4 tips for keeping your deck clean

Think of your deck as an outdoor room, one exposed to sun, wind and rain. To keep your deck looking its best, you need to clean it — not as regularly or meticulously as you do your indoor rooms, but well enough to maintain it for the long term. Even decks made of weather-resistant or pressure-treated timber will deteriorate unless they are looked after.

4 tips for keeping your deck clean

1. Sweep your deck regularly

  • This is the most basic step you can take. Otherwise, the tannins from tree fallout will stain the wood surface, and the piles of decomposing organic matter will hold moisture, leading to mildew and rot.
  • Use a heavy-duty broom to sweep your deck regularly, taking care to keep the gaps between boards clean.
  • If leaves or twigs get stuck in the gaps, scrape them out with a putty knife.
  • The more often you sweep, the easier it will be on you and the deck.

2. To remove dirt and mildew

  • Periodically (once a year or so) give your deck a more thorough cleaning, using a deck cleaner, following the product instructions for use and safety.
  • Note: If you have a covered or partially covered deck that is not built to withstand rain, clean it as you would an indoor hardwood floor. Do not soak with water.

3. To remove stains and stubborn mildew

  • Use this bleaching solution: 30–90 g of oxygen bleach (any bleach that contains sodium percarbonate — it will have 'oxy' in its name) per 4 litres of warm water. Unlike chlorine bleach, which can break down the lignin that holds the wood together and harm plants, oxygen bleach is relatively gentle and non-toxic.
  • Simply apply it with a mop or brush. Don't scrub.
  • Wait 15–20 minutes for it to soak in and then hose down the deck to remove the solution.
  • If you use decking oil or other timber sealer on your deck, you will need to reapply it after washing the deck with oxygen bleach or a deck cleaner. Both of these cleaners strip away any sealers that have been used along with dirt and mildew.
  • Timber oil will nourish the scoured wood and help to preserve it against the ravages of the weather.

4. Do NOT use a pressure washer

  • Don't be tempted to use a pressure washer to clean your deck. They are expensive, dangerous and harmful to the wood you are cleaning.
  • Besides being a waste of water, the extreme water pressure will break up the wood fibres — what you're trying to prevent — leaving the surface fuzzy, more susceptible to the weather, and in poor condition for refinishing with stains and sealers.
  • And, if the high-pressure jet can rip through wood, just imagine the damage it could do to the soft skin on an ungloved hand — so dress carefully.
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