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 How to Clean Your Deck

Household Tips

The Right Way to Clean a Deck

There is a difference in what you do between cleaning a hardwood deck and a softwood deck!!

If you have a wood deck…skip the bleach, and use oxygen cleaner.

In our climate [southern Virginia (SV)] , anything over two [2] years between 'painting/treating ' a wood deck' is a bit on the long side for the oil based products that are used.

You should oil my your hardwood deck about every 18 months or so — spring one year, fall the next.

You can oil your entire 200 sq feet or so deck [the average deck size per real estate tax assessment records] in about 3 hours. One late afternoon’s works is not that big of a time commitment. SV weather has a lot of moisture that results in a moisture abuse that causes heavy soiling and mildew.

Oxygen based cleaner

Penofin’s cleaner is the most reliable and easiest cleaner. For the techs/chemist/critics among you the primary ingredient in Penofin’s cleaner is sodium percarbonate.

When mixed with water it yields Hydrogen Peroxide and Soda Ash (the other main ingredient).

Environmentally friendly [as cleaner can be] hydrogen peroxide [hp] further breaks down into water and oxygen

. Hp is one of the best cleaners. 

The cleaning power of hydrogen peroxide is one of the best. 

It also does a good job of lightening the wood. 

It does not lighten the wood to the level of "the well oiled peroxide blonde in her two piece on the beach" but it does get rid of that weathered gray look. 

Peroxide is a great mildew cleaner as well and unlike bleach solutions, this oxygen-based cleaner is better for the wood as its pH is much more wood friendly.

 If you have a wood deck…skip the bleach, and use oxygen cleaner.

The sodium percarbonate based cleaner is a dry powder that is mixed with water before use.  

Using rubber gloves, long sleeve shirt, and eye goggles; 

Mix up a gallon or so at a time in a 5-gallon utility pail using a drill mounted paint stirer and slop speed to prevent splashing .  

Then transfer this to a garden pump sprayer filtering the solution through a paper coffee filter, to apply it to the deck surface. 

This helps keep some of the un-dissolved bits from clogging the sprayer if the mixing phase is rushed or mixed directly in the sprayer. 

Before the cleaner is applied the wood is hosed down with water. This product works better when the surface is kept in a wet state. 

A few minutes after being applied, the surface will foam up like when hydrogen peroxide is applied to a cut or wound. 

To ensure a more thorough cleaning I scrub the deck surface with a deck scrubbing broom. 

A rinse with the garden hose removes the loosened dirt and grime, and then the deck is looking refreshed.

Power washing tips

If power washing, this needs to be done with great care as a power washer can quickly damage wood if used too closely. 

With a hardwood deck, this is less of a concern, and can sometime speed the overall process. With softwood decks the scrubby brush and garden hose work just fine, though a bit of elbow grease is involved.

The next step is to "brighten"

The next step/product in any cleaning regime is the "brightener" [product is oxalic acid-based and is also made by Penofin] to remove some of the natural occurring tannin staining that is so common in wood.

Like the cleaner, this product is a dry powder that is mixed with water and applied in the same manner.

Here it is important the keep the surface wet as well.

The acid nature of this second product brings the pH of the wood back into balance, which will prolong the wood’s life.

Once the cleaning steps are complete I allow the deck to fully dry a few days before applying the final oil based product.

 





 
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