How to clean decking

Melanie Whitehouse / 18 July 2016

Keep your decking looking its best by giving it a good clean twice a year. Find out how to clean and restore it with our guide.



Regular maintenance will add years to the life of your deck, so twice a year – in spring and autumn – it’s sensible to give your decking a good going-over to remove dirt, grease, slippery algae and moss. Then apply a decking stain, oil or protector once a year to restore it to its former glory. Most of the products you need can be bought from major DIY stores such as B&Q or garden centres.

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How to clean decking

Step 1

First, if there are any large areas of moss or mould, start by scraping them off and sweeping them up. Then take a stiff-bristled broom and give the whole deck a thorough sweep, getting right in between the grooves.

Step 2

If you have a pressure washer and you want your deck spotless, give it a quick burst now, but don’t hold it too close or you can damage the wood. This maybe enough to clean the whole area or you may want to use a cleaning solution as well.

Step 3

Prepare your cleaner. You can use a specialist deck cleaner (such as Swarfega Outdoor Cleaner, £8 for 5L) or make up your own from laundry liquid dissolved in water. If you have moss, lichen or algae on your patio – and you’re almost certain to after a long, wet winter – then add a splash of bleach (as much as one part bleach to four parts water if it’s really bad).

Step 4

Apply your chosen cleaner to the decking using a watering can, then scrub the deck straightaway with your broom or brush, rubbing it into the grooves. Leave it to stand for up to 15 minutes to work (or follow instructions on the back of the deck cleaner box).

Step 5

Then, using a garden hose, a watering can filled with clean water, or a pressure washer, rinse the deck thoroughly.

Allow at least two days for your decking to dry before you apply decking paint or stain.

Read our tips for cleaning a barbecue

Restoring dull decking

Dull, discoloured decking won’t do your garden any favours. You either want it to look beautifully weathered (but usually only very expensive woods weather well), or you want it to look cared for and smart, and maybe even blend it in with the dominant colours that feature on your garden fence or furniture.

Decking protector absorbs into the wood, waterproofing and protecting it. Because it is translucent, it won't change the appearance of the wooden planks.

Decking oil will restore the natural oils lost through weathering and waterproof and enhance the natural appearance of your deck. It is easy to apply, dries in about eight hours and is ideal for new decks.

Wood stain comes in a variety of colours (such as mahogany and oak) and gives a richer finish than oil. It protects decking against weathering, foot traffic and cracking by penetrating deep into the wood and is usually rainproof in 90 minutes. Check out Cuprinol’s Anti-Slip Decking Stain, which include contemporary shades like grey and slate.

How to stain or oil

Step 1

Before staining or oiling, bare or untreated wood should be given a coat of wood preserver to prevent rot and decay.

Step 2

Remove all existing coatings, such as old varnish/stain, before you start. Apply your stain/oil to the decking with a stiff brush, working it into the surface of the wood. Leave it to stand according to the instructions on the tin.

Step 3

Rinse off thoroughly with clean water using a hose or watering can, making sure all residues are washed away.

Step 4

Allow 1.5 to two days or longer, depending on the weather, for your decking to dry out completely before you add a further coat.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.