How to Clean Composite Decking

A beautiful composite poolside deck

Building a deck is your gateway to backyard luxury. At Green Side Up, we always recommend using durable, low-maintenance materials that will keep looking good for years to come, but even Trex composite decking isn’t entirely maintenance-free.

To help you keep your deck looking its best for years to come, we’ve put together this guide on how to clean composite decking, as well as some tips for other types of materials, like cedar, pressure treated pine, and interlocking pavers.

How to Clean Trex Decking

We recommend Trex for decking because of its lasting beauty, durability, and low maintenance requirements. It’s a material that’s going to keep looking great for years to come, and that’s a quality that can help protect the ROI of building a deck. When you use a deck cost calculator in Canada to get an estimate for your project, don’t forget to take into account the ROI. That’s the amount of money you can recoup when you sell your home. The material you choose can make a big difference, but so does basic care and maintenance.

Composite Deck Cleaner

As a general rule, there is no special deck cleaner that you need to get for composite. You should be just fine using a mild detergent like a liquid dish soap and mixing it with hot water. Other materials you’ll need include a garden hose and a soft-bristled brush that will help you get your soapy mixture in and remove stains.

Dirt and Debris

Cleaning dirt and debris is as simple as getting a mixture of soap and hot water, letting it sit for a few minutes, and spraying it off with a garden hose.

In-between deep cleans, it helps to sweep debris off of the deck, especially if you have a lot of trees in your yard that deposit leaves, twigs, seeds, etc.

Hard Water Staining

Hard water is water which contains a high concentration of mineral deposits. These include minerals like calcium, lime, and silica. When the water evaporates, these minerals get left behind, leaving a stain. If you live in an area known for its hard water, cleaning your deck can be a bit tricky.

White vinegar is all you need to get hard water staining off of your deck, but it does need to be rinsed off. Make sure that you don’t use hard water to rinse off the vinegar, or you’ll only repeat the cycle of staining. If you have to use hard water, dry the deck off with a cloth or use a blower to dry the surface quickly.

Snow and Ice

In Canada, snow and ice are a constant for a good stretch of the year, but it can be hazardous leaving it unattended on your deck. The trick is clearing ice and snow off your deck without causing any damage. The best approach is to use a plastic shovel that won’t damage the deck. You can use calcium chloride or a rock salt to melt snow and ice on your deck surface, just prepare for some spring cleaning to hose it all off come warm weather.

Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew are typically the result of natural debris piling up on your deck. This includes fine-grained materials like pollen and dirt. When they’re allowed to remain on your deck for too long, they feed the biofilm that forms on the surface of your deck.

In order to clean composite decking and avoid mold and mildew growth, use a hose and a combination of warm, soapy water with a soft bristle brush. This will remove the sources of food that encourage mold growth.

A person barbecues meat and vegetables at an outdoor party

Grease and Food

One of the best parts of building a deck in your backyard is having the perfect space for a grill. If you’re the kind of person who loves firing up the barbecue, whether you’re cooking dinner on a weeknight or feeding the whole neighbourhood, you’re going to wind up with food spills, grease splatters, and other oils landing on your deck.

The first thing you need to do is remove food spills as quickly as possible. As tempting as it is to forget about it and get to dinner, take a moment to wipe away spills with warm, soapy water. Get a soft bristle brush to remove spills from embossing patterns, and spray off with a hose. You may also want to consider a grease-cutting dish soap when the spills come from grease dripping off of meat.

When it comes to Trex composite, you will have to remove grease and food from the surface within seven days if you want to maintain the warranty on the material.

How to Clean Cedar Decks

Cedar decks take a bit more maintenance than composite. It needs to be stained to protect against the elements, or else it can start to feel slippery and slimy when it gets wet, and it will need to be restained every three years or so. One thing to keep in mind is that you should avoid using a power washer on soft cedar.

One way to get a deck that lasts longer and requires less maintenance is by choosing the right cedar for your deck. Pinnacle premium cedar is a higher-grade cedar with better structural integrity. This can protect it from the damage that happens when rain soaks into the wood and evaporates, leading to splitting and cracking. Unfortunately, all of the cleaning in the world can’t protect a deck against that, so opting for a higher-quality material from the outset can make a major difference. You want your deck to look beautiful years from now, so make sure you choose materials that will last.

How to Clean Pressure Treated Pine

One of the disadvantages of pressure treated pine for decking is that the material is not as durable or long-lasting as Trex composite. As a natural material that lives outdoors, it puts up with all of the hardships of the elements. Pressure treated pine can experience discoloration due to exposure to the sun, undergoing photo-oxidization that gives wood that grey colour after being outside for a stretch of period.

In addition to greying on the surface, pressure treated pine is also exposed to a lot of water. Water enters the pores of the wood, forcing the wood to expand and then contract when the water evaporates in the sun. This can cause splitting in the wood.

Painting or staining a pressure treated pine deck can delay the process, but looking after a pressure treated pine deck can be a challenge.

As with other decks, you’ll want to clean it with soapy water, but there’s not much you can do to stop the progress of the elements from splitting or greying the wood.

A person in yellow boots power washes a stone interlocking patio

How to Clean an Interlocking Patio

An interlocking patio can be a great option over a deck, especially now. Lumber shortages that originated with the pandemic have lingered, and while lumber prices have stabilized recently, there are expectations that falling interest rates could spur higher housing starts, which in turn impact lumber demand.

Material shortages can create a couple of issues. First, if the shortage is severe enough, you may not be able to build your deck at all. Even if the material is available, it can make the project more expensive than you were planning.

It’s important to consider cost if you’re debating between a deck vs. interlock, and it can turn out that an interlocking patio is a much more budget-conscious choice that still gives you a beautiful backyard. The question is, how do you clean interlocking pavers?

The process is pretty similar to a composite deck. You’ll need a garden hose, a scrubbing brush, a broom, and household detergent. Start by sweeping away debris, then mix your detergent with water in a bucket. Get the mixture sudsy, and apply to the pavers for about 20 minutes. Then, scrub the solution deep into the pavers with a brush and wash away with the hose. This can help you get at grease, grime, and water stains.

The last step is replacing the sand between the joints. Top up any joints after cleaning with sand to make sure they stay firmly in place during the freeze/thaw cycles that come with winter weather.

As pool builders, we also know that interlock is popular in combination with a pool. A pool can make cleaning interlock a bit more of a challenge; you don’t want the dirty water running off into the pool. One strategy is to save your cleaning for the spring before the pool is filled. Alternatively, it’s time to leave the power washer in the shed and bust out the elbow grease, scrubbing the stones clean with a brush or a broom.

Now that you know everything there is to know about deck maintenance, you know what to expect. Talk to us about getting a deck permit in Toronto and expanding your outdoor space. A low-maintenance deck will bring you hours of time outdoors with relatively little work.