cleaning a deck

Cleaning a Deck: How to Clean and Seal a Wooden Deck

By Tyler Kirk | Deck and Patio

There's nothing quite like a great deck.

It's more than just a lifeless pile of lumber. A deck can become a vehicle for community.

Your deck can help you get to know your neighbors at a BBQ. It can foster long discussions over a few beers. It can become a haven for friends who just need a peaceful place to relax.

But if you don't take care of your deck, your neighborhood meeting spot could find itself in ruin. And nothing spoils a block party like a deck on the verge of collapse.

Cleaning a deck is necessary to keep it in great shape for years to come.

But we're not just talking about sweeping it with a push broom. A long-lasting deck needs to be regularly sealed. It might sound like a lot of work, but it's much easier than rehabilitating a cracked, splintering, collapsing deck.

Here's how to keep your deck in tip-top shape.

Sweep Well

Before you move on to any of the more intense steps of cleaning your deck, you need to make sure that it's swept clean.

Clear off any items on the deck, such as furniture, grills, or potted plants.

You want to make sure that you sweep away all dirt, twigs, and other debris. If you jump right to sealing the deck, these things will get between the sealer and the wood, preventing your deck from getting the full benefit.

A wide push broom is best. Give it a good once-over. Don't worry about getting every speck of dust-we'll get to that later. Just make sure all larger debris is out of the way.

Clear The Gaps

If the surface of your deck is clean, that doesn't necessarily mean that your deck is ready to seal.

The gaps between planks can collect debris that blocks the sealer and leaves the deck vulnerable to rot from the edges of the plank. And when you sweep, some of that dirt and debris could fall into the cracks.

After you've swept, sweep a putty knife or a screwdriver through the gaps to clear out any twigs, rocks, or old snacks that have become lodged in the gaps.

Hose It Down

After clearing the gaps, it's time for a hose down.

Sweeping your deck with a broom will clear off most larger debris, but it will leave some more stubborn dirt particles behind.

Pull out your garden hose and prepare to spray it down. You want to dislodge stubborn particles, so more pressure is better.

Use a jet-sprayer extension or a pressure washer if you have one.

Start at one end and spray in a methodical, side to side pattern. Push the debris in the same direction. It's best to keep it spraying away from the house so you don't have to clean your house after the fact.

Apply Deck Cleaner

Spraying down your deck should remove most of the dirt and dust that sweeping left behind. But you're still not ready to apply your sealer.

Wood is naturally porous. And as your deck faces rain, humidity, falling leaves, animal visitors, and insects, some of that mess can seep into the wood and become embedded there.

If the conditions are right, mildew might even start growing on your precious deck. A little mildew might just be a little dirty, but if left unchecked, it can cause the wood to rot and decay.

To root it out, you need to scrub your deck down.

Purchase a high-quality deck cleaner from your local home goods store. There are several on the market.

If your deck has a particularly serious case of mildew or other stains, you could also use a diluted bleach. Just make sure you don't get any bleach on your plants.

Apply with a brush and scrub it into the deck. Many cleaners' instructions require you to let the mixture soak, so it's best not to use the cleaner on a hot day. The sun might evaporate the cleaner before it has a chance to do its job.

After you've let the cleaner soak for the recommended amount, rinse it with your hose. Again, be mindful of where the rinse ends up. If you used bleach, rinse it away from any plants that you don't want to damage.

Apply Sealer

After rinsing off the deck cleaner, your deck should be looking brand new.

But you're not done yet. To keep your deck in pristine condition, you need to use a specialized deck sealer.

As mentioned earlier, wood is porous. If you don't use a sealer regularly, the wood of your deck will be more vulnerable, causing it to degrade much more quickly. Deck sealer also acts as a filter to protect the wood itself from ultraviolet rays.

Use a wide paint roller and apply a thin coat of sealer to every surface of the deck. Use hand brushes for smaller areas like railings.

Once that layer is slightly dry, apply a second thin coat. Don't apply a single thick coat, as this won't allow the sealer to dry properly.

Refer to the instructions on your sealer for how long it needs to cure after drying. After it is dry, you can move all of your items back onto the deck.

Test your work by sprinkling a small amount of water on the deck. If you sealed it properly, the water should bead on the surface.

It's recommended that you seal your deck once a year to keep it in good shape.

Need Help Cleaning a Deck? Call the Pros

Cleaning a deck is a simple enough process, but it can be time-consuming.

And with all the demands of work, family, and regular home maintenance, you may not have time to do that work yourself.

If that's your reality, we're here to help. Whether you need someone to seal your deck, powerwash your house, clean your gutters, or clean your windows, take a look at our testimonials, then call us for a free quote.

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