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Deck Cleaning 101

Household Cleaning

By Marty Ross

A wood deck is a place to relax, spend time with family, or entertain friends. Keep your deck looking like new with maintenance throughout the year. Regular upkeep will ensure it’s habitable and safe. Sweep leaves and debris off your deck often to prevent stains and mildew. While you’re sweeping, keep an eye out for loose boards, wobbly rails, or nails/screws. Don’t let these become safety issues. Simply tighten loose screws or replace them, hammer nail-heads down, or replace damaged boards as soon as you notice any problem.

Steps to Cleaning a Wood Deck

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Most wood decks require annual maintenance which is necessary if you want to keep it looking good and performing well. Follow these steps for a healthy deck.

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  1. Sweep first

    Over time, the finish on a wooden deck breaks down. Sun and weather naturally age the boards. Water penetrates into the wood where mold and mildew can build up and lead to rot. A thorough annual cleaning and application of fresh sealer will preserve the beauty of your deck and make it last longer.

    To get started, take all the furniture and flower pots off the deck and sweep it to remove leaves and dirt. Use a screwdriver or a putty knife to remove any debris stuck down in the spaces between the boards.

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  3. Wash away debris

    First, hook up a Gilmour Flexogen hose and attach a Power Jet Wand. Turn on the water and practice using the wand for a minute. Squeeze the handle to start the water flow then adjust the stream of water by turning the dial at the top of the handle.

    Now begin rinsing the deck. Hold the wand about 6-12 inches above the surface of the deck so the water sprays a few feet in front of you. The water stream should be strong enough to wash dirt and debris away. However, if the water stream sprays too hard or if the nozzle is too close to the wood, your deck boards could be damaged.

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  5. Apply cleaner

    Next, use a standard deck cleaner to remove stains. Make sure to follow the directions as some cleaners require the deck to be wet before application. The best day to clean your deck is on a cloudy one. The deck will be cool and the sun won’t evaporate the cleaner.

    You may want to cover plants growing by the deck before you get started. Use a paint roller or a stiff-bristled brush broom to apply the cleaner. Once the entire deck is cleaned, let it soak for a period of time. (Follow to the cleaner directions.) Finally, rinse thoroughly with your Power Jet Wand.

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  7. Seal the deck

    Sealers protect your deck by blocking ultra-violet light and helping to prevent mold and mildew from forming on the wood. Sealers also shield the deck from water damage. Instead of penetrating into the wood, water beads up on the surface of a sealed deck and evaporates.

    Before applying the sealer, lightly sand the deck. This will remove any loose pieces of dirt caused by washing. Next, apply the sealer by using a roller to cover three or four boards at a time. Remember: two thin coats is better than one thick coat. Use brushes and smaller rollers for railings and benches. Allow the sealer to dry completely before moving furniture or flowerpots back onto the deck.

    Be sure to wear gloves, a safety mask, and eye protection when applying sealer.

Deck Cleaning FAQs

How do you seal a wood deck?

Deck sealers can be applied with a paintbrush, a roller, or a sprayer. Check the instructions on the product. If you roll the sealer on, you may need to follow up with a brush to make sure the sealer doesn’t puddle and coverage is even.

How often do I need to seal my deck?

To keep your wood deck in good condition, you’ll need to reapply sealer every year. To see if it’s time to re-seal your deck, just pour some water on the boards. If the water soaks into the wood, you need to reapply sealer. If the water beads up, the finish on your deck is fine.

Are sealers and stains the same thing?

No, not all sealers include stain.

Will cleaning, staining, and sealing products damage my plants?

Some deck maintenance products are water soluble and will not harm plants. However, it’s a good idea to protect plants around a deck with a tarp, just to be safe.

Can I clean, seal, and stain my deck in one day?

Cleaning and sealing a deck is a two-day project. After washing your deck, it may need to dry thoroughly before applying a sealer. Once the sealer has been applied, it also needs to dry before you can use your deck. For some products, two coats are recommended. Read the instructions on the labels of the products you use, and allow plenty of time to do the job right.

Do pressure-treated wood decks also need to be sealed?

Pressure-treated lumber resists rot, but most experts recommend that it should be sealed. Sealing pressure-treated wood will also preserve its color and fresh appearance.

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