was looking at my home's back steps, constructed of
pressure-treated wood, and decided it was time for the
annual get-rid-of-the-mildew-and-seal-them program.
some reason, they aren't looking as green as they were
last year, so the job will be a snap.
has been a long time since I discussed deck cleaning in
this space, probably because these few steps are all I
have taken since we sold the house with the deck 12
because the summer entertainment season is coming, it
might be appropriate to run through deck-cleaning 101
before the arrival of hotter weather, when things dry
too quickly or not at all.
you don't want to do the job yourself -- especially if
it has been a while since the last cleaning -- there are
companies that will do it for you. Go online or ask your
friends and neighbors.
your deck is in a spot where the sun always shines, it
is highly unlikely that there is a lot of mildew coating
might need to just spot-clean and add a coat or two of
waterproofing that needs 24 to 48 hours to dry between
least three days of good drying weather should elapse
between cleaning and coating the deck. A cloudy day is
best for cleaning, because the deck needs to stay wet to
thoroughly clean the surface.
it is too sunny or windy, the cleaner doesn't have a
chance to soak into the wood to do its work.
you haven't cleaned the deck in a couple of years, you
might want to rent a power washer, but check them out
first and read the instructions when you get one.
very, very careful if you've never used a power washer
before. You can do serious damage to the wood if the
spray is too hard or you lose control of the machine.
cleaner do you use?
had great success with vinegar and water, as well as
with diluted household chlorine bleach and with
chemical-based cleaners you can buy in the store. I've
also had luck with oxygenated bleach.
my experience in working in a Colonial-era burial
ground, OxiClean and water easily removes mildew from
also use OxiClean to wash the cedar siding on the north
side of our bungalow. If you have properly painted the
wood within the last few years, OxiCleaning (is that a
word?) can save you a paint job.
find it less overwhelming than the odor of chlorine
bleach or chemical cleaners. Vinegar just makes me
hungry for salad.
mix whatever I'm using -- a quart of white vinegar to
four quarts of water, a 3-to-1 solution of water to
bleach, or whatever is called for in the powdered or
liquid chemical cleaner -- and then let it sit for 10
minutes or so to settle.
choose an area about 4 feet square and apply the cleaner
with a sprayer.
I wait five minutes. To clean the area, I use a
short-bristle brush that doesn't dig into the wood.
Next, I rinse the spot thoroughly with water, to stop
the cleaning action, and move on to the next 4-by-4
there are plants underneath or near the deck, either
cover them with plastic or soak them with enough water
to neutralize any cleaning solution, even if the
manufacturer says the solution won't harm plants.
you use bleach, wear old clothes. When I had a deck, I
owned several colorful shirts with bleach stains on the
a postscript, a recent e-mail from reader Sandy Allison
says she's had great success combating mildew with Wet
and Forget, which is available at Ace Hardware.
my neighbors have spent a large sum of money proving
that aluminum siding can be successfully repainted.
painters used a Benjamin Moore acrylic paint that they
sprayed on after a very good cleaning, much of it by