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Do’s and don’ts of deck cleaning

Some common strategies can do more harm than good

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A wood deck represents a sizable investment, and keeping it well maintained is an important part of every homeowner's to-do list. A clean deck not only helps showcase that backyard centerpiece, it prepares the wood to receive the surface coatings that are necessary to help your deck fight off the elements. First, a couple of cleaning "don'ts": Pressure washing: While it's definitely important to remove surface dirt from the deck, pressure washing may not be the best way to do that. A pressure washer is easy to misuse when you're working on softwood lumber such as cedar, redwood or pressure-treated fir. The concentrated force of the water jet can erode the soft cells and fibers of the springwood portion of the wood, which is located between the harder, darker bands of summerwood. The result is a wavy wood surface and the potential for splintering that can actually shorten the life of the wood. A lighter spray from a garden hose combined with a medium-bristle push ...