7 Expert Tips for Cleaning Your Deck

When your outdoor space comes out of hibernation, it may need some TLC. you may be tempted to put off the task, but cleaning your porch, deck or patio is a necessity before summer (aka patio season) arrives. No one wants to eat a barbecue surrounded by dust. "Cleaning the patio deck will help maintain the longevity of the material," says Sarah Barnard, a LEED and WELL ap certified interior designer. "In some cases, patio maintenance may minimize the impact of common outdoor problems, such as wood rot or pest invasion, which can cause problems that can carry over into the interior." Don't foot the bill for pest control because outdoor messes spread to your home.

Regularly cleaning your outdoor space has other benefits besides aesthetics - it can potentially prevent allergies. Kate Diaz, a partner at Swanky Den, a home products resource company, says, "If you haven't used it regularly since last summer, you probably have a lot of dirt, dust and other allergens that can cause health problems." It's also a good idea to clean this space regularly throughout the summer to keep it sanitary, Diaz notes.

Before you start, check the weather. One of the most common mistakes, Diaz notes, is trying to clean in erratic weather. The possibility of rain before the cleaning is over can create an even bigger mess. Here are seven professional ways to clean your outdoor space and get your deck or patio ready for summer.

Pressure washing the deck

Start with the most time-consuming task of all:pressure washing. Because it removes mold and mildew, it also extends the life of outdoor digs. Chris Ager, co-founder of HomeBreeze.com, a home repair marketplace, says pressure washing is essential for sanitation and an aesthetically pleasing appearance. Concrete and wood both benefit from efficient cleaning, he notes. What's more, pressure washers typically use less water than garden hoses, Barnard emphasizes. To extend the life of your wood deck, stain the area after the pressure washing is complete and the wood is dry.

Before you begin, remove all furniture and accessories from your outdoor space. Decks can be pressure washed with a variety of different solutions, with the most popular choice being a 50/50 split between bleach and water, Diaz says. Eco-friendly alternatives include Simple Green Oxy solution and Wash safety Industries Supreme Clean. whichever you choose, she says, wear goggles, a mask, rubber gloves, boots, long pants and a shirt to minimize skin contact with the cleaning solution.

Leave the house from the top of the deck and pressure wash to prevent water from pooling. Diaz recommends using wide nozzles to cover large areas.

Mop and sweep frequently

Pressure washing can get your decks and patios clean, but it's not a cleaning habit you'll do often, especially with the current water shortage. To maintain your outdoor space, sweep your deck weekly to reduce buildup. Barnard says: "Try cleaning with a stiff broom, and if needed, use a long-handled brush for spot cleaning." She adds, "Be sure to scrub with wood grain to avoid scratching or damaging the deck surface." Mopping once a month helps remove stubborn dirt, debris and cocktail spills.

Scrub your outdoor carpets

Barnard recommends deep cleaning your outdoor rugs a few times each season and spot cleaning them as needed to maintain their integrity and vibrancy.

Step 1:Roll up your rug, take it out, then unroll it and give it a good shake. (Consider wearing a mask to avoid breathing in dust particles.) If you live in the city and don't have a backyard, vacuum the dust, or use a dry brush to brush off loose debris.

Step 2:Lay the carpet on a railing or lawn chair to prevent water from pooling on the surface. After laying it flat, gently scrub the rug with a natural fiber brush soaked in soapy water. While most outdoor carpets are made of materials that can withstand brushing, soft sponges or towels can be used for more delicate carpets. Rinse the foam with water. Repeat the process as necessary. Place in the sun to dry.

Step 3:Once dry, place the outdoor rug on a clean surface. Barnard says: "Furniture laid on carpet can cause dents that are difficult to remove." So you might play grab-a-chair with lighter furniture every few days to keep dents from settling in. Reversing the effects of heavier marks can be more challenging; however, Barnard says, "The combination of steam and fluffing can help reduce carpet marks."

Step 4:When an outdoor rug is not in use for an extended period of time, store the rug away from moisture and direct sunlight. Be sure to clean it again before it goes into season.

Cleaning the Grill
Chris Ager says: "Cleaning the grill before lighting the fire is necessary for food safety." A paste of baking soda and water is perfect for a soft abrasive scrub. Finish with a vinegar cleaning solution to further destroy lingering germs and bacteria, he adds.

For deep cleaning, Diaz recommends using a wire brush to remove grime and debris from the grate. She says: "You can use a degreaser on the hood, interior and fireplace box to help break down any grease or food residue." Allow the grill to dry completely before using it.

Tune the porch light
Use a vinegar-soaked toothbrush to tune the light fixture. It may help to carefully remove the bulb so you have more room to move around to clean the cracks - just be careful not to get liquid into the bulb socket. For a deep clean, wear gloves and choose a diluted bleach solution for stubborn dirt or buildup. Wipe down the vinegar or bleach solution before replacing the bulb, Diaz says.

Devin shaffer is the lead interior designer at Decorilla, a San Francisco-based interior design firm that uses virtual and augmented reality technology, and commercial glass cleaner Zep ammonia-free glass cleaner is the secret weapon of choice. He says, "I use it on all glass surfaces, including mirrors, lamps, picture frames and kitchen appliances, as well as outdoor lighting, outdoor tables and exterior window surfaces."

Focus on faucets and outdoor hoses
Check outdoor hoses for leaks. If you have one, Diaz says, the trickle of water can slowly erode the soil around your house and can cause serious damage. She adds, "Faucet traps should be cleaned regularly because over time they can accumulate a lot of dirt and bacteria." Her method of choice:Fill a bucket with hot water and vinegar and let the traps soak for a few hours. After soaking, scrub with a brush and rinse with water.

Tidy up the rest area.
Rain, wind and sunlight can fade your furniture, mainly due to the accumulation of dust and mold. To deep clean these items, Barnard recommends using a dry cloth to remove surface dust. Then use a vacuum to remove stubborn dirt (such as wicker crevices) before cleaning with soap.

She says: "Wiping down furniture with a mild, environmentally friendly soap and water is sufficient." She notes that a solution of vinegar and water is more helpful when dealing with mildew. For fabric items, such as upholstery and pillows, a soap and water solution with a brush can help with stains on textiles that are not machine washable. To prevent more mold from growing on fabrics, dry them in bright sunlight. Barnard recommends getting into the habit of cleaning outdoor cushions at least every few weeks to keep up with your hard work.

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