Update for 2018: Using Bleach to Clean Decks
Here at DeckStainHelp.com, we take pride in the fact that we have become the Internet’s go-to source for all things exterior wood and deck restoration related. Since we’ve published this article, we have received some input on the best deck cleaner to use on wood decks. Like before, we do not recommend cleaners with bleach. Instead, opt for a high-quality cleaner without bleach. We always appreciate your input, so feel free to leave a comment below with pictures of your deck stain projects.
Bleach and Wood Decks. Is it a good idea?
There is a lot of debate as to whether or not bleach or bleach-based products can be used to clean a wood deck. After all, bleach is cheap and readily available and has always been known as a household cleaner. To better understand this dilemma, let’s take a look at what bleach is.
There are several types of bleach but we will stick to the most common. Chlorine bleach like found in swimming pools and household bleach contains sodium hypochlorite. Oxygen bleach like found in many bleach based wood cleaners contains hydrogen peroxide or sodium percarbonate. All of the top 3 deck cleaner we rate contains a blend of sodium percarbonate and special buffers that are designed to work on exterior wood.
Typically for cleaning wood, the sodium percarbonate cleaners fair better than sodium hypochlorite bleach. Although straight sodium percarbonate cleaners are not very effective, cleaners only containing some sodium percarbonate (oxygenated cleaners) that have been specifically designed for cleaning wood do a wonderful job.
The bleach that most are referring to when asking if it is safe on wood, is generally regular household bleach or chlorine. This type of bleach has been proven to whiten the wood and damage the wood’s lignin that helps bind the cellular structure of the wood. In other words, bleach (sodium hypochlorite) can damage the wood cells.
In addition, although bleach does an excellent job of removing mold and mildew, it is only an average cleaner at best. Bleach will not remove some of the dirt and grime that may be present in the wood. Removing old existing deck stains or sealers from the wood prior to refinishing is another crucial step in restoring a deck. Bleach will also not remove these contaminants resulting in a poor finish.
There are much better wood deck cleaning alternatives out there other than bleach or bleach-based cleaners. Bleach is not a great wood cleaner, it can damage the wood fibers, and can be unsafe to handle. Stick with cleaners that are designed for wood cleaning and prepping wood decks for stain.
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