Homemade Deck Cleaners – 3 Excellent Recipes (and Tips)

Most people use their homes’ decks regularly. A nice deck can be used for parties or small family gatherings. It can be your kids’ and pets’ favorite place to play and a nice place for a potted plants garden.

Regardless of what you use the deck for, keeping your deck clean is often a challenge. From algae, mildew, and mold to just dirt and debris, there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be cleaned off our decks.

And while there are plenty of usually effective commercial cleaning products for decks, these are often unnecessarily toxic and expensive. Instead, preparing your own DIY homemade deck cleaner can be both much cheaper and safer as you’ll know exactly what’s in it.

With that in mind, here are our 3 homemade deck cleaners recipes that you might want to consider.

How to make your own DIY deck cleaner?

Maintaining your wooden deck

A clean deck is a joy to behold!

There are multiple recipes for a good DIY homemade deck cleaner solution. The two main ingredients in most of them are warm water and powdered oxygen bleach. Standard household or laundry bleach can work too but we’d generally recommend powdered oxygen bleach for most recipes.

Aside from that, depending on what exactly your deck is struggling with, there are various other inclusions you might want to put in your homemade deck cleaner. Make sure to use a nice and clean metal bucket, as well as rubber gloves and other protection while mixing your deck cleaner. The recipes below won’t be too toxic and they are even generally safe for your greenery but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Important note: bleach and ammonia should NOT be mixed as together they produce a dangerous and potentially lethal gas. So, while we’ll talk about mixing bleach with soaps below, in every situation remember that you should use ammonia-free soaps and products ONLY.

1. Standard Soapy Deck Scrub Deck Cleaner Recipe

The “vanilla” recipe for a homemade deck cleaner is pretty straightforward. Here are the three ingredients:

  • 2 gallons of warm water.
  • 2 quarts of household bleach or 2 cups of powdered oxygen bleach.
  • A quarter cup of a mild ammonia-free liquid dish soap. As long as it has no ammonia you can use whatever soap you want so pick one with an aroma of your choosing.

This is a good and basic all-around recipe for an annual or semi-annual deck cleaning. If you have a particularly severe problem with something, there are other more focused recipes, but soap, bleach, and water is a good choice most of the time.

2. Algae And Mildew Deck Cleaner Recipe

If you have a particularly bad mildew, mold or algae problem, here’s an easy fix:

  • 2 gallons of warm water.
  • 2 cups of powdered oxygen bleach.
  • 1 cup of trisodium phosphate (TSP). TPS is an inorganic compound and a powerful cleaning element. Be careful about ingesting or inhaling TSP and keep it away from pets and children. Once it’s mixed with a couple of gallons of water, however, you should be able to safely clean your deck with no problems for you or your family.

TPS is such a strong cleaning compound that it should make short work of any mildew or mold on your deck. Don’t add more than the recommended dosage, however.

3. Oily Rubbing-Alcohol Deck Cleaner Recipe

Another good middle-of-the-road recipe includes oily soaps and rubbing alcohol. Here are its ingredients:

  • 2 gallons of warm water.
  • 2 quarts of household bleach or 2 cups of powdered oxygen bleach.
  • 3 cups of rubbing alcohol.
  • 4 tablespoons of a nice ammonia-free oily soap.

The main difference between this recipe and the general recipe we started with is the rubbing alcohol. Most people don’t like the smell of it which is why we also add a nice scented soap to the mixture. The alcohol does serve a good purpose, however – it helps lift the dirt, mold, and mildew up after the bleach has dissolved them. This makes the whole mess much easier to rinse and clean.

The Most Efficient Ways To Clean Your Deck

Pressure washer to clean wooden deck

Now that you’ve got your homemade deck cleaner in a bucket, it’s time to clean the deck itself. There are two main ways to do that: 1) a good ol’ traditional scrubbing or 2) using a pressure washer.

Of course, you can always go for a bit of both. Pressure washers, both electric and gas engine ones, are a great way to speed up the process. Even just on smaller decks but especially on big ones, a pressure washer can give you a much faster and more effective soak and rinse thanks to the high-pressure water jets it can dish out. Also as pressure washers have many uses, it’s a worthy investment.

Still, a good scrubbing is still often needed, especially for places where the pressure washer can’t reach directly. If you don’t have a pressure washer, you can always use a garden hose but you should prepare for a lot of extra scrubbing and extra water usage.

Either way, here’s a quick step-by-step:

  1. Remove or cover all items from your home’s deck. Tables, chairs, potted plants, bikes – remove everything to free up some space. This isn’t so much for protecting said items as it is for making the whole cleaning faster and more effective. Still, if you can’t remove something, it’s better to cover It with a plastic sheet. All three of the homemade deck cleaners above are fairly diluted but there’s no need to unnecessarily exposing your plants or household items to sprays and drops.
  2. Prepare your mixture. The whole preparation procedure we went through above – that’s usually best left as a second step. The reason being that the bleach and soaps will be most effective immediately after mixing them with the water. So, first clear the deck, then mix the deck cleaner.
  3. Sweep off any larger debris. This too can be done before mixing the deck cleaner but it shouldn’t take you too much time anyway.
  4. If there are any particularly bad mold spots, use a dedicated mold cleaner before you start cleaning and washing with your homemade solution. Bleach + TSP is a powerful tool for mold but extra large spots will release too many mold spores into the air so it’s best to spray them with a dedicated product from a distance instead of scrubbing them.
  5. Using a garden hose or, even better – a pressure washer – give your whole deck a quick rinse and soak. A good pressure washer will do most of the work even without the bleach solution and will save you a lot of scrubbing time later on.
  6. Put your homemade deck cleaner into action. Either locally or across the entire deck, start scrubbing with a nice & hard bristle brush. Make sure you’re extra thorough where you need to be and scrub the deck cleaner into a nice lather.
  7. Using a garden hose or a pressure washer, rinse off the deck cleaner. If you’ve used TSP with your mixture, it’s advisable to make sure most of the water is drained into a bucket or another container so that you can pour it into your toilet. If you let a TSP mixture soak into your garden’s or lawn’s soil it may affect the grass or other greenery there.
  8. Let your deck dry before you let your kids and pets play on it. It shouldn’t take long so this shouldn’t be a problem.

Additional Tips For Deck Maintenance

Mom siting in deck

The best way to make sure your deck cleaning goes as quickly and as smoothly as possible is by maintaining a neat deck all year-round. This may sound annoying but it’s really not a big deal and will save you a lot of time and effort down the line. Here are just a few tips:

  • Make sure your deck isn’t too cluttered. Many people use their decks as a sort of outdoor closet space. They leave their bikes there, unused wooden or metal furniture, dog or kids’ toys, garden tools, and more. This clutter leads to lots of dust and debris accumulation, as well as suitable circumstances for mold and mildew development. Not to mention that it’s a “great” way to get yourself a pest problem. By keeping your deck a clutter-free place you’ll make cleaning it a much easier and faster thing to do.
  • Sweep your deck regularly – daily even. This may sound excessive but sweeping your deck once per day really isn’t that much trouble. If you’ve made sure that it’s not buried under stuff, sweeping it can literally take just 30-60 seconds. All you need to do is keep a long-handled broom nearby so that it’s always available. This will drastically reduce the amount of dust, dirt, and debris that’s accumulated not only on your deck but in its corner, between the planks, and in other hard-to-reach spots. This reduces dust and dirt accumulation,making cleaning easier.
  • Make sure your deck has enough sun exposure throughout the day to prevent mold and mildew. Most people want as much shade as possible on their decks and that’s understandable – it’s difficult to enjoy your afternoon rest when the sun is hitting you directly in the eyes. Direct sunlight is also the bane of mold and mildew, however, so making sure it hits your deck directly for at least several hours per day is smart. This will almost completely remove mold, algae, and mildew as problems for you in the future.

And that’s about it. Maintain your deck neat and clean, use a good homemade deck cleaner mixture for your annual or semi-annual cleanings, and use a pressure washer – the three best things you can do for your home’s deck!

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