Update 2019 on Best Deck Cleaners Please read this article and post any questions you have in the comment area below our article. Our newly enhanced website now offers the ability to upload and post pictures of your exterior wood or deck so we are able to answer any questions you may have on prepping your deck and using a deck cleaner that will work well and without damaging your wood.
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.
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 the removal of contaminants.
Cons: Must be mixed with water to the 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 will help bind the cellular structure of the wood.
Pros: Premixed in liquid form. Excellent mold and algae remover.
Cons: May cause damage to the wood cells. Average cleaner.
Examples: Olympic Deck Cleaner, Clorox Deck Cleaners, Cabot
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:
*Remember, the better the wood is prepped the longer the life of your stain and the overall appearance will be improved.