How to Clean Your Composite Deck
January 23, 2018
For decades, there were only two options when it came to your patio: wood or stone. Eventually, plastics came along, and with them composite decking. Itís this technology thatís really transformed the nationís gardens, possessing as it does a perfect storm of qualities. Itís longer lasting than timber, and doesnít require any painting or staining. But on the other hand, it looks just as good as the best sorts of timber, and modern examples make heavy use of recycled materials.
Among the most appealing advantages of a composite deck over a timber one is that it requires barely any maintenance. Thereís no need to invest in tins of staining finish each year, or to break out the sandpaper. Thereís no need to wait for successive coats of paint to dry, either.
With all of that said, a little bit of maintenance will go a long way toward safeguarding your composite deck. By investing just a couple of hours each year, youíll be able to ensure that your deck lasts long into the future. Letís take a look at exactly how!
What to Clean Composite Deck With
First, letís think about the materials weíre going to be using. Just any household cleaner wonít do: a sufficiently caustic cleaning product can easily away strip the protective coatings and internal structure of a composite board. The last thing you want to do is invest in a lovely-looking deck, only to bleach all those lovely looks away: cleaning composite deck with bleach is therefore a no-no.
In most instances, all youíll need to clean your deck is a pump-sprayer and a mild household cleaner. You can find cleaning solutions that have been specially-formulated for cleaning decks, but theyíre not a requirement. Youíll also need a scrubbing brush Ė but not a metal one, as these will damage the deck.
How to Clean Your Composite Deck
Letís break down the entire process into a few steps. If youíre organised, you can get it all done in just a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon Ė get it done during the summer, when your decking is at its driest and any water you add will evaporate quickly. With that said, youíll want to work in small sections if youíre working in direct sunlight, to prevent dirty water and suds from drying onto the surface before you have a chance to wash them away.
First, youíll want to move all the furniture sitting on your decking. This might include chairs, tables, barbeque grills and potted plants. Donít try to clean around them Ė itís more hassle than itís worth. Secondly, get rid of any loose debris that might be sitting just on the surface of your decking. This can be done with broom or a leaf-blower, depending on just how much debris youíre dealing with.
One of the problems in the sweeping phase is that your decking is covered in small gaps, into which little bits of debris is sure to fall. Allow this stuff to accumulate, and itíll form blockages that will prevent rainwater from properly draining. The organic particles that sit in these gaps can then stew, leaching tannin into rainwater. This is the same stuff that gives red wine its colour, and itíll stain terribly if not checked. Standing rainwater can also cause the boards to swell, warp and crack.
One way to avoid this build up of debris is to use a jet wash after sweeping. This will wash away the debris stuck in these tiny gaps and prevent this from happening.
While composite boards are far more resistant to warping than their traditional timber counterparts, they arenít invulnerable to damage caused by standing water. Get those gaps cleared every time you clean, and this is a problem you wonít have to deal with.
When youíre done, all thatís left to do is replace the furniture you moved at the start of the process. You should now be looking at clean, stunning-looking decking. Give yourself a pat on the back!
How to Clean Composite Deck Railing
But what about the railing? The same principles apply here, but the task is mercifully simple as you wonít need to worry about standing water or gaps between boards. Just use soapy water and a soft scouring pad, and scrub that railing clean. Rinse, and allow to dry in the sunlight, and itíll be as good as new!
Cleaning Composite Deck with a Pressure Washer
If youíre especially savvy with the ways of garden maintenance, then a lightbulb might already have gone off just above your head. Can a composite deck be pressure washed? Surely a blast of pressurised water could do the same job, and without the same level of elbow-grease?
Much like harsh chemicals, pressure washing can also strip away the coatings that protect your composite decking. They should therefore be used with extreme caution. Keep the pressure at less than 2500 psi, and use a wide, fan-tip nozzle (or an oscillating one) to reduce the risk of damage. Wash along the grain rather than against it for best results, and keep the end of the nozzle at least a foot away from the surface.
If these directions are making you feel a little nervous, then it would probably be best to use more traditional cleaning tools. That way, you wonít need to worry about the top layer of your decking being damaged should you inadvertently drop the washer.
One of the joys of composite decking is that itís low-maintenance, and tremendously forgiving. All that you really need is a soft scrubbing brush and some soapy water Ė both of which you might already have. Once youíve done the job once, youíll be well-equipped to do it repeatedly Ė and youíll be rewarded with clean decking for years to come.