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Stain Removal Tips for Decks

Leaves, mildew, food, grease, debris – these are just a few staining agents that often wreak havoc on decks. Decks are the launching pads for outdoor fun. They are no stranger to wayward footballs and barbeque sauce, muddy shoes and a thick layer of leaves and snow. It seems no time at all before a deck loses its new, reflective luster and stains begin to take over.

There is no real uniform answer for removing stains from decks. Household cleaners, mineral spirits, and professionally-made deck cleaners can all have a role in stain removal. But the first and most important thing to do is keep the deck as clean as possible. Sweep it regularly. Hose it off with a garden hose for starters. Try to get dirt and debris out from the gaps between deck boards to ensure that water is running off the deck. Out of standing water comes rot, mildew, and an unwanted home improvement project.

If it’s too late for preventative methods and stains already abound, then the following tips should help get to the bottom of things.

  • First, sweep the deck thoroughly, taking care of dirt and debris as described above.
  • Again, wash down the deck – with a garden hose if possible, with a power washer (at a safe distance) if necessary to really get things moving.
  • Now it is time to clean. Buy a commercial deck cleaner or dilute some bleach in water (roughly one cup bleach per gallon water). Apply the cleaner with a stiff brush or broom.

NOTE: Always Be Safe! Wear rubber gloves and wear safety goggles if you will be working close to the surface (i.e., hand-scrubbing).

  • Frustrating stains may require some elbow grease. Also, if bleach or general deck cleaner just aren’t cutting it, there are other solutions as well, depending on the type of stain. This website has an easy-to-follow list and instructions: How to Remove Stains on Decks & Porches.
  • Mildew stains may be removable with a stronger bleach solution. Just be sure to rinse the area thoroughly after a few minutes.
  • Also, be aware of any plants on the deck that may take damage from these harsh cleaners. Either cover plants with plastic or remove them from the deck. Always rinse them extensively afterward.
  • Repeat the process if necessary until stains are removed.

Let’s say you really want to just remove that old deck stain that you just don’t like anymore. Here’s stain removal in a different sense of the phrase, but with a similar solution. In this case, apply some water-based deck stripper to remove the majority of the old stain. Then pressure wash the entire deck with a high-powered washer. Finally, use an orbital sander (80-100 grit paper) to take off the rest of the finish and re-stain.

Do you feel a bit defeated, short on time or “up against it” when you look out at your roughed-up deck? Why not get a free estimate from local, pre-screened contractor?

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