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How to clean decking

Learn how to clean decking with and without a pressure washer in our handy guide. With instructions for cleaning wood, composite, and plastic decking.

Decking makes for a great entertainment space in any garden, but in order to enjoy it all year round, you will need to stay on top of its maintenance. Thankfully, you can make a huge difference to the appearance of your decking using the step-by-step instructions in this guide. Read on to learn how to clean decking properly, with tips on cleaning decking grooves, algae and slippery decking. We’ll even cover many of the different approaches including using pressure washers, vinegar, a broom, bleach and dish soap.

Should you use a pressure washer?

One of the best ways to get impressive results for your decking is to use a pressure washer. These machines deliver high powered streams of water to blast the dirt and grime away. Below, we’ve compared the approaches for cleaning decking with and without a pressure washer:

How to clean decking with a pressure washer

decking in need of cleaningA pressure washer is costly but definitely worth the investment. However, if you don’t know how to use the machine properly, you do risk damaging your decking. To clean decking with a pressure washer correctly, use the below steps:

  1. Choose the right tip and pressure before starting. Make sure to read the manufacturers’ instructions but as a general rule, a pressure of around 500 is suitable for a softwood deck.
  2. Start by testing your pressure washer on a hidden area of decking to ensure you don’t damage the boards.
  3. Sweep the decking to remove any leaves and debris.
  4. You can then start pressure washing.
  5. Keep the pressure washer tip around two feet away from the decking and move in a sweeping motion.
  6. Move the washer away from your home, making sure to overlap the sections so you don’t miss any patches.
  7. Finally, you may wish to use a cleaner or chemical brightener to improve the finish of your decking.

If you don’t want to invest in a pressure washer, or you’re worried about damaging your decking, we recommend hiring a professional decking cleaner for best results.

How to clean decking without a pressure washer

To save money, you may prefer to clean your decking without a pressure washer. This method will take longer but can still give a good finish. What’s more, it works really well on decks that have mildew staining. Just follow the below instructions:

  1. Sweep your deck to get rid of any dirt and leaves.
  2. Mix bleach and dish soap with warm water.
  3. You can then cover your decking with the mixture and allow it to work for up to 15 minutes.
  4. Take a stiff-bristled broom and sweep away any stains.
  5. Finish by thoroughly rinsing your decking to remove any bleach and dish soap.
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How to clean decking naturally

how to clean wooden deckingIf you have children or pets, you may prefer not to use strong chemicals in your garden.

Wondering how to clean decking naturally? It’s actually quite simple! Just mix one cup of vinegar with a gallon of water. You can then pour baking soda over your decking and use a stiff brush to work the water and vinegar into your boards before rinsing.

How to clean slippery decking

Slippery decking can be a real issue and the last thing you need is a broken arm from a nasty fall. Luckily you can prevent your decking from becoming slippery by keeping it clean. Don’t allow algae or wet leaves to build up as this is the primary cause of slippery decking.

If you want to clean slippery decking, you just need to use a stiff broom to sweep your decking regularly. This is especially important after a storm or wet weather. You can also use anti-slip products to stop your decking from becoming slippery in the first place.

How to clean composite decking

Wondering how to clean composite decking in the UK? Follow these tips:

  • Leaves and soil: Sweep the debris off your decking and scrub with dish soap and warm water.
  • Ice: Try using a plastic shovel to break up the ice. You can also use rock salt to melt any ice.
  • Mould: Scrub your decking with a soft-bristled brush and a mixture of warm water and dish soap.

How to clean wooden decking

Wooden decking gives your outside space a natural, relaxed feel. But unless you know how to clean wooden decking, it won’t look nearly as impressive. If you live in a flat or apartment, you may also want to know how to clean balcony decking.

Luckily the method for cleaning any wooden decking is the same. Just use the below steps:

  1. Move any plants and furniture off your decking and sweep to remove any loose debris.
  2. Use your garden hose to rinse your decking, getting rid of excess dirt.
  3. Next, mix white vinegar with water in a bucket.
  4. Dip a brush or broom into the liquid and sweep over your decking.
  5. Try to move in the direction of the grain of your decking wood and scrub the entire surface, dipping your brush into the liquid when necessary.
  6. Finally, use your hose to rinse the decking again.

How to clean plastic decking

If your decking boards are made from plastic, you need to be careful not to damage them when cleaning. To clean plastic decking safely follow these instructions:

  1. Use a brush to sweep the decking before cleaning.
  2. We wouldn’t recommend using bleach as this can damage plastic decking. Instead opt for white vinegar, dish soap or ammonia.
  3. Use a brush with natural bristles to scrub the deck using one of the above cleaners.
  4. Finish by rinsing the decking with water.

How to clean decking grooves

Cleaning your decking doesn’t just involve scrubbing the boards, you also need to learn how to clean decking grooves. The best way of doing this is to use the bristles on your broom or brush to sweep any debris out of the crevices.

How to clean decking before staining

Staining decking is a fantastic way of enhancing the natural beauty of the boards and can help it look great year-round. However, before staining your decking, you’ll need to properly clean it. If you skip this step, you’ll end up with debris and dirt trapped in the stain, causing messy results. Properly sweep, rinse and dry your decking first to avoid any issues.

How to clean decking algae

Algae can not only ruin the appearance of your decking, but it can also damage the boards and create a slipping hazard. Knowing how to clean decking algae is important to keep your decking looking its best and make sure it’s safe to walk over.

Remember, the best way to prevent algae is to regularly sweep and rinse your decking. Below are a few of the best solutions to use on algae if you do have it:

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • White vinegar
  • Algae removal cleaners

How to clean and protect decking

To help your decking reach its potential, you’ll need to stay on top of cleaning and treating it. Learning how to clean and protect decking isn’t too difficult. Make sure you are:

  • Regularly sweeping your decking, especially when trees are shedding their leaves.
  • Rinsing any dirt off the boards whenever necessary.
  • Properly scrubbing your decking using the advice earlier in this guide.

Once your decking is properly clean and tidy, you have a few options to protect it from the elements. We’d recommend doing this on a dry day as rain could interfere in the process. You can choose to stain, treat or paint your decking. If you’d like to learn more about staining, take a look at our how to stain decking guide.

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Hiring a professional decking cleaner

For the best results, we always recommend hiring a professional. A professional decking cleaner will have the tools and experience to clean your decking to be the best it can be and will be able to help maintain it all year round.

When you hire someone from Checkatrade, you can be safe in the knowledge that all of our members have passed through 12 checks and come highly recommended by your neighbours.

Take a look at our patio cleaning cost guide to help you price up your job.

how to clean decking without pressure washerFAQs

What is the best homemade deck cleaner?

Instead of paying for expensive deck cleaning products, why not try making your own deck cleaner? A good option for general cleaning is to combine two gallons of water with half a cup of dish soap and two cups of powdered bleach.

What is the best cleaner for wood decks?

One of the best cleaners you can buy for tackling neglected wood decks is the Ronseal decking cleaner and reviver.

What household items can you use to clean decking?

You can use a wide range of household items to clean your decking. These include vinegar, baking soda, Borax, dish soap and bleach.

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