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. It’s this technology that’s really transformed the nation’s gardens, possessing as it does a perfect storm of qualities. It’s longer lasting than timber, and doesn’t 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. There’s no need to invest in tins of staining finish each year, or to break out the sandpaper. There’s 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, you’ll be able to ensure that your deck lasts long into the future. Let’s take a look at exactly how!
What to Clean Composite Deck With
First, let’s think about the materials we’re going to be using. Just any household cleaner won’t 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 you’ll 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 they’re not a requirement. You’ll also need a scrubbing brush, but not a metal one, as these will damage the deck.
How to Clean Your Composite Deck
Let’s break down the entire process into a few steps. If you’re organised, you can get it all done in just a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon get it done during the summer, when your decking is at its driest and any water you add will evaporate quickly. With that said, you’ll want to work in small sections if you’re 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, you’ll want to move all the furniture sitting on your decking. This might include chairs, tables, barbeque grills and potted plants. Don’t try to clean around them it’s more hassle than it’s 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 you’re 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 it’ll 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 it’ll 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 aren’t invulnerable to damage caused by standing water. Get those gaps cleared every time you clean, and this is a problem you won’t have to deal with.
When you’re done, all that’s 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 won’t 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 it’ll be as good as new!
Cleaning Composite Deck with a Pressure Washer
If you’re 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 won’t 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 it’s low-maintenance, and tremendously forgiving. All that you really need is a soft scrubbing brush and some soapy water, both of which you might already have. Once you’ve done the job once, you’ll be well-equipped to do it repeatedly and you’ll be rewarded with clean decking for years to come.