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How To Clean Wood Deck [Even Without A Pressure Washer]

It's hard not to appreciate the quality and appeal of wood. The appearance is one of the reasons it's a popular material for decks. However, they require maintenance to keep those good looks. If you're wondering how to clean a wood deck, let's explore a few methods.

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There are various ways to clean a wood deck. The quickest way to clean one is by using a pressure washer. If you don't own or can't rent a pressure washer, you can clean it manually. All it takes is a hose and brush. Soft washing is also an option to consider. 

Some people don't mind the manual labor of using a hose and brush. Others prefer using time-saving tools like a pressure washer or a power washer. Thus, it could be tough to choose a method. We'll explore the process of each one. To learn more, keep reading.

Dirty patio in the spring time Before/after series, How To Clean Wood Deck [Even Without A Pressure Washer]

Cleaning A Wood Deck

A large sponge on the end of a broom handle is used to apply varnish to an outside deck.

We all have different priorities. Some people like the efficiency of using machines for cleaning. Others can't be bothered. Cleaning something feels good when you do it manually. 

Regardless of preference, we'll discuss how to clean a deck with and without a pressure washer. Let's start with the method anyone can use. 

Using A Hose And Brush

Cleaning tools

It's not often you find a home without a hose outside. Similarly, every household owns a brush. Though, you'll want one stiffer than the typical one you use to sweep floors.

There are many on the market. However, it's not controversial to say some are better than others. Here's a floor scrub brush you can use to clean your deck. 

Click here to see this brush on Amazon.

It includes a scrape bar. You can use it to remove any stubborn material that isn't unsettling with a hose or the brush portion. In any case, you can use any brush that's stiff enough. 

Preparing the Deck

Since you'll want no obstructions, remove any furniture on the deck. Doing this gives you a better opportunity to spot warping, discoloration, etc. 

If you spot any boards with wood rot, replace them. Of course, tighten loose fasteners and pop any screws you see back into place. Next, it's time to sweep the area. 

Over time, debris will accumulate all over the place. You want to avoid cleaning with this debris lingering around because it can stain the wood. In the worst case, it can even leave scratches. 

Finally, you can pre-rinse the boards with a hose. If you don't have access to a hose, use a bucket of water and dampen the surface. This way, you can let the cleaner of your choice disperse smoothly.

Preparing the Cleaner

It's time to prepare your choice of cleaner. You can use bleach, dish soap, oxygen bleach, or a deck cleaner. Some advise against using bleach and dish soap, but these cleaners seem to perform similarly to the suggested products like oxygen bleach and deck cleaners. One user tested the difference between a deck cleaner and standard bleach. The results were nearly the same. 

Here's the video we're referencing:

Does that mean you should use bleach instead of the alternatives? Not exactly. Deck cleaners are essentially bleach that is less harsh on surfaces. So, it's a safer bet to use the cleaner instead of bleach. 

However, if you need to clean and bleach is the only thing you have in hand, it works well enough. Still, avoid using it often. It has substantial downsides when used consistently on treated wood.

Dish Soap and Oxygen Bleach

It's a similar case to dish soap. Some people like to use dish soap without diluting it first. Others suggest diluting it with one gallon of water, two tablespoons of ammonia-free dish soap, one pint of rubbing alcohol, and one quart of oxygen bleach. 

A detail worth noting is the importance of ammonia-free dish soap in that cleaning mixture. If the dish soap contains ammonia, you'd be mixing it with bleach. As a result, you create toxic fumes. 

The deck cleaner, oxygen bleach, and dish soap methods are much safer for your wood deck. 

Click here to see this oxygen bleach on Amazon.

Apply the Cleaner

Before you start scrubbing, you need to apply the cleaner to the surface. Dip a mop into your cleaning solution. Then, mop the area. If you use dish soap, spread it out of the bottle. 

You need a good amount of it on the surface. However, don't cover the entire deck. Work in sections. 

Scrub the Wood

Afterward, take your brush and scrub away. Once you finish with one section of the deck, move on to the others. Then, we need a way to remove the cleaner. 

So, take a hose and rinse the deck a final time. Wait 24 hours for the entire surface to dry. You can apply a stain and seal afterward. 

We'll include two videos demonstrating the cleaning process, one with oxygen bleach and the other with dish soap.

Here's a video demonstrating how to clean the deck with dish soap:

Using A Pressure Washer

Wooden deck floor cleaning with high pressure water jet

Using a pressure washer follows a similar procedure. First, remove any furniture you have on the deck. Then, sweep away as much debris as you can with a broom. Before you start pressure washing, wear appropriate gear. 

Wear work pants and boots. This way, you won't accidentally cut yourself if you point the nozzle at your foot. If you can, choose an electrically powered pressure washer. They're less aggressive than gas-powered ones. 

Pressure washers also come with five different nozzles. You want to use the 25-40 degree ones. The 25-degree nozzle is color-coded green. On the other hand, the 40-degree nozzle is white. 

Pressure Setting

Pressure washers use a heavy stream of water to remove grime. However, you don't want to use too much pressure. Otherwise, you will damage the wood. 

For this reason, you need to adjust the psi for the wood material you have. Softwoods can handle 500-600 psi. On the other hand, hardwood can handle 1200-1500 psi. 

Cleaning the Surface

You want to pull the trigger at the beginning of your first pass. Work at a steady pace. Of course, work in sections at least two boards wide. Don't point the wand too close to the surface.

Otherwise, you can leave marks on the wood boards. Work with the grain of the wood. As you finish the cleaning, sweep the nozzle up and release the trigger. 

Power Washing

Cleaning terrace with a power washer

If you're interested in power washing the deck, it follows the same procedure as pressure washing. However, you want to be more careful with a power washer. It uses hot, high-pressure water to remove grime. 

Therefore, it's a more aggressive approach to cleaning than pressure washing. Pressure washing uses high-pressure cold water. The same rules apply here. 

Don't aim it anywhere near yourself, wear appropriate clothing, and avoid using it too close to the wood boards. Here's a demonstration of the damage it can leave on the boards:

As you can see, using the wrong tip can also leave deep marks. For this reason, you should use wider angled nozzles. 

Soft Washing

The problem with pressure and power washing is the potential damage it can leave. The pressure washer can leave deep marks on the wood boards. Some of them are fixable with a sander. 

Though, the damage it leaves will most likely require board replacement. It's this situation where soft washing comes into play.

Pressure washers use high-pressure water. On the other hand, power washers use hot and high-pressure water. Soft washing meets it somewhere in the middle. 

It uses enough pressure, but it also involves using a cleaner. The cleaner contains bleach, water, and a cleaning surfactant. This combination of chemicals kills mold, algae, moss, and much more. 

Preparing the Surface

Like the previous methods, you start by clearing the area. Remove any furniture and sweep away any debris. However, you don't need to pre-rinse the surface.

Applying the Cleaner

The machine you use for soft washing will spread the cleaner over the area. You can purchase a soft-washing system. Otherwise, you can also use a pressure washer. 

They're not too different. You'll need to use a psi of 500. Of course, you'll also need to use the correct nozzle. A 40-degree nozzle would be the best for soft-washing purposes. 

Scrubbing the Surface

After applying the cleaner, you can come in with a brush. Scrub the surface to agitate stubborn debris. It also allows the cleaner to cover more area. 

Rinsing the Cleaner

Afterward, you need to remove the cleaner. So, you will have to grab a hose and rinse the surface. Then, wait for the deck to dry. It will take about 24 hours.

Here's a soft washing demonstration by a professional:

In Closing

As you can see, there are various ways to approach cleaning a wood deck. If you have a pressure washer, there are a couple of methods you can use. However, cleaning the deck by hand works just as well. We hope you found this informative.

Before you go, do you have other wood deck concerns? Snow accumulation is one issue people have. To learn more, check out:

Should You Shovel Your Deck? [And How To]

Are you planning to sand the deck? To learn if you should wash it afterward, check out:

Should You Wash Deck After Sanding?