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Article by Michael A / January 4th, 2023

How To Power Wash A Deck

When it comes to outdoor living spaces, one of the most important tasks to keep up with is maintaining your deck. If left untreated, outside elements such as dirt, debris, sap, and mildew can quickly lead to a deck’s disrepair. Without regular maintenance, decks can become stained and slippery due to build-up. 

Luckily, there is an easy way to get rid of all that gunk: power washing! When cleaning decks, power washing provides the most efficient and beautiful results. A power washer can penetrate even the toughest built-up grime or mold, giving a deck a brand-new look with minimal effort. 

This article will provide step-by-step instructions for anyone looking to return their deck to its former glory using an ordinary power washer. You’ll also find tips on preparing for the task and pointers for post-power wash maintenance. So don’t let your deck suffer – read on and get power washing.

Preparing to Power Wash Your Deck

Before starting the power washer up, there are a few things you need to do to ensure you do the job correctly and safely.

Prep the Area

First and foremost, it is critical to close all windows and doors that could be damaged by high-powered water jets. Remove items such as planters or outdoor furniture in proximity as they could get in the way or damaged. Consider any nearby plants or HVAC units that might be affected by the powerful spray; create a barrier around them if possible. Cover any electrical components and light fixtures as well.

Protect Yourself

Power washers can be dangerous when used incorrectly. According to research, over 6000 people go to the ER yearly to get treatment for power washer-related injuries. When it comes to protecting yourself, it’s paramount that you wear protective gear such as goggles, gloves, and full clothing. Ensure your pets and children are out of harm’s way indoors.

Get the Right Power Washing Machine

If you don’t have a power washer, renting one is generally the answer. To begin with, it’s important to understand the PSI (pounds per square inch) you’ll need for your decking material since this indicates the amount of pressure the machine generates. 

Softwoods such as pine and cedar will require a power washer with 500 to 600 PSI, which will thoroughly clean these materials without damaging them. Too much pressure will damage the wood and make the power washer wand much harder to control.

On the other hand, pressure-treated woods like redwood and mahogany need a higher level, usually 1200 to 1500 PSI. Knowing what power washer you’ll need before renting or buying will save time and ensure an efficient job on your deck.

Rent a unit that allows for the intake of chemical cleaners to spray through the wand for an effective and successful cleaning process. Additionally, choosing the correct nozzle can make all of the difference. You can start with the 40-degree nozzle for the deck, but most people find that the 25-degree nozzle offers the best results. Here is how to know different nozzles.

  • A white nozzle sprays at 40 degrees.
  • A green nozzle sprays at 25 degrees.
  • A yellow nozzle sprays at 15 degrees.
  • A red nozzle sprays at 0 degrees.
  • A black nozzle dispenses soap and restricts the pressure significantly.

Practice Using The Power Washer

Start by reading the instructions included in the power washer thoroughly before starting any work. Once you feel comfortable with the basics of the machine, practice using the power washer on an inconspicuous part of your yard or driveway so you can become familiar with the proper technique. It’s beneficial to get comfortable with the equipment first because a power washer is incredibly powerful. If used negligently, it could create permanent damage.

Add Deck Cleaning Solution To The Power Washer

When power washing your deck, you should use a deck cleaning solution. The right one will highly depend on the decking material. You can get different solutions specifically formulated for wood, composite, or aluminum decks, so make sure you have selected the appropriate one. 

Also, reading and following the instructions is important when adding the solution to the power washer. Take recommended proportions and safety precautions into account. Doing so will ensure a successful and safe power-washing experience.

Apply The Deck Cleaning Solution

Apply the deck cleaning solution over the entire surface of the deck with the black soap-dispensing nozzle. Then, use long, broad strokes to spray from one end of the deck to the other and ensure all areas are covered. Remember to pay attention to any corners, cracks, or crevices and give them special attention with extra cleaner. For the cleaning solution to take full effect and clean the dirtiest parts of your deck, allow it to sit on the deck for about 10 to 20 minutes before power washing.

Can You Power Wash A Deck With Just Water?

While cleaning solutions can certainly help with a power washing job, it is not necessary. Power washing a deck with just water is possible and can effectively make the deck look new again. The pressure from the power washer will easily remove dirt and debris from the deck’s surface.

Power Wash The Deck

Before blasting away with the power washer, do pre-cleaning by scrubbing with a bristle brush. Scrubbing will help loosen any grime or gunk built up on the deck surface and make it easier to remove with power washing. 

Once you start with the power washer, keep the nozzle at least 12 to 18 inches from the surface. If you’re too close, you could damage the wood finish with the jet spray. The pressure will only sufficiently clean the surface if you’re close enough. Also, avoid zigzagging with the power washer, as you’ll likely score the wood. Here are the different cleaning methods to use.

The Sweeping Method

The key to this method’s success lies in its execution – ensuring that the motion of the pressure washer is parallel to the grain of the wood. The pressure must also be consistent to avoid leaving any “lap marks” on the surface. Furthermore, take great care to ensure consistent pressure over the full length of each stroke.

The Feathering Method

This method involves reducing the pressure of the nozzle as it nears wood surfaces to avoid delineation between different strokes. As expected, this method requires more strokes and is slower; however, it greatly improves the overall look by helping mask the starts and stops of each sweep. Though more time-consuming, the feathering method provides superior results.

The Long Sweep Method

This method utilizes long, full strokes from one end of the board to the other. It’s important to remember that the tip should remain consistently away from the deck for the best results. This method is ideal for decks without railings or other obstructions, where even starts and stops can be more difficult. Used properly, this method will keep the time spent power washing to a minimum while ensuring a thorough cleaning.

Allow The Deck To Dry Completely Before Staining Or Sealing

After power washing your deck, it is important to ensure water runs off the surface completely. If there is any pooling water on your deck, use a mop or a leaf blower to help expedite the drying process. Drying protects the deck and prevents dirt from sticking to the wet surface. If you intend to stain or seal your deck, you’ll have to give it a day or two to dry completely.

Consider Sanding The Deck

Once you give your deck a good power wash, one of the tasks you should plan on is sanding. Due to the nature of wood, the fibers raised from power washing increase the risk of splinters, particularly for railings. 

To reduce that risk and make the deck surface smoother, lightly sand with moderate-grit sandpaper. If you are looking to stain or seal the deck after, you may need to sand the entire structure rather than just isolated areas.

Need Help Washing Your Deck? Call In The Professionals

Power washing your deck can be tricky; if you’re not comfortable tackling it yourself, then it’s best to call in the professionals. A professional power washer will have the appropriate equipment and skills to safely and effectively clean your deck without damaging it. They will also be able to provide advice on how to maintain your deck in-between professional washes so you can keep it looking great for years to come.

Conclusion

Power washing a deck is an easy and efficient way to bring life into your outdoor living space. After you have completed the project, you can step back and admire the spotless deck. After following these steps to power wash a deck, you will achieve increased curb appeal with minimal effort.

Check for any visible signs of damage after the process and take the necessary steps to protect your wood from future wear and tear. Also, if you’re not up to it, hire experienced power-washing professionals to ensure maximum results.

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