Garden-fresh offers are one step away
Sign Up & Get $5 Off

Opt-in to mobile texts to receive money-saving, project-inspiring alerts. Redeemed in stores only.

Just For You

Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Cleaning Patio Surfaces

Martha Stewart
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A gleaming deck or patio is a thing of beauty. However, it’s not surprising if, after years of constant exposure, it begins to show some wear and a stain or two. Whether yours is made of wood, concrete, or composite, routine maintenance and an occasional cleaning will ensure it always looks as good as new


Keep in mind to always saturate surfaces with water before using cleaning solutions to avoid staining. Cool, overcast days are best for this task. avoid power washing, except on concrete. It can save time, but it can also etch some types of brick and soft stone, damage mortar joints, and splinter wood. Complement your newly sparkling deck or patio by creating your own outdoor retreat with a patio set from Martha Stewart Living.


  • Stiff bristle long handled and hand brush
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Whisk brook
  • Dust pan
  • Semitransparent stain or clear water-repellent preservative
  • Chlorine-free, oxidizing bleach
  • Chlorine free scouring powder
  • Oxalic-acid crystals
  • Deck cleaner
  • High-Density Polyester Roller Covers
  • 9 in. Heavy-Duty Roller Frame
  • 11 1/2 “ Plastic Paint Tray
  • Rubber work gloves
  • 5 gallon work bucket
  • Garden hose with trigger sprayer attachment

How to Clean Surfaces

This is a durable, forgiving material, but strong acids may damage concrete. Even a weak acid solution can roughen the surface if it is left on for any length of time. Never let fertilizer sit on concrete; if it gets wet, it can leave stains.

To remove oil that has leaked from a car’s engine or power garden equipment, blot with paper towels. Then cover the spot with cat litter, and leave overnight. Remove the litter, and repeat until oil is no longer being absorbed.

If needed, follow with a poultice: Mix 1 part trisodium phosphate with 6 parts water. Apply, and leave on for 24 hours. Scrub and rinse with plain water. To remove grease caused by food, scrub with a household scouring powder.

To deep clean surfaces, mix together hot water and an all-purpose household cleaner or a concrete cleaner. Use a stiff bristle broom or brush to scrub the surface thoroughly. Rinse with water.

Wooden Decking:
All wooden surfaces eventually turn gray from sun exposure. North American woods, including Southern pine (which is often pressure treated), cedar, and redwood, benefit from regular sealing; this can help prolong the rich look of the wood. Tropical woods, such as ipe, Bangkiria, and mahogany, are dense and oily and usually don’t need sealing.

To seal wood decking, sweep clean surfaces. Pour stain or sealant into paint tray. Carefully roll paint roller through the liquid to full saturate the roller. Roll in one direction, taking care to not overlap successive rolls to avoid uneven application. apply more coats than recommended; doing so can lead to serious mildew infestations and rot.

To remove mold and rust stains, bird droppings, and tannins, mix oxalic-acid crystals (often labeled wood bleach or wood brightener) with hot water, according to directions. Apply with a soft-bristle brush or broom. After stains have faded, rinse well.

For deep cleaning, mix in a bucket, mix 1 gallon of hot water with powdered oxygen bleach, according to directions. Scrub well using a soft-bristle brush or broom. Rinse and repeat. The first scrubbing gets rid of visible mold; the second destroys the mold spores. Don’t use chlorine bleach, which destroys wood’s lignin—the “glue” that binds wood fibers.

Composite Decking:
Composite decking materials are made of wood and plastic (sometimes recycled grocery bags or milk jugs). Manufacturers typically do not recommend painting, staining, or sealing composite surfaces.

The best way to combat mildew and other stains is to keep the deck clean with regular use of a broom and a hose.

For removing stains, follow these steps. Like regular wood, composites can become moldy and develop tannin stains. A deck cleaner 3 that contains sodium hypochlorite should remove mold; one that contains oxalic or phosphoric acid will remove tannin stains and get rid of dirt and rust.

When deep cleaning, most composites can be washed with deck cleaner containing oxalic acid and a stiff-bristle brush or broom. Consult manufacturer information for their specific recommendations.

Find more tips from Martha on how to care for outdoor furniture: How to Care for Outdoor Furniture. Get the tools you need to keep clean at the Home Depot, and add beauty to your patio with elegant design from the Martha Stewart Living Collection.

Got questions about this article or any other garden topic? Go here now to post your gardening ideas, questions, kudos or complaints. We have gardening experts standing by to help you!