Removing Stains and Finishing
A deck, be it redwood, cedar, pine or other wood, can be a marvelous venue for summer entertaining.
More often than not, a deck will appear a little worse for the ware after the fall and winter seasons. This can be true even if the deck has previously been treated with a stain or wood preservative. Dirt, mold, leaf stains, tannins and rust can really detract from the beauty of a back yard deck. What’s worse, left untreated, mold, algae and moss can lead to more significant damage.
The key to keeping a deck looking good is to stay up on its maintenance. Grit, grime and environmental fallout should be removed via periodic washings. In most cases, a couple of tshorough washing per year will do the trick. That in conjunction with regular hosings will make your deck the envy of the neighborhood. Well, almost. It’s not quite that easy.
A solution of detergent and water is typically all that is needed to conquer most stains. Try one cup of powdered laundry detergent in a gallon of hot water applied with a nylon truck brush. A truck brush is a soft bristle brush with a broom handle that is used for washing cars and trucks. The soft bristles are effective in dislodging the most minute of particles and the pole means not having to work on hands and knees.
Even after the most thorough washing, a deck may still contain various stains whether it be wax from a candle stains from a most memorable barbecue. These can be challenging and require a bit more energy. Let discuss a few of the most common stains along with some ways to best tackle them.
If your deck hasn’t been the subject of periodic washings and maintenance, the detergent and water solution discussed earlier may not be enough as an effective general cleaning. If such is the case and a complete sanding isn’t appealing, a washing with more effective cleaners may do the trick.
Synthetic trisodiumphosphate (TSP) and water is a safe and generally effective way to clean a deck and prepare it for a new coat of finish. Commercial deck cleaning products are another alternative. Applied with a pump garden sprayer in conjunction with the manufacturers recommendations, these products can remove the gunk, but dull the finish. Hence, be prepare to apply a fresh coat of deck stain or wood preservative once clean. This isn’t such a bad idea, especially for decks that have not received ongoing care.
Leaves that have made their home on your deck’s surface through the fall and winter, even when removed, will leave their mark. Leaf stains can best be removed by spot scrubbing with a one-to-one solution of household bleach and water. Work the solution in using a nylon scouring pad or 0000 steel wool working in the direction of the grain. In all cases rinse with fresh water.
Tannin-rich woods can result in black streaks and stains. These stains are especially prevalent around nails and screws and can be virtually impossible to remove. Therefore, we suggest using a deck brightening product. These are also referred to as wood bleach. A deck brightener that contains phosphoric acid as the active ingredient is effective and safe to use when applied in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Candle wax can be especially stubborn. Place a rag saturated with mineral spirits on the dried wax. The rag will absorb the wax. Be sure not to allow the rag to dry out and under no circumstances should this be performed in the heat of the day or in direct sunlight due to potential combustibility.
Some of the best back yard barbecues that we’ve had can be traced to grease stains on the deck. Pleasant as the memories may be, these stains are unsightly and can attract pests. If these stains don’t come out using one of the general cleaning solutions described above, try using a water rinsable automotive degreaser or carburetor cleaner. As with the candle cleaning method, DO NOT apply this product in the heat of the day or in direct sunlight. Rinse thoroughly with fresh water.
Lumber grading stamps, be they important, are the scourge of mankind when it comes to trying to get them off of the surface of a deck. We have found that even the best of cleaners doesn’t phase them. The only way to remove these marks is by sanding.
Algae, moss and mildew are a slip hazard and the precursor to significant rot. Scrub with a solution that consists of four parts of liquid chlorine bleach to one part water. Once clean, a high-quality stain or wood preservative that contains a mildewcide will help to prevent algae, moss and mildew from returning.
Rust is another one of those stains that one would think could only be removed with the use of explosives. Actually, the phosphoric acid-based deck brightener that we discussed earlier will usually handily remove rust stains. In fact, many rust removal products contain phosphoric acid as the active ingredient. Also, a five percent solution of oxalic acid in water applied directly to the stain will likely do the trick. In either case more than one application may be required.
Finally, the key to maintaining a healthy deck is to protect it from damage by the ultraviolet sun rays and water. We suggest that a high quality oil-base deck stain or wood preservative that contains a mildewcide be applied every two to three years depending upon exposure and wear and tear. Oil-base products replace the woods natural resins, moisturizing and preventing cracking, cupping and curling. Although a clear wood finish can contain ultraviolet inhibitors, a pigmented product will offer added protection.
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