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How to Clean a Deck Without a Pressure Washer

refinished ipe deck with pool

A well-maintained deck adds function, beauty, and value to your home, but a filthy deck is an unwelcome eyesore. Pressure washing may seem like to go-to strategy for cleaning your deck, but this approach is far too forceful for most wood decks. It’s important to use gentle yet effective cleaning methods to protect the integrity of the wood. The proper approach will thoroughly cleanse your deck without stripping away the surface.

The experts at Teak Master have decades of experience properly cleaning and refinishing decks. We’re the experts on deck care and maintenance in Los Angeles, California. This guide will discuss what you need to know to get your deck looking beautiful without using a pressure washer.

The Importance of Deck Cleaning

Regularly cleaning your deck is an important part of home maintenance. You should clean your deck at least once a year. In the warm Los Angeles climate, you have an especially long season that’s favorable for outdoor entertaining. If your deck gets a lot of use, you may even want to clean it twice yearly.

Washing your deck has immediate aesthetic benefits. You’ll enhance your home’s curb appeal and create a beautiful welcoming space when you keep your deck clean. Regularly cleaning the deck also helps prevent mold and mildew growth and extends the lifespan of your deck. If you neglect your deck for too long, you can end up with permanent stains, deep rot, and serious damage. The more often you clean it, the easier and more successful the job will be.

Why You Shouldn’t Pressure Wash Your Deck

Pressure washing seems like a quick and convenient way to clean a wood deck, but this approach can do more harm than good. If you’re not skilled with a pressure washer, it’s easy to accidentally use too much pressure, which can gouge or splinter the wood. It can easily strip away the wood’s protective coating when all you really want to address is the layer of dirt and grime on top. Some of the paint chips and chemicals scoured from the deck’s surface can get blown away into surrounding grass or shrubbery, creating a hazard to the environment.

While you want the force of the water pressure to clean the surface of the deck, using a pressure washer often forces the water to go deep into the grain of the wood. There, it creates the perfect environment for mold and mildew growth, which will require you to clean the deck again. Over time, this may rot the wood away.

Preparation Steps

Clear the surface of the deck completely. Move all furniture, potted plants, rugs, decorations, and other items off the deck so you have a completely open surface to work on. If you’re using a chemical cleaning product for your deck, cover all surrounding plants with a drop cloth to protect them. Sweep off the surface of the deck and get rid of any loose twigs, branches, or leaves. Use a putty knife to remove debris from between the deck boards.

Cleaning Solutions

The easiest cleaning solution for your deck is a simple mixture of water and dish soap or mild laundry detergent. Add one cup of soap per gallon of water and mix thoroughly. Alternatively, you can opt for a commercial deck cleaning solution. If you choose to purchase a commercial product, read the label carefully and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

You can spot-treat many stains on the wood with simple homemade solutions. Make a paste of baking soda and water for stubborn stains on the deck. Scrub away the paste with vinegar if the stain remains. For more difficult stains or any instance of mold or mildew growth, you can apply oxygen bleach to your deck. Dilute the oxygen bleach with water according to the manufacturer’s directions. Spray the oxygen bleach solution onto the stain liberally, and let it sit for 15 minutes before scrubbing it away.

Manual Cleaning Techniques

The best tool for cleaning your deck is a deck brush. This stiff-bristled brush is tough enough to tackle the build-up of dirt and grime that you’ll likely find on the surface of your deck. Choose a brush with a long handle to make the job easier on your back. Short-handled brushes are easier for the upper parts of the deck, such as railings.

Dip your deck brush into your chosen cleaning solution, and wash the deck in small sections, scrubbing back and forth with the grain. Give extra time and effort to high-traffic areas. Rinse the area with a hose when you’re finished. Work in sections from the first scrub to the final rinse so you don’t leave the soapy cleaning solution to dry on the deck while you’re still scrubbing other areas. Allow the deck to dry completely before you proceed to any other steps, such as applying a deck brightener or a new coat of sealer.

Regular Maintenance Tips

Late spring is the best time to wash your deck, in preparation for the prime season of summer entertaining. Lightly sand any rough spots on the deck after washing it to prime the surface for stain or sealer. This is the ideal time to apply sealer, which should be an annual task. Apply two thin coats with a brush or small roller.

Inspect your deck regularly throughout the year, and immediately address any problems. This means routinely doing the following tasks:

  • Filling holes with wood filler.
  • Replacing loose or exposed nails with wood screws.
  • Repairing or replacing damaged boards.
  • Sanding splintered or damaged areas.
  • Replacing damaged or rusted hardware.
  • Tightening loose railings.

Working With Professionals for Deck Care

Cleaning your deck is important, but a pressure washer isn’t the best way to do it. The deck cleaning outlined above is sufficient for your regular annual maintenance. When you need a more thorough cleaning and deck restoration, you should leave the task to the professionals. Contact Teak Master for expert deck cleaning advice and skilled restoration services to help preserve the beauty and durability of your wood deck.

Bring Life Back to Your Wood Investment