5 Simple Deck Wash Recipes & Tips

Wood decks are a nice feature for the back yard but they do require a bit of TLC to keep them looking as good as possible and extend their lifespan. Here are a handful of homemade cleaners you can try including a couple for removing stains and mildew.

Some tips before getting started:

Try These Homemade Cleaners To Help Bring Your Deck To A ShineTry These Homemade Cleaners To Help Bring Your Deck To A Shine
  • Use a nylon bristle brush or broom for good scrubbing power.
  • A pressure washer can be used to clean your deck if done correctly and the wood is in good shape (the pressure can cause further damage if it isn't), keep it on the lowest setting that will clean the surface without damage (this will depend on how soft the wood is). You should be able to start safely at a 500 psi setting and work up from there. Use a fan tip setting between 40′ and 60′ tip size and spray with the grain. I found a page of expert tips for using a pressure washer here: Decks.com.
  • Check a test area first before applying detergents and chemicals to ensure that no damage or discoloration occurs. The type of wood (and the condition it's in), the type of stain or paint can each respond differently to a treatment.
  • A simple garden hose with a spray nozzle attachment can be used if you don't have a power washer, though you will need to put a bit more elbow grease into the job.
Recipes

Quick Notes:

  • Spray deck with water first before applying wash recipe, this helps prepare the surface so a cleaner can work its magic.
  • For water temperature, use quite warm but not so hot that you can't rest your hand in it.
  • Rinse surface well with clear water when removing cleaner.
  • Remove cleaner before it dries (or lightly spray with water during waiting period if it's drying too quickly).

General Cleaner:

1 gallon water
1 cup powdered laundry detergent (no bleach)
3/4 cup oxygen bleach (optional but good to use if mildew stains are present)

  • Directions: Mix well then pour over deck area. Scrub lightly with a broom or brush. Leave for 5 to 10 minutes then scrub again. Rinse with water. Repeat if needed.

Maintenance Wash:

Use this mix for a light cleaning where no real problems or staining exists (basically just removing surface dirt and freshening up the deck).

  • 2 cups white household vinegar mixed with 1 gallon of water. Pour over surface, leave for 10 to 15 minutes then brush with a stiff broom. Rinse well.
  • Another recipe to try: 3/4 cup oxygen bleach and 1 gallon water.
  • Or Try: 1 cup powdered laundry detergent with 1 gallon water.

Heavy Duty Cleaner:

  • 3 quarts of water, 1 cup oxygen bleach and 1 cup of TSP. Mix well and apply to surface, scrubbing with a stiff bristle broom. Leave for about 10 minutes before scrubbing again. Rinse well.

Fighting Mildew:

  • Try a mix of 3 quarts water, 1 cup oxygen bleach and 3/4 cup of liquid dishwasher detergent. Apply to surface, brush with a stiff broom and leave for 10 to 15 minutes. Scrub then rinse.

Stain Remover (such as Mold and Rust):

  • Mix 1 tablespoon of oxalic acid crystals (wood bleach) with 1 gallon of water. Apply to stains with a brush and leave alone until stains have faded then rinse well with clear water.
  • Grease stains can be conquered by applying powdered laundry detergent directly to stain (use a brush or broom), let it set for a few minutes then rinse.