Wooden decks receive constant abuse from the elements, but with periodic cleaning and refinishing, you can protect them and keep them looking their best. Learning how to clean a deck make take an entire afternoon, but when you see the shining results, it'll be worth it. Plus, seeing a power washer instantly wipe away years of dirt and grime is so satisfying.
The first step is cleaning your deck thoroughly. Many deck cleaners contain harsh chemicals, so it's important to protect your skin and eyes. A pump garden sprayer is ideal for this application. If you need to pout the deck cleaning solution into a separate container, use a funnel to prevent accidents or spills.
If you're worried about what chemicals are going onto your deck, homemade deck cleaners are also a fine option. However, bleach is often a main ingredient, so it's still important to practice safety.
First, remove any furniture, plants, appliances, or rugs from your deck surface. You wan your decking treatment to look even throughout, just in case you want to move your grill one day. Apply deck cleaner to both vertical and horizontal surfaces of the deck and railings. Allow cleaner to sit for the recommended period of time.
After cleaner has set for the recommended time, wash down the deck. A pressure washer is the best tool for the job. Pressure washers deliver a concentrated blast of water at anywhere from 1,000 to 3,500 pounds per square inch—so don't overdo it. Warning: Focusing for too long in one spot or holding the nozzle too close to the deck can damage the wood.
If your deck wash needs a little more assistance, you can find scrubbing tools to help get the job done. Pressure washers can be purchased or rented at home improvement stores and are available with various attachments. A deck scrubber attachment makes cleaning large open areas easier. Seeing the years' worth of build-up disappear is so satisfying to watch—you'll forget you're even doing hard work!
After the deck has been cleaned, it's time to perform any necessary repairs. Drive any protruding nails flush with the surface of the board or replace them with deck screws. Repair or replace boards that are badly deteriorated. If you're cleaning a painted deck, keep any replaced boards so you can match the paint at your local hardware store without doing any guesswork.
Use a sander to smooth rough spots, especially on railings, to prevent splinters. An electric sander will make job faster and better, but hard-to-reach areas may require manual sanding. Pay close attention to stairs or other high-traffic areas where bare-footed children may frequent.
Once the deck has dried thoroughly, refinish it with a tinted deck stain or clear sealer. Deck stains come in solid colors that hide the grain of the wood as well as transparent stains that allow the wood grain to show through. Choose one that best fits your style, keeping in mind that stripping a deck of its stain is a time-consuming project. This may not be the best project to try out a trendy decking treatment that will be gone by next season.
A pump sprayer works well to apply stains and sealers because they are much thinner than paint. After spraying an area, go over it with a paintbrush while the sealer is still wet to work it into the cracks and spread the finish out evenly. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when applying stain. Some may require going over the stain with a clean white cloth to soak up extra stain.