Lively Mess

Dos and Don’ts for Cleaning Your Snow-Covered Deck

If you’ve spent the winter shoveling off snow from your deck, splashing on a layer of salt and sand or whatever else you do to protect it against ice buildup, now is the time to clean up that mess. And, while there are lots of salves available in big-box stores and home centers to make this chore easier—there are also plenty of household items that work just as well without adding any more chemicals into the environment. Read on for some tips for getting rid of much of your old snow covering over your wood deck safely and easily.

Before you reach for anything made from harsh ingredients like bleach or ammonia, think about using a natural product like vinegar mixed with warm water or TSP (trisodium phosphate) and water to remove the old buildup of snow. Both of these products are available in small amounts from home centers, but if you add one tablespoon of TSP per gallon of water, it can be used on decks with composite materials as well. With either product, a stiff broom or floor scraper will help dislodge the ice that has accumulated on your decking surface while allowing for easier removal when hot water is added.

Hot Water Wash

If you mix two tablespoons of detergent into a bucket of hot water along with the degreaser and/or soap recommended by the manufacturer for use with your specific type of wood decking material, you’ll have a safe way to wash any remaining snow and salt residue from the surface of your deck. Then simply mop or sponge clean with a wet-dry vacuum to remove the rinse water, followed by briskly drying the wooden surface with a clean towel.

Wash Up With Warm Water

As an alternative, if you want to get all of this yucky mess off your deck without adding soap or detergent, just fill up an empty spray bottle with warm water and employ it in conjunction with a stiff bristle broom for a homemade version of “scrubbing bubbles” that can be used on both wood decking surfaces as well as composite types as long as they are compatible with this acidic cleaning mixture. Just try not to allow the warm water you’ve sprayed onto your deck to sit for any length of time as it can lead to unwanted discoloration.

Use an Unscented Detergent

If you prefer a detergent-based cleanser for use on your composite decking, look for an unscented formulation that is available from home centers and some big-box stores. But be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding how much cleaner should be used per gallon of warm or hot water so that whatever you choose will not harm your particular type of wood product over time. Also check with the warranty provider for any inherent limitations concerning properly maintaining the finish on your composite materials before using anything other than vinegar for removing snow buildups.

Salt Away

If your deck is situated under a large tree that sheds lots of leaves during the autumn or winter, don’t forget to rinse away any residual salt crystals from its surface before you apply a fresh coat of sealer. Even if you normally add a sand and/or rock salt mixture to the sidewalk next to your home in order to melt ice quickly, avoid leaving this alkaline residue on your wood decking as it can lead to unwanted etching over time and also may be harmful for keeping moisture out of its interstitial spaces which could invite all kinds of mold growth later on. Just fill an old 50-gallon paint drum three quarters of the way full with this mixture, cover it securely using plastic and tape, and then check on it periodically until all of its contents have been used up. This unique snow melt solution will make excellent ice melt for walkways when dry if you add it to a spray bottle before heading outdoors with it in hand.