Best Deck Cleaners

In this article we are going to cover what actually is “Wood Deck Cleaner”. We will compare the different types of deck cleaning options available and what are the positives and negatives of each.

Wood and Deck Cleaners

Exterior wood and deck cleaners are designed to clean and prep your exterior wood prior to an application of a wood stain. These cleaners come in many different concentrates with different ingredients. The main purpose of deck cleaners is to remove contaminants such as dirt, oxidation (graying), mold, algae, and in some cases, a very deteriorated stain that has failed. Deck cleaners are typically made up of caustics soaps that will aid in the scrubbing or pressure washing of your wood during the prepping process. Most deck cleaners will raise the pH balance of the wood resulting in a neutralizing acid (deck brightener) application to cancel the caustic of the cleaner, leaving the wood in a neutral state.

Note: Deck cleaners are not designed to remove old stains. You would need a deck stain stripper for this.

Oxygenated Deck Cleaners

Oxygenated based deck cleaners have really taken hold in the last 10 years. These cleaners contain the active ingredient Sodium Percarbonate. This is a registered ingredient by the EPA for mold and mildew removal. Deck cleaners that contain this ingredient will also contain additional surfactants that will “boost” the overall effectiveness when cleaning exterior wood. These cleaners come in powdered concentrates that are mixed with water then applied to the wood’s surface. Best applied with a garden pump sprayer then scrubbed or lightly pressure washed off.

Pros: Environmentally safe and effective cleaner. Registered mold removal by the EPA. Very cost effective. Excellent at removal of contaminants.

Cons: Must be mixed with water to desired concentration. Only active for 30 minutes. Some need warm water for best results.

Examples: Restore-A-Deck Kits, Defy Wood Deck Cleaner, Gemini Restore Kit, EFC-38

Bleach Based Deck Cleaners

Many of the older deck cleaners contained the active ingredient called Sodium Hypochlorite or what is commonly known as “bleach”. These deck cleaners will contain bleach that “whiten” the wood and some additional soapy surfactants that will aid in the cleaning of dirt and grime. Bleach based cleaners have recently been found to damage the wood’s lignin that help bind the cellular structure of the wood.

Pros: Premixed in liquid form. Excellent mold and algae remover.

Cons: May damage the wood cells. Average cleaner.

Examples: Behr 2 in 1 Deck Prep, Clorox Deck Cleaners, Cabot Suggestions:

We really like the “Oxygenated” Deck Cleaners. Since they come in a powdered form they are much less expensive . When you have the combination of Sodium Percarbonate and the proper surfactants, your cleaning will be easier and the end result will be hard to beat.

We suggest in order:

1. Restore-A-Deck

2. Defy Wood Cleaner

3. EFC-38 Wood Cleaner

*Remember, the better the wood is prepped the longer the life of your stain and the overall appearance will be improved.

122 Responses to “Best Deck Cleaners”

  1. Peter says:

    OK, I've decided to wait untill spring to clean, brighten and stain my new mahogany deck on my Victorian front porch.
    The whole house and porch columns, based, sides, steps, etc have just been painted (existing PT wood steps re-solid stained).
    Will spring's clean and wash damage the paint (mostly hi-qualityLatex, oil on metal railings)? I plan to use Restore-a-Deck.

  2. Vickey says:

    I have a deck that is probably 20 years old. I had it power washed 5 years ago, but due to circumstances, never followed up with anything else. I need to replace some nails with deck screws. Some splintering has occurred . Structurally sound, but where do I start? This is located in Baltimore, Maryland, for weather concerns. I'm a widow on a budget and will need to do this myself.

  3. Becky says:

    We have a house in Southern Alabama with a covered wrap around porch that is fully stained. We have a build up of pollen (tree farm) that we have tried to power wash off. Still has residue on it. We just want to clean the pollen off without having to restain it. What do you recommend ?

  4. Ann says:

    I have a ipe deck that needs refinishing, I only used cabots austrilian oil on it, but there is a built up in ares, last year I hired someone who has never worked with ipe wood and it is really messed up, they did not get all the old finish off in areas and tried sanding it. I have 1 40 x 40 deck and railing. Do you work with ipe or can you refer someone that does:

    • Ann, use a stain stripper to remove the Cabot then brighten when done. We like the Restore A Deck Stripper for this. Once the wood is prepped, try Armstrong Clark in the Mahogany color.

  5. Rick says:

    I live in Canada. Had a new pressure treated deck built last fall. Do i have to clean just the horizontal deck boards or do the vertical ballusters and bottom vertical skirting boards have to be cleaned also, Thank you

  6. Janey Oliver says:

    I have a big problem. I had a very good professional painter to use your system to clean and brighten my upper deck. He followed the instructions and kept connecting windows wet and rinsed well after the process.i find now that I have spots on the windows around my deck that I can't clean off. I also have spots on the dark siding roof that more than likely won't come off either. Please tell me there is a cleaner that will take care of this. I'm in a very expensive new house and don't want to replace windows because of an inferior cleaner that was supposed to be safe. I purchased this from sherwin Williams who just started selling this product. I intend to go to sherwin Williams with my complaint as well. Please help!!!!! I did all the research and thought I was getting a good product but now I'm afraid to even try the stain.

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