How to Clean a Deck the Right Way

After a long, snowy winter and rainy spring, it's time to prepare your deck for summer entertaining.

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It’s almost time for summer entertaining, which means you’re likely busy preparing your backyard for guests. And one area that typically needs extra attention after a season of snow and rainfall is your deck. The place where many people gather for meals spent outside and lounging in between dips in the pool, your deck should be in prime condition before it’s used more regularly. While it may seem like a time consuming project, cleaning this outdoor space is necessary in order to help prolong its lifespan and keep it looking its best year after year. 

How Often to Clean a Deck

Servicing your deck should be added to your annual cleaning checklist, though you may need to up the frequency depending on factors like climate, foot traffic, and your deck's material type. “As an outdoor surface, decks can readily pick up dirt, plant debris, pollen, stains from leaves, and even bird droppings,” says Mary Gagliardi, in-house scientist and cleaning expert at Clorox. “How dirty they get depends a lot on where they are located. A deck in the city may need less frequent cleanings than a deck under a canopy of trees, especially if it is swept regularly.”

Considering all of these factors, you should clean your deck at least once a year, which will help prevent buildup or dirt, mold, and discoloration. 

clean wooden deck in backyard

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How to Prepare a Deck for Cleaning

Before you begin your annual deep clean, there are some preparation steps you need to follow to ensure you achieve the best results. 

Remove Furniture

Don’t just clean the areas of your deck guests can see—hidden spots may have grime you don't want to miss. “Move any outdoor furniture, potted plants, and other items from your deck,” says Alicia Sokolowski, the president and co-CEO of Aspen Clean. “This will make it easier to access all areas of your deck and ensure that the cleaning solution covers the entire surface evenly.”

Sweep Your Deck

After removing all of your furniture and décor, sweep any leaves and debris off your deck. “Use a broom or leaf blower to remove any loose debris, such as leaves, twigs, and dirt, from your deck's surface,” says Sokolowski. "This will help prevent the build up of dirt and grime when you start cleaning.”

Protect Nearby Landscaping 

Keep your plants and greenery protected with a tarp while you tackle this cleaning project. This will cover them from any cleaning solution spills that may inadvertently cause damage to your landscaping. 

Wet the Deck

Before applying your cleaning solution, pre-wet your deck’s surface with a garden hose or pressure washer. “This will help loosen any dirt and grime buildup and make it easier for the cleaning solution to penetrate the surface,” says Sokolowski. 

cleaning composite deck

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How to Clean a Wood Deck

Start by selecting a cleaning solution suitable to your deck’s material and the type of stains you want to remove. “You can find deck cleaning solutions at your local hardware store or make your own [with natural ingredients],” says Sokolowski. A homemade cleaning solution can be made using water and white vinegar, but make sure to check if vinegar is compatible with your deck’s material first. 

What You'll Need

  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Baking soda
  • Pump sprayer
  • Scrub brush
  • Hose
  1. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water. 
  2. Apply the cleaner using a pump sprayer, starting from the highest point of the deck and working downwards. 
  3. Sprinkle baking soda over stains. 
  4. Scrub the deck using a stiff-bristled brush. 
  5. Rinse thoroughly with a garden hose or power washer to remove all the cleaner and dirt. (If using a power washer, put it on a low setting and keep the nozzle at least 6 inches away from the wood surface). 
  6. Let the deck air dry before replacing any furniture. 

How to Clean a Composite Deck

You can clean a composite deck just like you would a wood deck—the only difference is the brush you use. “Some composite decks may be more prone to scratches and scuffs, so it's important to use a soft-bristled brush or a non-abrasive pad when cleaning,” says Sokolowski.

You should also check to see which cleaners are suitable for your deck's composite type. If you’re using a store-bought formula, always check the manufacturer’s instructions for dilution instructions. Alternatively, you can use the same natural cleaning solution you did for the wood deck, so long as vinegar is an appropriate cleaning agent for your specific composite.

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