Part 2—Cleaning the Deck
In the last article, we discussed how to select the proper equipment for a DIY deck cleaning project. In this article, we will address how to use the equipment properly to achieve your desired results without damaging your deck. Before beginning, be sure to remove all grills, furniture, planters and other items from your deck. Any grease spills from your grill should be pre-treated with a solution of dish soap.
Before applying cleanser to the deck, rinse the deck with water. This will aid the cleanser in spreading easily once it is applied. Then, use the scrub brush to apply cleanser to the deck. Most of the work of cleaning the deck will be done by the cleanser, not the pressure washer itself. Many cleaning solutions should not be allowed to dry on the wood, so be sure to closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions and periodically mist if necessary. Typically the manufacturer will recommend a soaking time of 20 minutes to enable the cleanser to adhere to the embedded dirt.
After waiting the recommended time for the cleanser to soak, it is time to rinse the deck. It is important to not let the cleanser soak too long, as this can cause damage to the wood. When first engaging the trigger of the pressure washer, point it away from the deck, people and other objects. If the sprayer is pointed directly at the deck when first engaged, scarring on the deck surface can result.
Cleaning is typically started where the deck is adjacent to the house. Begin sweeping by starting from the edge, then sweep the sprayer out from the house and then back toward it, being careful to maintain a consistent distance between the nozzle tip and the deck to ensure an even result. A typical sweeping section might be about 3 feet wide. Once the first 3 foot section along the length of the house is completed, the next 3 foot strip can be begun.
A technique called “feathering” can be used to prevent lines from appearing between two sweeping sections. To do this, make sure the second sweep overlaps the first sweep, working with the grain or length of the board. An alternative to the sweeping technique is the long sweep, whereby you walk the entire length of a board, making sure to hold the nozzle at a consistent length from the surface. It will typically take a few sweeps to complete one board in this manner. After the whole deck has been washed, allow it to dry for 24 hours, and then re-inspect. Imperfections that were invisible when the deck is wet may appear, and it may be necessary to re-clean some areas.