For many homeowners, deck cleaning can be more stressful before they even begin to pick up that pressure washer than during the deed itself. A lot of apprehensions arise, either from their own experience or from the experience of others. The main concern is always the possibility (and a big possibility too, if you’re doing it by yourself for the first time) that they might destroy the surface of the wood, turning the once immaculate deck to a rough and fuzzy catastrophe.
This dilemma though, has a simple solution, but requires some skill and patience to apply. The truth is that the pressure washer shouldn’t be doing all the work, your cleaner should. The pressure washer, although much more efficient and time-saving than manual soaping and scrubbing alone, is only there to rinse off your cleaner and any remaining dirt off your deck. Simply put, it’s not necessary to use it in cleaning your deck as you may just use a typical garden hose in its place. But if that just isn’t going to make your day, then try following these simple steps and your deck should be fine and fuzz free:
1. First, as with any cleaning project, make sure that your area is free from any obstructions. All furniture and objects must be moved and all loose dirt and debris should be swept away.
2. Rinse your deck. This can be done using a simple garden hose, but if you must use a pressure washer, be cautious. Do not apply too much pressure or position the tip of the wand too close to the wood. Pressure washers come with different tip sizes, and in this case, less is more. Try using the 35-degree tip, or anything between 30 to 60 degrees. If you are still apprehensive about trying it out yourself, you can always ask a professional to try it out for you first to test and see whether it will destroy the wood or be sufficient for cleaning your deck.
3. Prepare and apply your cleaner using a stiff brush or push broom. Oxygen bleach works best for this type of cleaning, and is good for the environment too. But for the cleaner to work efficiently, you’ll have to exert some effort into scrubbing it in and patience into letting it sit for about 15 minutes before rinsing it off.
4. Finally, rinse off the foam and dirt. A garden hose can be just effective in this case, but if you must, then be guided when using your pressure washer. Make sure to wear protective gear. In rinsing using the pressure washer, you can apply three methods. You can apply a “sweeping” motion, wherein you direct the water from your house going outward, making sure that the pressure remains constant all the way. The pressure has to be just right as well, as too little will result in a splotchy looking surface and too much or having it too close to the wood will bring out the appearance of “stripes”. “Feathering” is another technique you can use, wherein you overlap the areas previously swept, making sure to start each stroke where the previous one ended. This helps mask the starts and stops of strokes and may take longer, but is excellent in removing excess cleaner that could be detrimental to your deck surface. Another method is the “long sweep” which basically means guiding the washer along the whole length of the deck, making sure that the distance between the tip of the washer and the wood of the deck is the same throughout the whole length of the board. Long sweeping though, should be used only if there are no obstructions throughout the length of the deck, as these can cause lines which will be difficult to remove later on.
5. Allow your deck to dry. Drying will help you see small spots you may have missed. If your stains still persist, repeat the process but don’t go too heavy on the washer. Instead, apply a stronger batch of cleaner or leave it out longer.
Paul Spence is a gardener.