Need to clean your deck but don’t have a pressure washer? Here’s how to wash a deck with common kitchen ingredients—and a little helpful know-how.
A deck is a wonderful investment that will expand your outdoor living space. Once it’s properly stained and sealed, a deck will need little maintenance for most of the year. However, cleaning your deck at least once a year is advisable to help keep dirt and grime (and mold and mildew) at bay. Whether you have a wood deck or a composite deck, you can get both looking good as new in an afternoon.
What You Need to Clean a Deck
- Warm water
- White vinegar or deck cleaning solution
- Garden hose
- Long handle stiff bristle broom
- Scrub brush with handle
- Large bucket (wide enough to dip the push broom)
- Pressure washer (optional)
Sun Joe House and Deck Cleaner, $15.76 from Home Depot
This concentrated cleaner also works with a mop or broom.
How to Clean a Deck
Here are the steps to cleaning a deck without a pressure washer—plus pointers on using one of those if you do happen to have it.
1. Prep the deck. Start by removing as many items you can from the desk. Large pieces of furniture or potted plants you can not move need to be covered with a plastic tarp. Next, sweep up any leaves, twigs, or debris on the deck. Getting as much surface dirt and dust off the deck surface as you can before you start the cleaning process will make cleaning the deck easier and faster. Then, rinse the deck with a garden hose. Pre-rinsing it will help to remove surface dirt and debris and soften any caked-on debris.
2. Mix the cleaning solution. The cleaning solution you use will depend on how dirty the deck is. For light cleaning, you can use white distilled vinegar and water to create an all-natural cleaning solution. Vinegar is effective at removing mold and mildew and most dirt on wood and composite decks. Before you invest in any machinery or cleaning solutions, start with vinegar—you’ll be surprised how well it works! Combine one cup of vinegar per gallon of warm water in a large bucket. Make sure you mix enough cleaner before you get started. If it’s been more than a season since you cleaned your deck, or there’s a thick layer of dirt, use a professional bleach-free deck cleaner that’s safe for your decking material. Dilute the cleaner with one part cleaner and one part water (or per manufacturer’s directions).
3. Scrub. Dip the push broom in the bucket. Make sure it’s completely submerged so the bristles of the scrub brush get completely soaked by the cleaning solution. Going with the grain of the wood, began scrubbing. Be sure to spend more time on any area that is thick with dirt or debris. Switch to a smaller brush to get the corners or any crevices the push broom can not reach.
4. Rinse. Once you have scrubbed down the deck, rinse off the cleaning solution with a garden hose set on low spray. Inspect any areas that you may have missed and scrub and rinse again. Allow the deck to dry completely. It may take a day or two to dry, depending on how sunny or warm it is outside. Once the deck dries, replace any wood board that is damaged or rotting. If your deck needs restaining or resealing, this is the best time to do it.
Related Reading: All the Places in Your Kitchen You Can Clean with Vinegar
Next Level: Pressure Washer Method
If your deck needs a deep cleaning or you have limited time, a pressure washer will make short work of cleaning a wood deck or a one made of composite wood. You can rent a pressure washer from your local home improvement store if you don’t want to purchase one.
Simpson MegaShot Pressure Washer, $329 from Home Depot
If you'd rather own than rent.
It’s important to thoroughly read the manufacturer’s instructions for the operation of the pressure washer as well as what products you can use in the machine before you begin.
Pour the proper bleach-free cleaning solution into the soap dispenser on the pressure washer. Use the pressure washer on the lowest possible pressure to apply the cleaning solution to the deck. Be sure you get cleaner on the entire deck, including any corners or crevices. Let the cleaner sit on the wood for at least 10 to 20 minutes or the exact time recommended by the manufacturer.
Once the recommended time has passed, set the pressure washer’s nozzle to fan or the widest spray nozzle setting and at the lowest possible pressure. Spray the deck down using fluid, sweeping motions. Make sure to keep the nozzle two feet away from the deck—getting closer than six inches can damage the deck’s surface.
Once the deck is clean, allow it to dry completely. Replace any damaged boards and reseal if needed.
Header image courtesy of Michael H / DigitalVision / Getty Images