Find out how to clean decking – whether it’s wood or composite

If yours is looking dirty, it’s gone green, and it’s slippery discover how to clean decking so it looks great again

how to clean decking
Clean decking is only a few steps away.
(Image credit: Cuprinol)

Wondering how to clean decking? A winter’s weather can definitely make a deck look dirty, plus mold, moss and algae might have taken the opportunity to find a home there, spoiling the deck’s appearance and making the surface a slip hazard. 

But you can say goodbye to all that grot and growth, and it’s not too much of a chore either. What’s more, if you get your deck cleaning done now, you’ll be ready to take advantage of fine weather for sitting out or eating alfresco as soon as it arrives.

We’ve put together all you need to know about how to clean a deck in this guide, from using the best pressure washers, to home remedies that work like a charm, so you can get your spring deck cleaning done. Make sure you check out the best deck cleaners as well. 

How to clean a deck

How to clean a deck with soapy water

Before you get to the deck cleaning, a little deck clearing is in order. If you left any furniture out on the deck over winter, move it out of the way. Then move any pots or planters away from its surface, too. To protect plants and grass nearby, you’ll need to cover them. 

Next, brush the surface of the deck using a stiff broom. This will get rid of any debris, but it will also help you make a start on growths like moss and mould. If you have decking with grooves, always make sure you brush in the direction of the grooves to get out the dirt and debris that gets lodged in them. You can use a scraper to remove any grot that evades the bristles of the broom, but work with caution so you’re removing dirt not scraping the decking itself.  

After that, you can make up a dish soap solution. Apply it to the surface, and use the stiff brush again to clean decking. Follow this by rinsing with clean water.

How to clean decking with a commercial cleaner

Like the idea of using a specialist deck cleaning product rather than dish soap? You’ll need to start off the cleaning process in the same way even so, clearing the deck of furniture and plant pots.

After you’ve done that follow the manufacturer’s instructions, which will likely involve applying the cleaner to the deck, and using a stiff brush to scrub at the surface. The product should then be left to work according to the instructions, and rinsed with clean water afterwards.

The best commercial cleaner for wood decks in our guide was Cuprinol Decking Cleaner. It’s made to remove dirt and grease and kill algae and mold, plus protect against regrowth. It also prepares decks for oiling and staining so you can keep the wood in good condition.

Like the idea of skipping the scrubbing but getting the deck clean all the same? Our top low effort cleaner is Pro-Kleen Patio Cleaner. It can be sprayed on to the deck, then left to remove mold and algae, starting to work within a few days of application.

How to clean a deck with a pressure washer

Generally you’ll find that deck cleaning with soapy water or a commercial product will get the results you want. If it doesn’t, then you could use a pressure washer if you have one.  

The key is to keep the pressure to the lowest setting. Make sure you also stand back from the deck so the spray nozzle isn’t too close – about 2 feet (60cm) is a good starting point but you can reduce this if you need to. Don’t go nearer than 6 inches (15cm) to avoid damaging the boards. It’s easiest to test in an inconspicuous place first, then you can work at an even distance over the entire surface.

Make sure you work along the wood grain and section by section evenly and systematically to clean a deck. 

Bear in mind that you can get a decking-cleaning attachment for a pressure washer to help you keep the deck in good condition. 

How to clean a deck without power washing

It’s definitely not compulsory to own a pressure washer to clean a deck. We’d always recommend trying dish soap or a specialist deck cleaning product before you embark on power washing. After all, you can still make your life easy by using your garden hose to do the rinsing.

Bear in mind that if your deck is made of wood, what might actually be required after cleaning to make it look good as new again is painting or staining the wood. If that’s the case, allow the deck to dry for 24 hours or more before application of the paint or stain.

How to clean decking naturally

Like the idea of cleaning decking naturally? The best homemade deck cleaner is warm water. OK, that’s not actually homemade, but it’s definitely an eco-friendly way to clean a deck, so if you’re a fan of natural cleaning do try this first.

The other natural deck cleaning option can be made with store cupboard favorites vinegar and baking soda. Use half a cup of white vinegar, a quarter cup of baking soda and 1 gallon (3.8ltr) of water to make up the cleaning solution.

How to clean composite decking

Composite decking is really easy to look after and a dish soap solution could be all you need to keep it looking as good as when it was first laid. Just make sure you rinse your cleaning solution off completely once you’ve applied it and brushed the deck.

If your composite deck has developed any mold, you can use a vinegar and baking soda solution to clean it (see above).

Prefer the idea of using a commercial deck cleaning product? Make sure you only opt for one that’s designed for composite decking.

How to clean painted decking

If your deck is made from wood and painted, you can clean it using a dish soap solution, or a gentle deck cleaning product that won’t cause damage to the painted surface and expose the wood below. Check the label to make sure the cleaner is recommended for painted surfaces.

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Sarah Warwick
Sarah Warwick

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes – long enough to see fridges become smart, decorating fashions embrace both minimalism and maximalism, and interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves testing the latest home appliances, revealing the trends in furnishings and fittings for every room, and investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper. For, Sarah reviews coffee machines and vacuum cleaners, taking them through their paces at home to give us an honest, real life review and comparison of every model.