrubbing – Using a deck brush to scrub the deck down is usually more in the realm of the DIY homeowner. This takes a lot of elbow grease and time. While scrubbing can work well for removing dirt and grime, it may not be sufficient for removing old layers of paint or stain.


The final and often overlooked step to restoring your deck to its previous beauty is to seal it. Some people prefer to paint their decks, while others like to have the natural wood showing through. Regardless of your preferences, it’s important to have something applied to the newly cleaned deck so that the wood is protected from the elements and dirt. A good sealant or paint will also prevent stains from soaking into the deck boards.

How often you clean and restore your deck really depends on your climate and how heavily your deck is used. Every two years is a good rule of thumb unless you notice stains developing or that the sealant is cracking or beginning to peel. In this case, you will likely want to clean more often, such as yearly.

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