Woodworking Tips
Woodworking Tips Index
Deck Cleaners
Less than two years ago, I build a new deck on the back of my house -- 17' by 26' on three levels. All visible parts of the deck are cedar. I finished it with a transparent tung oil product. It looked terrific.

Last summer was a busy summer, and what with one thing and another, I never got around to cleaning the deck. So you can imagine what it looks like this spring. It's gray, dark gray, streaked, and just plan awful.

I took my tale of woe over to the guys at Workbench. Their response was, "No problem." Actually there are two problems, dirt and mildew. Fortunately, both are removable, and somewhere under all that gray is my beautiful deck.

Here's what they told me: Commercial cleaners are available at paint stores, or you can make your own using one part household bleach and three parts cleaning solution, such as dish detergent mixed with water. (Never mix bleach with an ammonia-base cleaner.)

Scrub the deck or other graying, "mildewed" areas of your house, or rent a power washer to do really tough jobs (like mine). And then rinse everything with lots of clean water. It's also important to thoroughly rinse all of the cleaning solution off your plants and the lawn (although it's better to protect your landscaping from any contact if possible).

If you're applying a new finish, use a good quality outdoor paint or deck stain that contains a mildewcide. And you may still want to buy a mildewcide separately and add it for additional protection.

Mildew needs moisture to survive, so shady areas provide an ideal environment. If you can trim back trees and shrubs that are blocking the sun, you'll make it harder for the mildew to return. I'll let you know how it works out.

Follow up comments that originally appeared with Tip #8: Last week I talked about making your own cleaning solution for removing dirt and mildew from your deck and other exterior surfaces around your house. In response, Rogge March emailed his recipe for what he calls "housewash":
1 cup detergent
1 quart of bleach
1 gallon of water
He added, "On the Gulf Coast, mildew is a part of everyday life. I use 'housewash' to clean everything outside. It works beautifully. However, avoid getting it on earthworms. They don't like it one bit!"

Go to Tip #8
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