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Should You Power Wash A Wooden Deck? [And How To]

There's no better way to rinse away years of dirt buildup than through power washing. It can make any surface look as good as new! One surface that could use power washing is a wooden deck. However, should you use this method of cleaning? Let's find out!

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Power washing is one way to clean a wooden deck. However, the person doing the cleaning should know what they're doing. Otherwise, it could ruin the decking material. It can make splintering worse. 

If you plan on doing this yourself, there are a few rules. Failing to follow the rules can ruin your deck. You have to consider the amount of pressure a power washer uses. Regardless, we'll go over the steps of power washing. To learn more, keep reading.

Lakeside luxury home with large wood deck and beautifully landscaped yard, Should You Power Wash A Wooden Deck? [And How To]

What You Should Know Before Power Washing A Wooden Deck

 Cleaning terrace with a power washer

A power wash is a fast and easy way to remove dirt, mold, mildew, and old stains. As the name implies, it does this using pressure. A combination of hot water and high pressure makes it one of the best methods to remove surface grime.

Since power washers utilize hot water and high pressure, it's important to be careful with how you use them. Otherwise, they'll remove more than dirt buildup. Let's discuss what you should and should not do. 

Keep Your Distance

The first factor to keep in mind is distance. You want to keep a good distance between the wooden deck and the power washer's wand. If it's too close to the wood, it will remove any protective coating the wooden deck has.

However, this problem is relatively forgiving, as you could sand the surface until it's level again. However, it's best to avoid this mistake in the first place. Power washing too close to the wood can make pre-existing splintering worse. 

Use The Appropriate Nozzle

The second rule is to use the appropriate nozzle. If you didn't know, there are five nozzles a power washer can use. Each one serves a different purpose.

Click here to see these power washer nozzles on Amazon.

If you use the wrong nozzle to clean your deck, it can cut the wood. Committing this mistake is less forgiving. You might have to replace the board. 

Here's a video demonstrating the type of damage it can do:

Keep It Moving

You want to keep working at a steady pace. A power washer should never stay in one spot. If you aim the power washer in one area for too long, it can remove more than intended. 

Instead, you'll need to move at a pace that's not too slow. But, it shouldn't move too fast either. Pick a board and work in a back-and-forth motion. Of course, work your way up. This way, you can remove the most grime without damaging the boards. 

Using An Appropriate Power Washer

Before you start the process, you need to pick an appropriate power washer. There are two options—it can be gas powered or electrically powered. 

Gas-powered power washers are more powerful than electric units. Gas-powered models are typically for commercial use. In other words, it's powerful enough to strip paint off of buildings and remove graffiti. 

You don't want this for cleaning a deck. Most professionals will use an electric power washer. If they decide to use a gas-powered power washer, they have the skills to use it without damaging your boards.

Wear The Appropriate Gear

Power washers use a massive amount of pressure. For this reason, you need to wear the right equipment. Avoid wearing any open-toed shoes. Instead, wear a pair of boots. 

The hot, high-pressure water will splash all over the place. So, you want to avoid wearing shorts. Pants are more fitting for the job. Never aim the wand/hose towards your feet. It can cut and burn your skin. Of course, don't let children or pets anywhere near the area. 

How To Power Wash Your Wooden Deck

Power washing - worker cleaning terrace with a power washer - high water pressure cleaner on wooden terrace surface

With all the information in mind, let's start the cleaning. Before you start, make sure you're using the 25-degree nozzle. It will typically be color-coded green. The 40-degree nozzle should work too.

If you have a softwooden deck, use a pressure setting around 500-1,000 psi. Hardwood decks can withstand more pressure. Use around 1,200-1,500 psi for hardwood.

You want to clean the deck in a sweeping motion. Pull the trigger of the power washer at the beginning of your first pass. Work on a swath of wood two boards wide. Of course, keep the power washer about 8-12 inches from the surface. Spray with the grain of the wood. 

The important aspect is to keep the sweeping motion consistent. When you finish cleaning, sweep the nozzle up before releasing the trigger. 

Here's a YouTube video demonstrating the process:

Power Washer Attachments

You can power wash a wooden deck the traditional way. However, there is an attachment you can use that makes the job easier. 

Click here to see this power washer attachment on Amazon.

It works by using two spinning nozzles. The spinning sounds like a gimmick, but it isn't. It unsettles the dirt in the wood. As a result, it makes cleaning faster. 

The advantage of using this attachment is that it eliminates the possibility of an error on your part; you don't have to worry about getting the nozzle too close to the surface. 

The attachment keeps the nozzle at a fixed height. This way, you can focus on the sweeping motion instead. If you'd like to see how it works, here's a demonstration:

Alternative Ways To Clean A Deck

As you can see, there's a lot of responsibility associated with power washing a deck. It can be a nightmare if you don't abide by the aforementioned best practices. Even after looking at the warnings and instructions, you might be hesitant to power wash the deck. 

If that's the case, the safe option would be to soft wash it. It's the opposite of power washing. Instead of using high-pressure water, it uses low-pressure water with a cleaning solution. 

The cleaning solution will kill mold, mildew, moss, bacteria, etc. It consists of three main ingredients—bleach, surfactant, and water. However, there is a disadvantage to using this method. 

Disadvantages Of Soft Washing

The problem with soft washing is the chemicals it uses. It can destroy any nearby vegetation. So, you'll want to be careful where you use it. As the name implies, it isn't too tough on the wood. 

It might seem like a benefit more than a drawback. However, that means it might not be enough to remove tough stains. In any case, it's an option to consider. 

You'll have to decide what you want to do. Power washing will strip almost everything away from a wood board. So, you'll probably need to apply a stain after it dries. 

Soft washing focuses more on removing grime on top of the boards. If you want to clean the deck, go with soft washing. Otherwise, start with a clean slate by power washing the deck. 

Scrub And Brush

Woman cleaning the floor with brush

The possibility of damaging the wood boards is too much to bear for some people. At this point, you have two options. First, you can hire a professional to do the work. The other option is to use the old methods. A scrub and a brush will do the trick.

It's going to take more effort, but the lingering worry of damaging the boards won't be there. Brushes are tough on grime instead of wood. Additionally, some will have a scrape bar. It gives you more options to remove surface grime. 

Click here to see this floor scrub brush on Amazon.

All it takes is soap and water. First, you rinse the deck with a hose. Once the boards are wet, you can apply dish soap. Some will suggest diluting the soap before using it on wood.

However, sometimes you'll need the full strength of it. It all depends on your situation. Once you spread the soap, all you have to do is brush and scrape away. 

What Is the Difference Between Pressure Wash And Power Wash?

There are many ways to clean a deck. We've mentioned soft washing, power washing, and scrub brushing. Though, there's one term that closely relates to power washing. 

You might have heard of pressure washing. As we've learned, power washing uses hot, high-pressure water to clean surfaces. So, what does pressure washing do?

They perform relatively the same. However, power washing uses hot water to provide extra cleaning power. Pressure washers use cold water. So, they rely on the pressure to remove grime off of surfaces. 

Professionals generally use power washers to clean surfaces like cement or concrete. Pressure washers are less aggressive, which is what you would want to use to clean a deck. 

Final Takeaway

Power washing a deck is a good way to start with a clean slate. However, it can damage the wood board with incorrect use. But if you do it correctly, it can make the deck look as good as new. 

Before you go, do you have other wooden deck concerns? Do you need advice on deck maintenance for the winter? To learn more, check out:

Should You Shovel Your Deck? [And How To]

Are you having trouble deciding if you want to stain the deck? For more information, check out:

Pros And Cons Of Staining A Deck