The steps to cleaning wood decks are labor intensive, but require no specialized skill or knowledge. Of course, the more diligent you are about regularly maintaining your wood deck, the less labor intensive the job will be.
All About Cleaning Wood Decks
Given that your deck meets all of the harsh elements, regular cleaning and maintenance is a must. For loose debris, you can simply use and outdoor brush and brush leaves and dirt away. However, it will become necessary to do some more strenuous cleaning to keep your deck looking new.
Power Washing Your Deck
There is somewhat of a debate regarding whether or not you should use a pressure washer on your deck. The reigning thought on the issue is that the pressure from the stream of water is so great that it can damage the wood and dislodge fibers leaving the deck looking clean but in less than pristine condition. Furthermore, pressure washers can open pores in the wood, causing the boards to be more exposed to the elements and thus shortening the lifespan of your deck. However, most professionals will use a pressure washer to dislodge dirt from your deck and many argue that only the inexperienced home owner can actually damage wood from a pressure washer. Many home owners choose to pressure wash their deck because it is much faster than scrubbing by hand.
Oxygen bleach is made up of hydrogen peroxide and soda ash. It is typically sold in powder form and then you mix it with water to create a cleaning solution. You have probably heard of products such as OxyClean which is an example of an oxygen bleach. The oxygen bubbles do the work that a power washer would do and proponents say that it is a safer, more chemically sound way for cleaning wood decks. Those who haven't been convinced of the merits of oxygen bleach point out that there still is a modicum of scrubbing to do and you have to mess with mixing the powder and water together. With that said, it is completely safe for both your family and your greenery and won't do any damage to your deck. To clean your deck this way, mix the solution according to the directions and then use a deck brush to scrub, going along the grain of the wood. Oxygen bleach should not be confused with chlorine bleach which should never be used to clean a wood deck.
Even with the best care, your deck can get easily stained. Mold, rust, tannins and even bird droppings need to be removed with a little more vigor than a simple rinsing will provide. To remove heavier stains from your deck, purchase some oxalic acid. This can generally be purchased at your local home improvement store and is sometimes labeled as "wood brightener" or "wood bleach." Mix the solution according to the directions and scrub the stains with an old brush. When the stains have sufficiently faded, rinse thoroughly.
Maintain Your Deck
Maintaining your deck makes cleaning much easier. Make sure that part of your exterior spring cleaning includes basic deck maintenance. In addition to deep cleaning and stain removal, decks that are made of North American woods will naturally turn gray as they are exposed to the summer sun. To avoid this, you will have to apply a sealant annually. Before sealing your deck, brush away debris with an outdoor brush and clean off any stains. After the deck is basically clean, you can apply a clear water repellant preservative or a semi-transparent stain. Stain will help keep your deck from graying longer but if you really want a clear sealant, simply expect to apply it more often.
If you regularly maintain your deck by deep cleaning it as necessary and applying sealant once a year, you will have a beautiful deck to enjoy for years to come.