How to Clean a Wood Deck

  • October 6, 2019
  • / By Dale Keese
Fallen Leaves

The wood deck in your home is the place where you usually entertain your friends and spend time with your family. A clean and well-maintained wood deck can be attractive and inviting; without regular upkeep, it can become unkempt and unsightly. Therefore, regular maintenance of your wood deck is a must to ensure that it stays welcoming and safe.

Fallen leaves on a clean wooden deck

If you plan to clean your wood deck, it is quite simple. Cleaning it regularly will not only give your deck a fresh look but also help protect and maintain the integrity of the wood, making your deck last for a long period of time. Wood is a porous material so as the temperature varies, it expands and contracts, allowing dirt, dust, and grime to get into the wood. If left unattended, your deck will look shabby and will begin to warp and rot over time.

A very easy step to maintain your wooden deck is to sweep it regularly and remove the debris and leaves. This will help prevent staining and mildew. While cleaning, keep a lookout for wobbly rails and loose boards, screws, or nails because these can be dangerous. Tighten or replace all the loose screws, fix or replace the damaged boards, and hammer down the nails. Fix any issues as soon as they come up – delays will only worsen the situation.

There are several simple ways to clean your wooden deck and in this article, we will give you a complete lowdown on how to do it.

Affects the Value of Your Home

Having an outdoor deck in your home not only makes your home more attractive but also improves the value of your home. However, the deck should be well-maintained. Replacing a deck can be very expensive and this will be something that potential buyers of your home will consider. If there is too much damage or it looks like it needs to be replaced, they would probably opt for a home that has a better looking deck than yours.

Even if you are not planning to sell your home in the near future, replacing your wooden deck is an expense that you would want to avoid. Luckily, with proper care and maintenance, you can extend your deck’s life to around 15 to 20 years or even more.

Wood cabin with a wooden deck

Badly Maintained Decks Are an Eyesore

If not cared for properly, your wood deck can develop stains, mold, mildew, and cracks because your deck is constantly exposed to several elements including heat, cold, dampness, rain, and leaves. As time passes, the deck will no longer look inviting and people will prefer to stay indoors instead of out in the deck.

Unkempt Decks Can Be Dangerous

Wood decks are prone to dry rot and warping and if you do not inspect and maintain your deck regularly, you are most likely to miss these signs. Rotting decks can be dangerous – it can cause injuries and in worst case scenarios, even death.

Wood Deck Cleaning Tips

Every week, sweep away all the dirt and debris that you can see on the deck. Every season, clean the surface thoroughly. This should be sufficient to keep your wood deck in good shape.

Inspecting and Sweeping

  • Remove all the furniture and items from the deck including chairs, tables, grills, or planters and if you are unable to remove them, move everything to one side while you clean the other and vice versa.
  • Clean the exterior walls of your home, the ones where the wood deck is attached to, with a broom. Inspect closely the areas where the deck is attached to the wall. If you notice any signs of rot in the wood or screws that have become loose, have them repaired immediately. 
  • Sweep the deck railings using a broom, because this is where cobwebs build up, and then sweep the top of the deck. If you are able to, then clean underneath the deck to remove any debris that can attract moisture. 
Broom sweeping deck wood clean

Treating Stains

Before they become permanent, you must remove stains from the deck:

  • First, spread tarps to protect any nearby plants or items below your deck.
  • You can use your own homemade cleaning solution. Take 2 gallons of water in a bucket and add 1 cup of oxygenated bleach. Work in sections and spread this cleaning solution on the deck and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. As the cleaner tackles the stains, you may see some frothing. Scrub the visible stains using a stiff-bristled scrub brush and then rinse the area with clean water and then move to the next section. Repeat the same process on the stairs or rails.
  • It is very important that you remove all the bleach off the deck, so rinse the area with clean water repeatedly. Then, rinse out the tarps.
  • Let the deck dry completely before you move the furniture and other items back on the deck. When damp, the wood is very fragile, so moving the furniture, grills, and any other heavy items can damage the wood. Also, putting things on the wet wood can cause the growth of mold and mildew. 

Treat with Bleach (If Needed)

Treat any part of the wood deck that has algae or mildew growth with a mild bleach solution (1 part bleach with 4 parts water). Pour the bleach solution on the area with the growth. If the growth is fresh, let the bleach solution sit for around 5 minutes and if it has been there for some time, let the bleach solution remain for around 15 minutes.

Using a stiff-bristled brush or a broom, scrub the area, rinse with clean water, and let it dry. If the growth or a stain remains, repeat the process. However, before you treat the area again, let it dry completely. Always take care while using bleach and wear protective eye wear and rubber gloves. Also, concentrated bleach may discolor the wood, so it may be better to use an oxygen bleach cleaner to make the cleaning solution.

Power Wash (Optional)

If you plan to power wash your wood deck, the best time to do it is in late spring so that the debris and grit left behind by the snow and rain is scoured away. It is always a good idea to do your power washing on a sunny, warm day when the humidity is low so that the deck dries up very quickly.

  • Clean and sweep the deck before power washing it.
  • Because the power washer blasts away all the dirt, grime, and discoloration, it can make a weathered wood deck look brand new. However, using the power washer at a very high pressure can damage your deck. So, it is recommended that you keep the power washer’s pressure below 1,500 PSI.
  • However, if the wood is composite or soft, using the pressure washer at a 1,500 PSI setting can damage the wood. If this is the case, do not aim the washer at a single spot for a long time and use long and sweeping strokes starting at the point where the deck is attached to your home and then working your way outwards.
  • Avoid getting too close and keep the nozzle of the washer at least 3 feet from the surface of the deck and work in the same direction as the wood grain. Turn down the pressure to around 1,000 PSI to clean the railings of the deck. Work from 3 feet away and spray in overlapping vertical strokes.
  • When you pressure wash your wood deck, the water saturates the wood more deeply than when you use a hosepipe. So, you must allow a longer time for the deck to dry completely. Sweep away any standing water from the deck using a broom. This will help hasten the drying process and prevent wood splinters.
Overlooking the Sea

Sealing Your Wood Deck

There are many options when it comes to deck sealers available in the market. You need to buy a high-quality wood sealer for your deck for best results. Some deck sealers contain a waterproofing agent that offers year-round protection for your deck. Clear any dirt or debris that may have collected on the deck while drying and then apply the wood sealer as per manufacturer’s instructions.

Redecorating Your Wood Deck

Once the deck sealer is completely dry, inspect the deck again and fix any loose screws or nails before putting the furniture and other items back in their places. You can even redecorate or create a new set up if you want to. Now, that you have learned how to clean your wood deck and your deck is clean and shiny, you can simply sit back, relax and enjoy.