How to clean a wood deck without a pressure washer?

It’s relaxing to sit on your backward deck and sip a lovely cup of coffee while you read that great book or watch the birds. A nice wooden deck is a wonderful addition to your house, only until you maintain it properly to keep it looking attractive.

Washing it after every while is the primary step of that maintenance process. Washing doesn’t only help it to retain its attractive looks but also lengthen its lifespan.

Now, what’s the easiest way to wash a wooden deck? Everybody will shout – a pressure washer. But what if you don’t have access to one? 

And there are cases where I’ll suggest you avoid pressure washers even if you have access to one. For instance, when the deck is old and it’s prone to fragility, you don’t want to test it under the pressure of a pressure washer.

So, how then?

Relax, we got your back. We have our new DIY method to wash a wooden deck without a pressure washer. 

But allow me to clarify upfront that cleaning decks without an automated washer are not the easiest job out there. It takes effort and energy to get that task done. 

Before we jump into the main process, let’s put more light on ‘why’ you should clean the deck, which will give you the motivation and push to get into the job in the first place.

Why should you clean your deck?

A clear deck may look attractive but the same one will look pretty dull when it’s dirty and not maintained properly. When you neglect your deck, it might get permanent stains, it could get cracks over time, it will lose its beauty and might grow mold and mildew over time which is absolutely uncherished.

Since decks are positioned outdoor, they’re exposed to bare weather, be that hottest sun, wet autumn leaves, and shivering cold. 

A neglected deck would dry rot, prone to breaking at any time, and become a risky substance of your home over time. You cannot stop those from happening without cleaning the deck regularly.

Do you need any more reasons to clean your deck even if you don’t have the fancy of a pressure washer?

How to clean a wood deck without a pressure washer

If you’re motivated enough by now, let’s get into the process of cleaning your deck without the pressure washer. Cleaning a deck is a safe and simple process and there are not many tools that you’re going to require.

Stuff We Need

A broom

Garden hose

Oxygen bleach

● A general cleaning detergent

Trisodium Phosphate

● Vinegar

Gather all of them around your hand.

Little Preparation Here & There

Before we go on to applying the chemical cleaning products and do some deep cleaning, we need to make preparations. Here are the preparatory steps – 

  • We need a clear working space since we’re working with chemicals. So temporarily reposition any toy, furniture, or anything that’s in there already.
  • If you’ve got plants around, please cover them with some plastic sheet to protect them from these harmful chemicals. 
  • Next, take the broom and sweep the surface. Remove as much loose dirt, grime, and debris as you can.
  • Rinse the surface off nicely with the garden hose. Again, make sure you’re doing your best and not leaving any loose dirt. Do this process and the previous one repeatedly until you’ve got rid of all the loose dirt possible.

Let’s Get into the process of Cleaning Outdoor Decks

Start with General Cleaning

If the deck is not that dirty already, you should start with the general cleaning detergent. Check if there’s any sign of mold and mildew that has grown up already. If not, these general cleaners will do the job. 

Get a bucket and put 4 liters of water in it. Stir up 1 cup of your laundry detergent in that. Mix it well. Apply it properly on the surface and work it around with your broom.

Then let it sit there for about 15 minutes so that it can do its reactions and loosen the dirt off the surface. Then you want to rub it again with the broom so that nothing can stay.

Now rinse it off nicely with a nice spray of water by your hose and it’s clean.

Oxygen Bleach for hard Cleaning

You see, when there are mold and mildew that has grown up, general cleaning detergent won’t do. It needs something more powerful, and for that, we’re going to use oxygen bleach.

Take a bucket and fill 4 liters of warm water in it. Now add our regular cleaning agent and oxygen bleach (or Powdered Oxygen) in a 1:1 ratio in that. Mix it well and we’ve got our deep cleaning solution.

Now pour that solution over the moldy stains and work it well there with the broom. Let it stay for 15 minutes for it to do the cleaning. It’s not recommended to keep the solution of oxygen bleach for more than 15 minutes as it’s a strong cleaning agent which might affect the wood as well.

After 15 minutes, take your broom and scrub those areas well to make sure nothing stays. Then rinse the surface with your hose and cold water and you’re good to go.

Vinegar for Maintenance

Vinegar is a fast, easy and cheap way to keep your deck looking good for a long time. It’s not the best method when it comes to heavy-duty cleaning endeavors, but it does great for home deck upkeep, as they’re natural cleaners.

You need to take 2 cups of white vinegar in a jar of warm water and mix the solution well. Then pour it over the deck and let it sit for around 10 minutes. Work it well into the wood with a stiff brush. 

Then you want to wash the surface with cold water to get rid of any vinegar residue.

Trisodium Phosphate could be your Best Bet

TSP is a strong chemical that will help you to really transform your deck. TSP is often used to clean up exterior areas from paint, so you can tell how strong of a cleaning agent it is. That said, you need to stay extra careful while using it as it can damage painted surfaces and might stain the wood if you leave it for too long.

Take 7 liters of warm water in a cup and add ½ cup of TSP in it. Add a hint of oxygen bleach to take care of any mold or mildew and stir the solution well. Pour the solution all over the deck and work it well with your broom.

Let the solution do its magic for around 10 minutes and afterward rinse the surface with cold water. You want to rinse as long until any sort of TSP is left; you don’t want to leave any of it.

Futureproofing

Let me tell you, the process we described above is not as easy to apply as it is to read. It is going to take quite some energy and willpower to get done with. Chances are, you won’t be willing to repeat the process over and over after your first time. 

So, after you’ve made your deck look perfectly clean, you’ve still got a job to do so that you won’t have to get through this process over and over again. 

You need to apply some sort of sealer which will stop dust, mold and that sort of thing from growing up, make the deck keep looking shiny and also lengthen its lifespan. It’ll make the deck waterproof and avoid any peeling of the wood.

You want to let the wood dry properly before you apply the sealant unless you’re using something like Thompson’s Waterseal, which can be applied even when the wood is damp.

Take the liquid in a pan and use a small brush to seal the side of the lumbers first, meaning the space in between two lumbers. Then apply the liquid properly over other areas of the wood nice and evenly and let it dry.

You don’t want to apply this sealing agent under direct sunlight as it’ll make it dry too fast for the wood to absorb it. You also want to put on your protective gear while doing this.

After your sealant has been fully absorbed by the wood, you can now reallocate your furniture and other things on the wood. While you do this, you can also re-innovate the deck.

Is that broken flower pot doing any good? And the sun-bleached chair pillow? Get rid of things that make your deck look unorganized and cluttered.

Finally, you can afford to enjoy your freshly cleaned and renovated deck. Make yourself a cup of coffee or a tall glass of lemonade and grab your favorite book and run to the deck.

Cleaning Black Mold from Your Deck

Black mold looks absolutely disgusting and is enough to kill the looks of the deck alone. You can get rid of black mold in a few ways – 

Wet and Forget

Wet and Forget concentrated mold and mildew remover is probably the most effortless way of getting rid of black mold. You just spray the solution over the areas you want to clean and forget, just as the name suggests.

This solution works by itself with the wind and cleans itself over time with rain. You do not have the scrub, rinse, or pressure wash or anything. One spray can keep your deck clean for such molds for over a year.

It comes around 35$ for a gallon which lasts quite long and certainly is a value-for-money compensation for your saving efforts. 

Clorox and Water

Make a 1:1 solution of Clorox and water and spray it over the affected areas. Then work it into the wood properly with a brush and broom and let it rest for a while. Then wash it off the surface and that’ll do. Clorox gets soaked into the wood and prevents the mold from coming back.

Cleaning wood deck with vinegar

Vinegar is a soft and effective way to clean the deck and to avoid using harsh chemicals. Cleaning a wood deck with vinegar is a pretty straightforward process.

  1. Sweep the deck properly with a broom to remove any loose soil, grime, debris, or dirt.
  2. Gently rinse the deck with a garden hose.
  3. Take 1 gallon of water from the hose in a bucket and add 1 cup of white vinegar in it.
  4. Take a broom or nylon scrub brush dip it into the solution, and scrub across the wood. Make sure you follow the direction of the wood grain.
  5. Rinse the deck again and allow it some time so that it dries with air. Vinegar will not only clean the deck but also will prevent mold and mildew growth.

Cleaning Composite Deck with Vinegar and Baking Soda

Composite decks look better to many and they prefer it over wooden decks. Not only are they attractive looking, but also demand less maintenance than most wood decks.

When you want to clean that, you want to use such a solution that not only cleans it but also does not do any harm to the materials. A solution made of water, vinegar, and baking soda is a great fit for that job.

The process is the same as explained above, except for making the solution. You want to add ½ cup of apple cider or white vinegar this time instead of 1 cup and add ¼ cup of baking soda in it and that’s it. Clean the deck with the solution according to the process above.

How to clean a wood deck before staining?

A clean deck accepts stain better than a dirty one. So, you want to clean a deck before staining, and here’s how you do it.

  1. Reallocate any deck furniture, hardware, or anything else. Sweep the deck well with a broom.
  2. Fill a sprayer with a cleaning agent and water. Mix as per the instructions written on the cleaner bottle. If it contains any bleach, you want to cover any plants nearby with a plastic tarp.
  3. Spray the solution everywhere on the deck and let it rest for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Set your pressure washer to 1000 psi and rinse the surface with it. You want to keep the nozzle minimum 8 inches from the surface to not damage the wood.
  5. Let the deck dry for a day. Look for any rough spots in the deck. If it’s there, run over it with a fine-grit sandpaper.

How to clean a slippery wood deck?

Oftentimes, algae can grow up on a wooden deck which will make the deck slippery and dangerous for use. It needs to be taken care of as early as possible and here’re the ways you can do it so – 

There’s this product named Moss & Algae Killer from the brand “Safer” that uses Potassium Salts of Fatty Acids to break down the algae. It comes in a container that has a hose-end lookup to help spray evenly. This is a quick and easy solution to deal with slippery wood decks. You just apply the solution over slippery areas which will loosen up the algae and then you can just wash it off.

If you want to go homemade, try hot soapy water with a hint of bleach in it. Apply it over the slippery areas and rub with your broom to loosen the algae and then rinse it off.

Sometimes none of these might be needed as just a pressure wash will do the job. If you have access to one, you can just pressure wash the algae to clean it off. But make sure you don’t put too much pressure which can harm the wood itself. If mild pressure wash doesn’t do, consider using any of the methods above.

How to Remove Bird Droppings from a Wooden Deck?

It’s pleasant to watch birds flying around while you sit on your deck and sip on your coffee. But it’s certainly not pleasant to find out bird droppings all over your lovely deck.

Getting rid of the droppings when they’re fresh is the best idea. It’s just as simple as rinsing the deck with your garden hose. But if you’ve failed to do that and now the dropping won’t go away that simple, here’s the way to get rid of those – 

  1. Take warm water in a bucket and add some liquid dish cleaning soap in it. You might want to put on rubber gloves while working with hot water.
  2. Dip a broom or brush in the solution and scrub the affected area with that. It’s not supposed to take a lot of scrubbing.
  3. Rinse with your garden hose to get rid of the loosened dropping.
  4. If that doesn’t do, consider cleaning the deck with a professional cleaning agent in the process we talked about in the beginning.

Best Homemade Deck Cleaner

In this piece, we have already mentioned a lot of cleaning agents, some of which are bought while some are homemade. Most of them were good for a specific purpose. But if you want a general homemade deck cleaner that is good for most occasions, here you go – 

  1. Take two gallons of water and add 2 cups of oxygen bleach in it. Stir it well until all the powder is dissolved.
  2. Put ¼ cup of dish cleaning soap and mix it well until you create a lot of suds.
  3. The solution is ready. Now take a broom or brush, dip in the solution and scrub the surface, to finally rinse it off with your garden hose.

Crucial Deck Maintenance Tips

A lovely deck is only lovely when you maintain it properly. And maintaining a deck doesn’t have to be the most tedious task ever. Here are my 4 crucial deck maintenance tips that’ll help to keep your deck looking good and last long –

  • Inspect your deck thoroughly every year or two. Look for any damaged boards or protruding nails that need repair. Make sure your checkup is thorough and every little thing is noticed. Take care of the repair tasks that need to be done.
  • Clean the deck when it’s due. Procrastinating on this task will only make the job harder for you. It’s easy to clean when the dirt, soil, and other stuff has not sat there already. There’s a ton of cleaning processes described above.
  • Paint or stain the deck. I know many prefer the bare look of the wood that goes into making the deck. If you’re one of them then I suppose you can dare to do that. If you’re not much concerned about that look, painting or staining the deck is a wise choice.
  • Seal the deck. Maintenance gets easier and less frequently due when you’ve put on a good quality sealant. 

FAQs

Can I clean my garden furniture without a power washer?

Absolutely. There’re a lot of DIY methods that we have just enlightened you on.

Is it OK to pressure wash a wood deck?

Yes. But make sure to not put extreme pressure on the deck as it would affect the wood itself. And I won’t recommend pressure washing decks that are really old.

Does vinegar kill algae on decks?

They do, to some extent. But the best way to get rid of algae is to use the “Moss & Algae” cleaner from Safer or use soapy water with a hint of oxygen bleach.

Does vinegar kill lichen?

Yes, but chemical lichen controls do an even better job. 

What are the ingredients in Wet & Forget?

Wet and Forget is a very popular product for removing black molds from wooded decks. The main ingredient of that solution is Chlorine-based Alkyl Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride.

How do I get green algae off my wood deck?

You can either use vinegar or “Moss & Algae” cleaner to take care of green algae too.

How do you remove black stains from a wood deck?

Wet and forget will be the most effortless solution that I can suggest.

Is it better to spray or roll deck stains?

Rolling seems to be the better option for me to reduce the waste of resources. If you want to spray, make sure you’re close to the surface.

Final Thoughts

A deck is one of the most relaxing places in the house. While it looks so appealing after installation, it starts to lose its appeal over time when kept neglected. A maintained deck is a beautiful deck.

Little maintenance goes a long way and that shouldn’t stop just for the lack of a pressure washer.

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Brett Tyler

Brett Tyler

I’m Brett Tyler, an entrepreneur, but more importantly (well, to me at least), a tool head. I’m passionate about all sorts of machines and how they work – it’s in my blood.

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