Cleaning the deck.
May 24, 2011 9:07 AM   Subscribe

Can you give me advice on cleaning my deck?

Our house has a deck that has been neglected. It is covered in dark green and black crap. Should I pressure wash it, or chemically treat it and rinse. The wood seems pretty sound so I am not too worried about it disintegrating under the pressure washer, but I would prefer to be more gentle with it and am therefore thinking a chemical might be a better solution, BUT will that lift off the thick crap??
posted by Frasermoo to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
how much elbow grease do you have to apply ?

Deck cleaner, TSP, dish soap, bleach/oxygen bleach can all get rid of the muck, but you'll need a stiff brush, time and a painkiller of your choice when done.

(Also note, cleaning non-wide-and-flat surfaces by hand is less than fun ... So if it's just the deck floor, great.. But if you are cleaning the spindles etc, that's no fun ..)
posted by k5.user at 9:18 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dark green and black crap sounds like mildew and algae. Apply TSP & water, let sit, hose off, repeat a couple times. A week or so later, apply bleach & water (1:10), let sit, hose off, repeat a couple times. If your deck doesn't get dry, this is going to keep happening, so check to see if a roof is draining onto it, or if there's a way to let in more sun.
posted by theora55 at 9:30 AM on May 24, 2011

We scrubbed our deck with soapy water--we used laundry detergent. It was definitely time consuming, but it looked so much better, afterward, and it truly does work. We sealed it with some outdoor waterproofing stuff.
posted by hought20 at 9:53 AM on May 24, 2011

Pressure wash it. Pressure wash, pressure wash, pressure wash. You'll be happy you did. You'll be amazed at the immediate difference in appearance and will want to pressure wash everything -- your driveway, your children, your dog...

When you're done with that, let it dry out, and then treat it or stain it. And treat the fuck out of it -- e.g. multiple passes and coats. Again, you'll be glad you did.

The wood seems pretty sound so I am not too worried about it disintegrating under the pressure washer

You can do many things to vary the pressure -- different washer tips, holding the tip back, approaching at a proper angle, the time spent in any one area. This is one of those things where it will take you all of 15 minutes to become an expert.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:31 AM on May 24, 2011

If you do decide to rent or buy a pressure washer to tackle the job, look for one with variable pressure settings, and start at a low pressure setting (1000 - 1500 psi), until you see the actual condition of cleaned wood on your deck. You can move up the pressure gradually after that, but you probably don't ever need to go much above 2500 psi on a wood deck, if even that high. Also, be aware that if you do want to use a chemical cleaning additive with a pressure washer, you should get a model that has a chemical injector or a soap wand (never add chemicals to the water tank).

There is also a certain technique to efficiently use a pressure washer. Getting an optimum pressure and water volume setting with a particular wand is mainly a matter of experimentation with the surface you are cleaning. But you also need to maintain a consistent distance and spray angle from your target, and move at a consistent speed, to get consistent results. Failure to pay attention to this means you can damage your target by moving too close with the spray wand, or that you get ineffective, splotchy cleaning results, where you've moved the wand too quickly for real cleaning, and driven some of the dirt into the porous target. So, you want to practice keeping the wand constantly moving at a steady pace, distance and angle from the surface being cleaned. Usually, you want the wand nozzle within about 6 inches of the surface being cleaned, but never closer than about 3 inches; actual pressure delivered at the surface is partially dependent on the distance between the nozzle and the surface, and at distances beyond 6 inches from the nozzle, the spray can begin to break up in atmosphere. Wind can also have a big effect on pressure washer results; don't try to clean outdoor surfaces in anything more than a light breeze.
posted by paulsc at 10:34 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just use dish soap and one of those wooden scrub brushes that you can screw a mop handle into. It won't take very long and will make a huge difference.

I hate it when my neighbours ruin a beautiful afternoon by pressure washing every exterior surface on their property.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:32 PM on May 24, 2011

I'm in the middle of this very project. I started by pressure washing and I really really recommend it. If you can, do it on a weekday when most neighbors are gone, as it is quite loud. You should especially do this if your neighbor is bonobothegreat.

The pressure washer didn't get my deck to a 100% ready-to-be-stained condition, so I'm going to be doing a chemical strip and clean cycle here in the next few days, followed by sanding, followed by applying a weatherproof stain.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:45 PM on May 24, 2011

Forgot to mention, if your'e doing the elbow grease technique -soak the deck with the hose and apply squirt some undiluted dish soap onto the wood. Then work it into a lather with the scrub brush and rinse.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:30 PM on May 24, 2011

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