Ultimate Guide to Deck Maintenance & Cleaning

Updated February 24, 2022
Woman Cleaning Wooden Deck With A High Water Pressure Cleaner

Is your deck looking a little shabby? Taking care of decks is an investment. Enjoy the beauty of your deck for years to come by performing deck maintenance through spring and routine cleaning and care.

Deck maintenance infographic

Annual Deck Maintenance in the Spring

Spring cleaning isn't just for the inside of the house. You need to take a look at your yard too. Deck cleaning should be part of the annual maintenance of your yard. You want to give your deck a yearly cleaning to scrub it and assess any issues your deck might have. For this, you need:

  • Broom
  • Leaf blower
  • Cleaner
  • Scrub brush
  • Hose
  • Putty knife
  • Tools
  • Nails and screws
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Gardening gloves
  • Wood filler
  • Roller with handle

Deck Materials

Before you start cleaning your deck, you need to know what it's made of. The cleaning materials you use will be slightly different depending on what your deck is made of. Most basic decks are made of:

  • Natural wood - pressure-treated or untreated woods like pine, cedar, and redwood
  • Composite - a mix of wood fibers and plastic
  • Vinyl - made of PVC material

Clear Off Deck

The first step in getting your deck ready for those summer parties is to remove any furniture, sticks, or other large items off the deck.

  1. Remove any furniture.
  2. Use the leave blower to get rid of any old leaves and debris.
  3. Pick up any large sticks.
  4. Use the putty knife to scrape off any stubborn gunk.
  5. Cover plants with plastic that the cleaning chemicals could harm.

Inspect and Repair the Deck

Inspect all parts of the deck, including the rails and stairs.

  • Check and replace loose or broken boards
  • Wiggle railings
  • Check joints
  • Fill holes with filler
  • Replace rotten boards
  • Secure loose nails or screws
  • Look for cracked peeling sealant

Thoroughly Clean the Deck

With the deck completely secure, you want to clean it. The how of your cleaning will depend on the materials your deck is created from. You want to use cleaners and methods that won't harm your Trex composite deck or vinyl deck, as well as wood. For example, you can use a power washer to clean off a wood deck, but it could damage a composite deck. Therefore, it's best to use a deck cleaner and scrub brush to be safe.

  1. Grab the commercial deck cleaner or homemade deck cleaner for your specific decking material.
  2. If your deck is super grimy, you might want to consider making your cleaner a bit more concentrated.
  3. Start in one area, hose down the deck.
  4. Add the cleaner using a roller.
  5. Allow it to sit for the recommended time, typically 5-15 minutes.
  6. Use the scrub brush to scrub the wood. (Pay attention to the nooks and crannies.)
  7. Rinse and start on another area.
  8. For railings, start from the bottom and work your way up.
  9. Once the whole deck has been scrubbed, give it a final rinse.

When it comes to a composite or vinyl deck, that's pretty much all you have to do to get it ready. However, with a wood deck, you might need to reseal it.

How to Apply New Sealant to Wood Deck

Unlike sealants composite decks, stains on wood decks don't last forever. That's just part of the wood decking game. So, about every 3-5 years, you'll notice your old sealant starting to peel and crumble. It needs to be replaced. It's time to grab:

  • Deck sealant
  • Brush
  • Scraper
  • Roller
  • Deck stripper
  • Sander
  • Sandpaper
  • Painters tape
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Broom

Do a Water Drop Test

One sure-fire way to know if your deck needs to be resealed is by doing a water test.

  1. Pour water on the deck.
  2. If it beads, your deck is good.
  3. If it absorbs the water, it needs to be resealed.

Remove Old Stain and Clean

You've confirmed you need to replace your sealant. After checking the weather report to make sure you have a few clear and nice days, you need to prep the wood. The first step is to remove the old stain.

  1. Tape off your house and cover any plants to keep them safe from stains or debris.
  2. Use a scraper or deck stripper to remove any old stain.
  3. If you use a stripper, follow all the instructions on the stripper.
  4. Once all the sealant is stripped, clean the deck to apply the new stain.

Sand Deck

After a thorough cleaning, the deck looks pretty ready for sealant. But, as an extra measure, you want to sand everything down with 60-80 grit sandpaper. This can ensure that all the sealant is gone and gives the stain a new surface to adhere to.

Apply Sealant

When applying stain to a deck, be sure to follow all the instructions on the back of the can. Including the type of tools you should be using.

  • Start with the handrails and move your way to the floor of the deck.
  • Do not apply stain in direct sunlight.
  • Allow it to completely dry before walking on it.

Year-Round Routine Maintenance for Deck

Deck maintenance doesn't end in spring. While that would be nice, you need to clean and maintain your deck in summer, fall, and winter. In various intervals throughout the year, you'll want to make sure to:

  • Check joints, beams, railing, and blanks
  • Fix damaged areas immediately
  • Move furniture, planters, and other decorations around to ensure areas of the deck do not get discolored by sunlight
  • Sweep the deck often to remove leaves and debris
  • Clean up spills immediately
  • Sweep away standing water

Tips to Maintain a Deck

Maintaining the beauty of your deck is essential to ensure your happiness and keep your investment looking sharp. Other tips you might want to consider when it comes to maintaining your deck include:

Father and son working together to paint the front porch
  • Do not allow leaves and rotting organic matter to accumulate on the deck.
  • Use a plastic shovel to remove snow.
  • Use a stain as a sealant, not paint.
  • Avoid organic rugs, like bamboo rugs that trap moisture.
  • Avoid using chlorine bleach to clean a deck, which can strip the wood color.
  • Don't just power wash your deck to clean it. This isn't enough to remove the soaked-in dirt.
  • Always give your deck a good cleaning in the spring.

Performing Deck Maintenance to Ensure Longevity

Cleaning decks may not be a fun task, but it's worth it when you spend your first warm afternoon or cool morning relaxing on your clean and attractive deck. Now that you've got an idea of what you need to do, it's time to get cleaning.

Ultimate Guide to Deck Maintenance & Cleaning