Home improvement—and maybe life improvement—tricks to make projects easier.

By WIR Contributor Mark Clement

Deck cleaning is an unromantic title to a project that I often find rewarding, not that hard, and once I’m into it, enjoyable. I love brightening a deck and bringing the wood out from under who-knows-how-much dirt and whatever.

But deck brighten ups are one of those jobs that I like to give what I call a “long runway.” That’s because there are lots of little preparations that—if you try to do them all at once—can be frustrating or lead to roadblocks. Add to this dynamic that deck cleaning isn’t something we do every day so we need to pay extra attention to getting the ducks lined up in their row.

And, not to be too dweeby, but I think this long runway approach works for lots of things with disparate parts that need to be wrangled. Given enough time and enough attention, breaking big problems and challenges into smaller parts usually helps solve them. Taken alone, small things are easier to manage and understand. And it’s in understanding that life problems get solved.

>Mark gets off soapbox, keeps typing<

Schedule. Try and think about (or remember) how long you actually think the deck cleaning itself will take. Every deck is different of course, but the trick is to allocate dedicated time for just the cleaning process and work backwards from there. Let’s say it’ll take a whole weekend. (Nobody’s every upset if things go faster than planned).

Now, put that weekend on the calendar 3-weeks before you’re set to start.

Pressure Washer Prep. Now, the secret is to do all the little things in advance of the big thing—brightening up the deck. This can be done an hour at a time, give or take. Your kids can help. You can dovetail it with other errands you’re going to do anyway. Overall it’ll take less time than running around like crazy on a Saturday.

  • If you own a pressure washer—not required, but handy—get that puppy out and make sure you have all the pieces and parts; that you remember how to start it and pressurize the stream. If you don’t own a pressure washer, rent or borrow one and make sure it works.
  • Make sure you have a full gas can.
  • Turn your water on if you turned it off over the winter and make sure the hoses reach where they need to go.

Materials Run. You’ll need detergent for cleaning whatever is on the deck. Know ahead of time there are some detergents that clean dirt, some that clean mold and some that are all-in-ones. My recommendation is to take a few pictures of your deck and go to a professional paint store and get their advice on the best product to use.

  • Measure the square footage of your deck so you can get the proper amount of detergent and supplies. Some of the all-in-ones are serious business and will require you to cover bushes and shrubs, so check on that. Others just require you spray them down before applying.
  • If your deck is really dirty getting a deck brush may serve you well in the long run. In case you didn’t see if before: A pressure washer is only for rinsing.
  • If you plan to re-apply a finish, this is a good time to pick up those supplies too.

Site Prep. This part is easy, but like anything, it takes time. If your deck furniture is out, find a spot in the yard for it away from any overspray from the detergent or pressure washer and out of the way of where you’ll be walking or storing things.

Clear(ed) the Deck. Now. Now you’re ready to do the actual cleaning—can we change it to brightening?—of the actual deck. You’ll be able to concentrate on the task at hand and get the work done that needs to be done.

Stay tuned for our Deck Brightening Part 2 soon.