How to Clean a Deck With a Pressure Washer
Provided you handle the pressure washer safely, your deck will be sparkling in no time
A pressure washer could become your most valuable tool on chore day, helping you tackle a range of tasks in record time. That includes reviving a tired, old wood deck in less than 30 minutes, as this video demonstrates.
But mishandle a pressure washer, and it can blast your wood deck (or siding or fence or any number of wood surfaces) to smithereens. Packing 30 to 80 times more pressure than a garden hose, a pressure washer could also cause you serious bodily harm.
In this latest installment of our DIY series, we show you how to clean a deck with a pressure washer deck in five easy steps. You can use the same basic procedure to remove oil stains from driveways, wash the siding on your house, clean outdoor furniture, and a whole lot more.
Don't own a pressure washer? Rental prices at home centers start around $40 per day, which is about $300 less than what the average professional deck cleaning costs, according to Angie's List.
If you want buy a pressure washer, check our pressure washer buying guide and Ratings (the electric and gas models we've tested cost $100 to $850).
Play it extra safe. For all their practical value, pressure washers cause thousands of injuries a year, including lacerations that can lead to serious infections if the concentrated spray penetrates deep into the muscle tissue. Long pants, sturdy footwear, and goggles are a must. And avoid loose clothing and jewelry, since it could draw you into the spray. See our complete advice on pressure washer safety in our pressure washer buying guide.
Prepare the site. Start by removing all items from the deck, especially breakables. Then sweep away leaves and other loose debris. This will help reveal tough stains left by mildew, tree sap, and the like.
Apply a deck cleaner, which will help loosen embedded dirt (if the deck is only lightly soiled, you can probably skip this step). Start by filling the pressure washer’s soap dispenser with the cleanser, following the manufacturer’s instructions. These might include wetting nearby plants with plain water before and after the cleanser is applied. The pressure washer will combine the cleanser and water, so you don’t have to worry about diluting it.
Next, install the appropriate soap-dispensing nozzle onto the tip of the pressure-washer wand (some models have all-in-one adjustable nozzles that you change with a simple twist.). Then power up the machine and distribute the cleaner all over the deck using long, overlapping strokes.
Use a stiff scrub brush to work the cleaner into tight corners and between railings; to prevent streaking, don’t let the detergent dry.
Switch to the widest spray nozzle (not counting the one you just used for the soap). Begin pressure washing the deck, moving with the grain of the wood in wide sweeping motions. Keep the nozzle about two feet away from the surface and move closer as needed. Don’t get closer than 6 inches, or you could damage the wood. When you’re finished, turn the machine off and pull the trigger to release leftover pressure and drain the water line.
After you’ve cleaned your deck, it might be time to reapply a protective wood stain. Solid stains last the longest in Consumer Reports' tests, while semi-transparent ones are fairly durable and let some of the wood grain show through. Check our wood stain Ratings for top picks from both types.
How to Clean Your Deck
Is your deck looking tired and dingy? On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports’ test engineer Dave Trezza shows how to revive your outdoor space.