How to Make Homemade Deck Cleaner: Ingredients and Steps

deck on green house that needs a natural homemade deck cleaner

A sun-soaked afternoon is a perfect excuse to spend some time on the deck. But, as deck owners know, natural elements like wind and rain can leave a deck dirty, discolored and stained. Buying store-bought deck cleaners can be expensive, however, and may contain harsh chemicals that can harm your deck and garden. To prevent this, follow a homemade deck cleaner recipe to tackle mildew and grease without compromising your deck’s condition.

It’s tricky finding a homemade deck cleaner recipe (including ingredients and steps) perfect for you, so where do you start?

How to Create a Homemade Deck Cleaner

First, what is a homemade deck cleaner?

Deck cleaners are an important aspect of deck protection and there are many available on the market. When you take a look at the bottle, you’ll find they contain sodium hypochlorite or calcium hypochlorite, otherwise known as bleach.

Professionals advise against using chlorine-based bleach as it breaks down the wood’s lignin, a natural component that holds the wood together. If you continue to use chlorine-based bleach, eventually you’ll be able to tear the wood even if you press down lightly with your finger.

Chlorine-based bleach also washes away your deck’s color and corrodes nails, screws, and structural hardware holding your deck together. Many deck owners prepare their own homemade deck cleaners to avoid using bleach. Here are four ingredients you will find in the homemade deck cleaner recipes:

Oxygen bleach


Image: Professional OxiClean oxygen bleach — click image for price

Oxygen bleach combines natural soda ash and hydrogen peroxide to create a powdered substance. When the powder dissolves in water, the reaction releases oxygen to break down stains and dirt.

Unlike chlorine-based bleach, oxygen bleach is environmentally friendly and safe to use around plants, pets, and children.

Laundry detergent

This is an alternative to oxygen bleach if you don’t have any available. If your laundry detergent contains sodium perborate or sodium percarbonate, it will have the same cleaning effect as oxygen bleach.

Vinegar and baking soda

For those after a natural homemade deck cleaner, vinegar and baking soda are both inexpensive alternatives. Vinegar kills off bacteria and baking soda deodorizes and refreshes the surface, perfect for light cleaning.

Benefits of Using a Homemade Deck Cleaner

There are many advantages of creating your own homemade deck cleaner. Here are a few benefits:

  • Oxygen bleach is versatile and eliminates dirt regardless of the material
  • More cost-effective
  • All ingredients are non-toxic
  • Mixing your own lets you target a specific problem (e.g. mildew)

Deck Cleaning Tips Before You Start

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Here are tips to consider during the preparation stage:

  • Wear gloves and goggles when mixing solutions
  • Never mix ammonia and bleach-based cleaners
  • Check your deck’s material before preparing a solution
  • Never add more oxygen bleach than cited
  • Clean your deck on a temperate day so the deck can absorb the solution
  • Keep the homemade deck cleaner out of the reach of children

Steps and Recipes to Clean Your Deck

Check out the steps to clean your deck below:

Step 1: Clear and hose down the deck

woman sweeping off her deck before using homemade deck cleaner

Before you start, clear any furniture, BBQ equipment, and gardening items and store them away. Spray the deck with a hose to loosen any debris to make it easier to remove.

Although using a pressure washer for a wooden deck is an option, professionals say to refrain as the high-pressure steam can erode the wood.

Sweep away the debris and check none are hiding in the cracks between the boards. Rotting debris can spread and destroy your entire deck, so use a putty knife to dislodge them. Also, cover any nearby plants with a plastic sheet to protect them during the process.

Step 2: Gather tools and materials

Before you mix a solution to suit your needs, ensure you have the following materials.

  • Long-handled deck brush
  • Large plastic bucket
  • 2 gallons of warm water
  • Powdered oxygen bleach
  • Powdered dish detergent
  • Liquid dish detergent
  • Powdered borax (optional)
  • Rubber gloves and goggles
  • Hose

Step 3: Prepare the homemade deck cleaner solution

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All decks are different and so are the homemade deck cleaner recipes. You wouldn’t use a harsh solution on a deck that is cleaned often, so it’s wise to decide on the right solution for your deck.

Homemade general cleaner

This recipe helps restore your deck to its former self.

You’ll need

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 cup powdered laundry detergent (ammonia-free)
  • 3/4 cup powdered oxygen bleach (if mildew stains are present)

Directions

  1. Pour the detergent and oxygen bleach into a bucket of water. The bucket should have enough water to cover your deck surface or at least filled to its maximum capacity.
  2. Use a deck brush to apply the solution generously over the deck.
  3. Wait for 10 to 15 minutes for the soap to soak in. It’s essential the surfaces don’t dry out during this time, so either apply more solution or use a hose to spray a very light mist.
  4. Use the deck brush to scrub the grime off your deck.
  5. Hose off the deck using moderate water pressure.

Homemade maintenance spray

This recipe removes surface dirt and spruces up a deck with no stains.

You’ll need

Directions

  1. Mix oxygen bleach with water until the powder dissolves.
  2. Pour a generous amount of solution over the deck’s surface and let it soak for 10 to 15 minutes. You’ll know the oxygen bleach is working when it foams and the natural color of the wood appears.
  3. Use the deck brush to scrub over troubled spots.
  4. Once the stains have gone, rinse the solution away with clean water.

Homemade mildew and algae cleaner

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This heavy-duty deck cleaner tackles any algae and mildew on your deck.

If your deck has mildew stains, add borax to help remove them. Borax is a natural mineral compound so any nearby plants are safe. You can buy TSP at any hardware store and when it’s mixed with oxygen bleach and water, its cleaning properties are activated.

You’ll need

  • 1 cup Trisodium Phosphate (TSP)
  • 1 cup powdered oxygen bleach
  • 2 gallons of warm water
  • 1 cup powdered borax (optional)

Directions

  1. Pour two gallons of warm water into the bucket and mix 1 to 1 1/2 cup(s) of TSP in it.
  2. Once the TSP has dissolved, add 1 cup of oxygen bleach to the solution.
  3. Hose the deck down with water to soak the wood then apply the cleaner.
  4. Scrub the stains with a deck brush and give it 10 to 15 minutes to soak in.
  5. Once the stains have gone, rinse it away with water.

Homemade deck cleaner for oil, dirt, and grime

This homemade deck cleaner recipe is for decks suffering from grime, dirt, and oily stains. Although TSP is stronger, dish soap is an effective cleaner, and the added oxygen bleach kills off mildew and algae.

You’ll need

  •  1/4 cup liquid dish detergent
  • 2 cups of powdered oxygen bleach
  • 2 gallons of warm water

Directions

  1. Mix the oxygen bleach with warm water.
  2. Once dissolved, add the liquid dish soap and stir gently.
  3. Apply a generous amount of the solution onto the stains and scrub to a light lather. Make sure you cover the entire area with the solution.
  4. Leave it to soak for 15 minutes. Once finished, hose down the deck to wash away the cleaning agent.

Homemade powdered bleach cleaner

This recipe is for decks in good condition with minimal stains. It’s a milder solution, perfect for sprucing up your deck.

You’ll need

  • 2 gallons of hot water
  • 2 cups powdered oxygen bleach
  • 1/4 cup liquid dish soap

Directions

  1. Add 2 cups of powdered oxygen bleach to 2 gallons of water until the powder has dissolved.
  2. Pour the liquid dish detergent into the mix and stir until frothy.
  3. Use a brush to cover the entire deck with the solution and let it soak for 15 minutes. Once you scrub off the dirt, hose down the deck.

Homemade vinegar cleaning solution

This natural homemade deck cleaner is perfect for delicate wood decks (e.g. cedarwood) and for those after an inexpensive alternative. You can use vinegar as a light cleaning agent, which is great if you clean your deck regularly.

You’ll need

  • 3 cups of white vinegar
  • 1 gallon of warm water

Directions

  1. Mix the white vinegar with the warm water in a bucket.
  2. Pour the solution over the entire surface area of the deck and leave to soak for 10 minutes.
  3. Use a brush to scrub the solution into the deck.
  4. Hose down the deck to remove the cleaning solution.

Homemade baking soda solution

If you’re not a fan of using store-bought deck cleaners, baking soda can kill any grease build-up.

You’ll need

  • 1/2 cup of baking soda
  • 3 cups of white vinegar
  • 1 gallon of warm water

Directions

  1. Mix 3 cups of vinegar with the water into a plastic bucket.
  2. Pour the solution over the stained area and scrub.
  3. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over the stain.
  4. Use a brush to scrub the stain and let it sit for an hour.
  5. Once the powder absorbs the oil, sweep away the remnants with a broom.

Ready to Make Your Homemade Deck Cleaner?

deck cleaned and beautiful

It is overwhelming figuring out how to tackle the green fuzz overtaking your deck. Instead of splurging on a store-bought detergent, use a homemade deck cleaner recipe for a cost-effective and eco-friendly solution.

The best aspect of preparing your own homemade deck cleaner is how you can tailor it to fit your deck’s needs.

Want to wash away grime? Use laundry detergent or oxygen bleach. And for an inexpensive alternative, dig out your baking soda and vinegar and watch your deck transform back into an inviting outdoor area.

Have you used any of these homemade deck cleaner recipes? If so, which one and how effective was it? We’d love to hear from you so please share your experience in the comments below.

About the Author Emily Taylor

My name is Emily Taylor, gardening is my passion and I’m looking forward to sharing it with everyone. I know that there are millions of people out there want their backyard and garden be attractive just like their front yard, so I am here to help you create your own backyard paradise.

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