How To Clean a Cedar Deck

How To Clean Cedar Deck

When it comes to outdoor living spaces, a timber deck creates the perfect area for relaxation and entertainment. The natural beauty and warmth of cedar wood blends beautifully into backyard environments. However, without proper timber care a cedar deck can quickly become weathered, develop mold and mildew, or become stained.

By following some simple DIY cleaning techniques, you can easily revitalize the deck’s surface and restore it to its original beauty. This guide will walk through the cedar deck cleaning process using safe and effective cleaning solutions and tools. With a little elbow grease, you can give your cherished cedar deck the makeover it deserves.

Assessing the Condition of the Deck

Before beginning the deck cleaning process, start by closely inspecting the cedar wood surface. Make note of any warped boards, cracks, nails popping up or other structural damage. Also look for dark patched areas which indicate mold, mildew or algae growth. Check if the grain has become roughened and lifted which shows weathering damage.

Lastly, check for any oil stains, leaf tannins, dirt debris or other surface stains. This inspection will help determine which deck cleaning methods and solutions to use. It will also reveal if any deck refinishing, deck sanding, deck staining or deck restoration is needed after cleaning.

Gather the Necessary Deck Cleaning Supplies

Cleaning a cedar deck properly means having the right timber deck care products and tools on hand. Here’s a look at some essential deck cleaning checklist items:

Cleaning Solutions

  • Deck cleaner concentrate or spray to break down built-up grime
  • Liquid deck brightener to restore a weathered surface
  • Mold and mildew remover for discolored areas
  • Oxygen bleach powder to brighten and whiten the wood

Tools for Scrubbing

  • A stiff bristle scrub brush attaches to handles for easy grime removal
  • A flexible deck scrubber conform to surfaces for thorough scrubbing

Pressure Washer

  • Gas or electric power washer to deeply clean wood and lift stains
  • Fan tip nozzle for broad spraying and surface cleaning
  • Rotating turbo nozzle for concentrated stain removal

Safety Gear

  • Rubber gloves to protect hands from chemicals
  • Safety goggles to shield eyes from debris and overspray
  • Respirator mask to prevent breathing in of toxins
  • Close-toed waterproof shoes for grip and splash protection

Miscellaneous Items

  • Garden hose with spray nozzle to pre-soak and rinse the deck
  • Sponges and nylon-bristle scrub pads for light scrubbing
  • Plastic deck brush with hard and soft bristles
  • Paint scrapers, putty knives and stripping tools
  • Drop cloths or builders’ paper to protect vegetation underneath

Once the necessary DIY deck cleaning products and power washing equipment are on hand, it’s time to get cleaning!

Pressure Washing a Cedar Deck

The first step is to completely clear off the deck surface. Remove all outdoor patio furniture, plant pots, decorations and other removable items. Sweep, vacuum or use a leaf blower to rid the deck boards of dirt debris, leaves, pine needles and other loose particles. This prevents the particles from splashing back onto the freshly cleaned wood.

Next, lay down drop cloths over any vegetation bordering the deck to protect plants and grass from the cleaning solutions. If cleaning a second story deck, place cloths over any windows or surfaces below to prevent overspray damage.

Before applying any deck cleaning solutions, do an initial rinse using a pressure washer. Set the machine to between 1500-2000 PSI with a 25 or 40 degree wide spray nozzle. Keep the nozzle about 6-12 inches away from the wood surface while spraying. Work methodically section by section starting at the farthest point from your exit. Be very careful pressure washing around nails or any splits or cracks in the boards.

Pressure washing debris off the deck first prevents pushing the dirt deep into the grain while scrubbing. It also pre-soaks the wood so the cleaning solutions can penetrate better. Make sure to get into corners, between board gaps and the vertical surfaces of railings, posts, and benches. After the preliminary rinse, let the wood air dry completely before moving onto using deck cleaners.

Using DIY Deck Cleaning Solutions

  • Oxygen Bleach – For lightening stained or discolored areas of a wood deck, apply oxygen bleach powder mixed with hot water. Create a thick paste and work it into affected areas using a stiff scrub brush or deck brush. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before rinsing clean. Reapply if needed.
  • Liquid Deck Brightener – For reviving a weathered gray deck surface, apply deck brightener full strength onto the wood using a pump sprayer. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Use nylon or wire scrub pads to work it thoroughly over the entire surface before rinsing clean. Wear rubber gloves and goggles when using.
  • Mold & Mildew Removers – To eliminate ugly black fungal growth on a wood deck, use a deck cleaner concentrate containing sodium percarbonate. Apply it with a garden sprayer, let it soak for 10+ minutes then scrub with a stiff deck brush. Rinse thoroughly. Vinegar or hydrogen peroxide work too.
  • Heavy Duty Cleaners – For removing tough oil stains, grease marks, leaf tannins and ground in grime, use a commercial deck cleaning agent. Apply it to affected areas, let soak then power wash away using a turbo nozzle. Always spot test cleaners first and rinse completely later.
  • Wood Brighteners – As a final step to revitalize and brighten the entire deck surface, apply a wood brightener using a pump sprayer. Scrub lightly with a brush and rinse away. This removes any last traces of dirt while restoring luster and color.

It’s best to tackle the most soiled areas first before doing an overall deck surface cleaning. Before rinsing anything off, always let the solutions sit for the recommended time to fully activate and lift stains. Be sure to thoroughly rinse off any deck cleaning chemicals later using a pressure washer.

Advanced Cleaning for Stubborn Stains

For seriously stubborn stains on a cedar deck, use more aggressive DIY cleaning techniques in targeted areas:

  • Paint Scrapers – For lifting thickly coated oil stains, wood sealants or paint splatters that are flaking off the deck boards, use various paint scrapers and putty knives. Carefully scrape the substance off without gouging into the wood.
  • Stripper Chemicals – To remove layers of worn deck sealant or thickly coated stains on a wood surface, apply a paint stripping chemical. Use a chemical resistant brush to cut into edges. After letting it work for 30+ minutes, scrape away the bubbled finish and reapply if needed. Rinse thoroughly later.
  • Orbital Sanders – For eliminating extremely stubborn stains or weathered gray wood fibers, use an orbital palm sander with 60-80 grit sandpaper disks. Carefully sand problem areas just until they disappear. Sweep away all dust when complete.
  • Nail Spot Cleaning – Use a stainless steel wire wheel attachment on a drill to deeply clean nails and surrounding stains. Lightly scrub the head and shank of each fastener until sparkling clean.

Use extreme caution when trying stain removal chemicals, power sanders or scrapers. Always spot test on a sample board first and follow all safety precautions.

Sealing and Protecting Your Freshly Cleaned Deck

Once the revived wood surface is pristine again, protect it by applying a new coating:

  • Penetrating Stains – For accentuating the natural grain while allowing the surface to breathe, use a deck stain containing oil or beeswax. It prevents future mold or mildew growth. Reapply every 1-3 years.
  • Film Forming Sealants – For heavier surface protection from moisture damage, mold growth and UV rays, apply 2-3 thin coats of an exterior deck sealer. It leaves a shiny plastic-like barrier on the surface. Reapply every 2-4 years.
  • Exotic Hardwood Finishes – For enriching the natural color tones in special woods like ipê and tigerwood while protecting from moisture, apply a specially formulated oil-based finish for dense exotic woods. Reapply every 1-2 years.
  • Clear Water Repellents – For protection that keeps the natural color intact, apply a water repellent finish to all decking and rails. It resists moisture damage without leaving a surface film. Reapply every 6 months to 1 year.


Properly caring for your cedar deck with regular timber deck care preserves its integrity and keeps it looking beautiful for decades longer. By following this complete guide to DIY deck cleaning using proper tools and solutions, you can finally rid your deck of accumulated dirt, stains, mold and damage. A little elbow grease goes a long way to restore a tired deck back to its original glory. Soon you’ll have a pristine outdoor entertaining space again to enjoy for years to come.

Contact Sullins Suds Pressure Washing to help you clean your cedar decks!

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