How to Clean Composite Decking

How to Clean Composite Decking

Posted by Rick R. on Dec 13, 2023

Composite decking, a popular choice for modern homes, offers durability and aesthetic appeal. However, its longevity and appearance heavily depend on regular cleaning and maintenance. Proper care prevents common issues like mildew growth, discoloration, and wear. This guide provides essential steps and tips to ensure your composite deck remains a beautiful and functional outdoor space for years.

Pre-Cleaning Preparations

Before cleaning your composite deck, it's crucial to identify its manufacturer, as different brands may have specific care instructions. Choose a cleaning product specifically formulated for composite materials to avoid damage. Before starting the cleaning process, clear the deck area, move furniture, and cover any immovable fixtures to protect them from cleaning solutions and water.

Basic Cleaning Steps

  • Sweeping and Debris Removal: Begin by thoroughly sweeping the deck to remove loose debris, focusing on the gaps between boards where dirt and leaves tend to accumulate. Regular sweeping prevents build-up and makes subsequent cleaning steps more effective.
  • Power Washing Techniques and Alternatives: Power washing can efficiently clean your composite deck, but it's important to use the right settings to avoid damage. Use a fan tip nozzle and keep the pressure under 3100 PSI. For softer or older decks, a standard garden hose with a nozzle can be a gentler alternative. Always start with a lower pressure setting and increase it cautiously as needed. In many cases, you can clean your composite deck posts and composite railing using the same method.
  • Applying the Cleaner: Choose a cleaner suitable for composite decking. Apply it according to the manufacturer's instructions using a soft-bristle brush or cloth. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive tools which can damage the deck's surface. After applying the cleaner, scrub gently to lift and remove stains and rinse thoroughly with water. For tough stains, a second application may be necessary.

Advanced Cleaning Tips

  • Spot Cleaning for Stubborn Stains: Use a specific spot cleaner or a mild soap solution for stubborn stains such as grease or wine. Apply the cleaner directly to the stain and gently scrub. Rinse thoroughly to prevent any residue.
  • Mildew and Mold Prevention and Treatment: To prevent mold and mildew, ensure good air circulation around your deck and reduce moisture accumulation. For existing mold, use a cleaner that targets mold and mildew. Apply it to the affected area and scrub gently. Regular cleaning is key to preventing mold and mildew buildup.
  • Safe Use of Chemicals and Natural Alternatives: When using chemical cleaners, follow the manufacturer’s safety and environmental care guidelines. For a more natural approach, a solution of vinegar and water can be effective for general cleaning, being eco-friendly and less harsh on the decking material.

Understanding Composite Decking

Composite decking is made from a blend of wood fibers and plastic, offering a wood-like appearance with increased durability. As such, the cleaning process generally differs from wooden decks. There are two main types: capped and regular composite decks. Capped composite decking has an additional protective layer, providing extra resistance to elements and stains. In contrast, standard composite decks lack this coating but still offer significant resilience and ease of maintenance.

Maintenance and Care

  • Regular Maintenance Routines: Regular maintenance includes sweeping, checking for loose boards, and cleaning spills promptly. A seasonal deep clean is recommended to maintain the deck’s appearance and longevity.
  • Inspection and Minor Repairs: Regularly inspect your deck for any loose nails or screws and tighten them as needed. Check for signs of wear or damage, especially after harsh weather conditions. This is a good time to ensure your rails are clean and stable as well.
  • Advice on Furniture Placement and Protection: Avoid dragging furniture across the deck to prevent scratches and color fading. Use protective pads under furniture legs, and consider using outdoor rugs in high-traffic areas. Rotating furniture periodically can also help in even weathering of the deck surface.

Seasonal Care and Long-Term Preservation

  • Seasonal Cleaning and Maintenance Tips: Adjust your cleaning routine with the seasons. In fall, clear leaves and debris to prevent mold growth. Winter demands checking for ice damage. Spring cleaning should be more thorough, preparing the deck for increased use.
  • Long-Term Strategies: To extend your deck's life, reapply sealants or finishes every few years as the manufacturer recommends. Regularly check for structural integrity, paying attention to signs of aging or weather impact.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Use a deck brightener with oxalic acid for discoloration. A heat gun can often minimize scratches, but proceed with caution to avoid further damage. Always consult the manufacturer’s guidelines for specific issues.

Cleaning Composite Decking: Final Thoughts

Maintaining a composite deck requires regular cleaning, seasonal adjustments, and addressing issues promptly. By following these steps, you can ensure your deck remains a beautiful and durable extension of your home. Regular care preserves its appearance and extends its lifespan, making it a lasting investment in your outdoor living space.