Wood decks are a nice feature for the back yard but they do require a bit of TLC to keep them looking as good as possible. They can be expensive to build and replace, so it’s smart to want to extend their lifespan as long as possible.
Here are a handful of homemade cleaners you can try including a couple for removing stains and mildew.
First A Few Tips:
- Use a nylon bristle brush or broom for good scrubbing power.
- Check a test area first before applying soaps and chemicals to ensure that no damage or discoloration occurs. The type of wood (and the condition it’s in), the type of stain or paint can each respond differently to a treatment.
- A simple garden hose with a spray nozzle attachment can be used if you don’t have a power washer, though you will need to put a bit more elbow grease into the job. Check your local hardware store for a “fireman” nozzle to amp up the muscle.
- Don’t forget to do the steps and the rails!
- Cover prized bushes and landscaping with sheets of plastic to protect from splashes/overspray.
Using A Pressure Washer:
- These can work well if used correctly and the wood is in good shape (the pressure can cause further damage if it isn’t). Keep it on the lowest setting that will clean the surface without damage (this will depend on how soft the lumber is).
- You should be able to start safely at a 500 psi setting and work up from there.
- Select a fan tip setting between 40′ and 60′ tip size and spray with the grain.
- I found a page of expert tips for using a pressure washer here: Decks.com.
Quick Directions For Cleaning:
- Spray surface with water first before applying wash recipe, this helps prepare the deck so the solution can work its magic.
- For ingredient temperature, use quite warm but not so hot that you can’t rest your hand in it.
- Rinse area well when removing cleaner.
- Do not let the solution dry before you take it off (you can lightly spritz with water during waiting period if it’s drying too quickly).
1 gallon water
1 C. powdered laundry detergent (no bleach)
3/4 C. oxygen bleach (optional but good to use if mildew stains are present)
- Directions: Combine well then pour over surface. Scrub lightly with a broom or brush. Leave for 5 to 10 minutes then scour again. Rinse. Repeat if needed.
Homemade Maintenance Spray:
Use this mix for a light jobs where no real problems or staining exists (basically just removing dirt and freshening up the deck).
Combine 1 gallon of water with one of the following:
- 2 cups white household vinegar. Pour over area, leave for 10 to 15 minutes then brush with a stiff broom. Hose off.
- You can also try: 3/4 cup oxygen bleach.
- Or this one: 1 cup powdered laundry detergent.
Heavy Duty Batch:
- 3 quarts of water, 1 C. oxygen bleach and 1 C. of TSP. Mix well and pour over surface, scour with a stiff bristle broom. Leave for about 10 minutes before scrubbing again. Hose off.
- Try a mix of 3 quarts water, 1 C. oxygen bleach and 3/4 C. of liquid dishwasher detergent. Apply to surface, brush with a stiff broom and leave for 10 to 15 minutes. Scour then hose off.
Stain Remover (such as Mold and Rust):
- Mix 1 tablespoon of oxalic acid crystals (wood bleach) with 1 gallon of water. Apply to trouble spots with a brush and leave alone until discoloration has faded then rinse well.
- Grease spots can be conquered by applying powdered laundry detergent directly onto the area (use a nylon bristle broom), let it set for a few minutes then rinse.
- After cleaning and before moving furniture back, inspect all boards for loose nails, splintering edges or rough spots other miscellaneous damage. Do sanding and repairs where necessary.
- Keep natural debris from gathering into piles such as leaves, branches, etc., to avoid sitting puddles/dampness.
- Avoid using mats consisting of natural fibers (ie. jute) since these hold moisture which can then attract mildew.
- Occasionally move furniture and accessories around (such as planters) to prevent discoloration.