Deck Cleaning

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"Ask This Old House" had an episode in which Tommy helped a guy clean his deck before sealing it. Tommy said NOT to use a pressure washer as it damages the wood fibers. We have to clean our front porch, which is made with pressure treated deck lumber. What was the chemical Tommy used?
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google !!
http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/video/0,,20282692,00.html
Video with Tom Silva.
http://www.pbs.org/thisoldhouse/videos/viewer.php?item=clean-restain-deck
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If you use a washer carefully, with distance and dont Blast wood you wont hurt it and its the only way to clean it after you use chemicals, Sherwin williams deck cleaner is one of the best, but it depends on what wrong, If its in shade it could be just mold so try some laundry bleach, most deck cleaners have an acid and bleaching agent [ sodium hypochlorate] its the active ingrediant of Laundry Bleach and often Oxalic acid that loosens the dirt. Bleach is cheap, add some acid and soap and you pay 20x more for the mix of cheap chemicals.
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I just use some bleach and a deck brush every year and it comes out fine. I agree the pressure washer could do some damgae if not careful.
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Mikepier wrote:

Chlorine bleach destroys wood. Use something like Oxy Clean instead.
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On Sun, 28 Feb 2010 03:42:33 -0800 (PST), ransley

I just used a sprayer full of bleach/water (cup to a gallon, IIRC), then scrubbed it with a broom and a fairly strong solution of pDSP (they didn't sell the real stuff).
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You can buy real TSP, or TriSodiumPhosphate, but since it is bad for lakes, streams, etc., it isn't on the supermarkets shelves for every "yahoo" to buy. Hardware stores or paint stores typically carry TSP. However, I find there are plenty of substitutes that are safer and work as well. For example, Jasco's liquid TSP substitute works well for cleaning walls prior to painting, and needs no rinsing.
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On Sun, 28 Feb 2010 10:39:53 -0800 (PST), tim birr

Depends on the jurisdiction. It isn't available in some places (for the reason you cite).

No rinsing? Doesn't it pollute the paint?
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krw wrote:

Chlorine bleach destroys wood. Use something like Oxy Clean instead.
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ransley wrote:

Chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) is very damaging to wood and should never be used to clean or bleach wood. Something like "Oxy Clean" or a generic brand oxygen cleaner is the cleaner to use. It doesn't destroy the wood fibers like sodium hypochlorite does. It's also safer to use and it won't hurt surrounding plants.
Don't take my word for it, search google "sodium hypochlorite to clean wood" and see that most all links tell you chlorine bleach is the wrong product to use.
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Ive been using it for 30 years on the same deck, my deck, Ive used it for 20 years professionaly before painting, Sodium Hypochlorate is the active ingrediant in alot of deck cleaners, its the same dam stuff you put in your laundry that everybody has been using since before you were born, of course Oxt Clean will say its 'the wrong thing to do" Wake up it isnt going to hurt your deck, or your yellow shorts.
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ransley wrote:

I assume you are talking about Sodium Hypochlorite and not Sodium Hypochlorate. Google is your friend, check it out.
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ransley wrote:

Chlorine bleach destroys wood. Use something like Oxy Clean instead.
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Not sure what Tommy used.
1 gallon warm water 1/2 cup TSP 3/4 cup household bleach
Dissolve the TSP in the warm water until completely dissolved. Add to a garden sprayer then add the bleach. You can use the product "JoMax" instead of the TSP. If the deck is really dirty, you may need to clean it twice and/or light scrubbing. Allow it to dry for 2-3 weeks before sealing.
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Add 1/2 cup oxalic acid to that mix, Label it, and sell it for 26.99$ a gallon, and it only cost you 1$, thats all deck cleaners are, 1$ of product, .50c for the Jug, and markup. [but more bleach helps alot]
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How toxic is this mixture?
My deck is 6' off the ground and we store stuff underneath.
I can empty out what's under there and let the run off soak into the ground, but there are plants and pets to consider also.
Thoughts?
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Any of the "cleaners" using Chlorine Beach or Oxalic Acid are going to damage anything they touch, such as plants, metals, etc. Unfortunately, as previous posters mentioned, they are also VERY VERY effective at cleaning the deck. And, especially for Chlorine Bleach ("Clorox") the cost is low.
But my deck is 10 feet off the ground and spans across landscape plantings, a patio, etc. So, I know and have dealt with your problem of not wanting to damage things underneath.
I use Oxygen Bleach, which is about the most effective, safest thing you can use that does the LEAST damage to plants, etc.
The active ingredients are sodium percarbonate and sodium carbonate (soda ash). Notice I said the least damage -- anything will do some damage in my opinion. Do a web search for "deck cleaning" "oxygen bleach" and you will find plenty of information, as well as plenty of sites wanting to sell you their "special blend" of oxy bleach.
I have a very large wrap-around, deck -- about 60 feet by 10 feet -- of Western Red Cedar. It costs me about $125 in Oxygen Bleach every three years to clean it. I buy the stuff in 20-pound tubs via mail- order and it costs me around $70 bucks for the tub, I think.
I could buy it at the local Wal-Mart, and a couple of the supermarket brands are very, very good, but by the time I buy a basket-full of 2.5 pound containers, the price is way above what I pay for home delivery. And, while several of the supermarket brands are very good, a few are not so good, with not a lot of active ingredient.
The big downside to this is the scrubbing it takes to do this. The stuff works, but you have to scrub with a stiff bristle brush and work only a smallish area at a time. Takes me about 15 hours to do my deck, but most of that is because I have to do the railings on a ladder and some of the area is a bit "unsafe" because the ground is partly sloping on a hill.
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tim birr wrote:

You said it yourself, "Chlorine bleach or Oxalic Acid are going to damage anything they touch". Ah, yes chlorine bleach will destroy wood. Use a generic brand of Oxy Clean.
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On Sun, 28 Feb 2010 09:56:18 -0800 (PST), DerbyDad03

I use oxygenated bleach cleaner (oxi-clean or similar) mixed at the "tough job" strength. Apply with garden sprayer, let soak (don't let it dry) scrub really bad areas with a stiff bristle broom,, and then hose off. Hose it off plants and it won't hurt them. Once it dries, the area is safe for Pets.
With any of these cleaners, use eye protection, rubber gloves and boots.
A lot of the heavy duty commercial deck cleaners and especially the deck strippers are more dangerous and toxic. I've found the oxygenated bleach cleaners to be effective at removing grime and mildew while being (relatively) safe to use. And they are supposed to be more gentle to the wood than chlorine bleach.
HTH,
Paul F.
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