Fall is a great time to power wash your deck, while temperatures are still comfortable for outdoor projects and before they drop below freezing at night.
Annual power washing is an important part of your deck’s preventive maintenance. It helps keep your deck looking and functioning at its best, extending its life and saving you money. Pressure washing ensures a deep clean that you can’t get with manual washing…and saves you some elbow grease in the process.
Let’s look at a few more benefits of power washing your deck, as well as some basic instructions and our top tips for successful power washing.
Benefits of Power Washing Your Deck
There are a number of benefits to cleaning your deck with a pressure washer, including:
- Efficient Way To Clean. Using a pressure washer is a much faster and more effective way to clean your deck than any manual cleaning method. It removes dust, dirt, and debris with minimal effort.
- Keep Mold and Mildew at Bay. Manual cleaning can’t always remove all traces of mold and mildew, but pressure washing can.
- Prepare Your Deck for Staining or Painting. Without proper preparation, your stain or paint won’t fully adhere to your deck. Pressure washing is key to preparing your deck for staining.
- Prolong the Life of Your Deck. Annual pressure washing helps reveal potential issues, allowing you to make the necessary repairs to prolong your deck’s life.
- Boost Your Home’s Property Value. As part of your home, the appearance and structural integrity of your deck affect your home’s overall value. Proper maintenance keeps the value of your deck (and your home) up.
How To Power Wash Your Deck
If you’ve never used a pressure washer to clean your deck, you may think that it’s as simple as hooking it up, turning it on, and spraying down the deck. But while pressure washing isn’t difficult, it does have the potential to cause damage to your deck if it isn’t done properly. Follow these steps to power wash your deck:
Prep the Work Area. Begin by removing all objects from the deck, including furniture, grills, plants, and so on. Cover exterior lights and vents, close the windows, and cover nearby plants and shrubs with a tarp (pressurized water can damage them). Sweep the deck to remove loose dirt and debris.
Test the pressure washer in a small, inconspicuous area before washing the entire deck. This is especially important if you haven’t used a pressure washer before: you’ll want to test it out first to get a handle on how it works without damaging your deck.
Spray the entire deck using the pressure washer.
Clean. To rid your deck of stains, mildew, tree sap, or other grime, apply a degreaser/stain remover or a professional-grade deck cleaning solution. Follow the instructions on the cleaner for proper mixing and length of time to leave it on the decking before rinsing. Note: this step is best done in the early morning or late evening hours so the cleaner doesn’t evaporate in the sun.
Rinse the deck using the pressure washer.
Dry. Allow the deck to dry thoroughly.
Paint or Stain (optional). For a composite deck, whether you can stain it or not will depend on your decking. Older versions of composite decking made with a uniform mixture of wood fibers and plastic can be painted or stained, but most newer styles cannot. Check with your manufacturer to determine if staining or painting your composite decking is an option.
If you are planning to stain or paint a wood deck after power washing, your next step will be to sand it with 60-80 grit sandpaper or an orbital sander. Sweep well, then apply your stain or paint.
Top Tips for Power Washing Your Deck
To ensure you get the most out of your pressure washer without damaging your deck or injuring yourself, keep these tips in mind:
- Safety First. Never touch the pressure washer spray — highly pressurized water can cause injury. Use protective gear such as safety goggles, work gloves, and ear protection. Wear long pants and closed-toed shoes (preferably steel-toed boots).
- Cleaners. Choose a cleaner that is appropriate for your decking material and carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, never allow the cleaner to dry completely on the surface of the deck.
- Tip Choice. A wide-angle brush- or fan-style nozzle is best for optimal cleaning and to avoid damage to your deck (40-60 degree tip size is standard). Never use a jet-style tip to clean your deck.
- Pressure Settings. Start with the pressure at 500-600 psi, increasing the pressure until you find the right setting for proper cleaning (typically around 1200-1500 psi, but it varies depending on your deck material). Too little pressure will result in less cleaning power, but too much pressure could cause damage to your deck’s surface.
- Rinsing Technique. Start by holding the nozzle about two feet from the deck’s surface. Move closer as needed, but stay at least 6 inches away from the surface. Use a sweeping motion, starting at the side of the deck closest to the house and sweeping outward, moving at a moderate pace. Always work with the grain.
- Corners. Try not to work yourself into a corner. As you approach a corner, turn on the pressure washer, move it into the corner, then sweep the spray out (making an “L” shape). In doing this, you will have to spray against the grain to get the spray into the corner, so keep the nozzle further from the surface until you reach the corner.
- Let it Dry. Allow the deck to dry completely — a minimum of 24 hours. Ideally, you should wash your deck at a time when there will be no rain, dew, or other moisture for a few days so the deck can dry thoroughly.
Following these instructions and tips will help you power wash your deck successfully. Repeat power washing yearly to maintain your deck’s beauty and function so you can enjoy it for years to come.