3 great ways to clean decking without a jet washer

You start with nice new clean decking, but wood left out in all weathers quickly begins to look ‘weathered’. However, the change in colour is not a sign of decay; weathering is often only skin deep. To bring back some of the original look you can clean decking in a number of ways.

Using a jet washer is probably the most popular modern method. However, a jet washer does quite a bit of damage to the top surface of your decking boards. The high powered water jets can easily rip off the top surface and make them look prematurely old.

The good news is that the ‘do it properly’ method of keeping your decking looking good and safe to walk on is really rather simple.

Clean decking with soap and water

The old fashioned way to clean decking was to scrub it with bleach, but the problem with bleach is that it does break down the fibres of the wood so will in time degrade your deck just as much as a poorly aimed jet wash. In addition we are learning more about how, once bleach gets into the watercourse it ends up in rivers and seas, reacting with minerals to form a host of toxins that disrupt the environmental balance and kill wildlife.

dirty decking

A little washing up liquid in a bucket will do the job just as well without damaging either the underlying deck surface or the wider environment.

If you use an eco friendly soap then the residues cause almost no harm to the environment whatsoever. I use a bucket of water with four good squirts of biodegradable, plant-based ecover washing up liquid.

The technique is to fully wet the surface, wait five minutes and then scrub the deck with more soapy water. You should see a green scum rapidly appear in the soap suds.

The green scum is evidence that you are taking off the mold and algae that has been growing on the wood surface.

Algae are neither plants, animal or fungi. They don’t have deep ‘roots’ so a bit of soap and a scrub are all that you need for a basic clean.

cleaning underway

This really is the best method, but read on as I discuss other ways to clean decking

Vinegar and Baking Soda

Mixing equal parts water with baking soda and vinegar is one of the suggestions we tried, but to be honest, it was less effective and smelled a whole lot worse than the standard soap and water approach. If you want to try it yourself, scrub the deck thoroughly with a long-handled brush after applying the mixture and let it sit for several minutes giving time for the vinegar to kill off the algae . I suppose the baking soda helps deodorise (getting rid of the vinegar smell that is all over your decking). I gave this a 3/10 and wouldn’t do it again.

Deck Cleaner and Reviver from Ronseal

Proprietary Deck Cleaner does work and has plenty of fans, but I didn’t actually find this to be a whole lot better finish that that which was achieved with my bucket of soapy water. It is a Solvent-Based liquid costing £5.99 for five litres (2020 prices). As I say, It works but I cant really recommend deck cleaner above the basic soap and water technique.

Brush or Deck Scrubber?

So the real difference is the tool that actually comes in contact with the wood. A traditional outdoor long handled broom works pretty well, but some of the ‘scrubbers’ that are specifically sold for cleaning decking are much better. If you are OK kneeling, then they make the job easier and much more satisfying. So, which scrubber should you buy if you want clean decking?

The dark green boards top right were how everything looked before cleaning began

I went for a German branded wooden scrubbing brush. It is pointed at one end, allowing me to focus on a small area if needed, although just using it flat was perfectly adequate for 99% of the decking.

I have also tried a wire brush on a long handle, but the handle wasnt quite long enough, leaving me with backache.

half and half

Dont forget to move pots because the deck beneath them will be a haven for algae and will need cleaning too.

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About the author

Loves to learn new things and make stuff...properly. Born and living in the Thames Valley west of London, England. I have an office job during the day, but evenings and weekends are all about making.