Can You Pressure Wash Composite Decking?

Composite decking is a popular choice for many homeowners because it can look like real wood decking or timber decking but with a lot less maintenance and hassle. One of the only regular maintenance you need to get on top of with composite decking is cleaning the boards. Pressure washing is a great time saver so can you use this on your composite deck as well as your other outdoor areas? The answer is that you can but you do need to be careful as power-washing composite decking can cause damage if done incorrectly.

What Is Composite Decking?

A real wood deck can look so good but wood does require a fair amount of maintenance to keep it at its best and it is prone to damage such as mould, mildew, and rot. Especially if not taken care of.

Composite decking boards look like real wood but they are actually made of a variety of materials. These often include virgin or recycled plastics, wood fibres, and chemical additives. This composite material is much more durable than wood and requires less maintenance.

It doesn't need to be stained as wood decking does, it repels dirt, and it can last for decades if cared for properly and you clean the composite deck regularly.

Can You Pressure Wash Composite Decking

Capped Composite Decking VS Uncapped Composite Decking

There are two types of composite decking and the type you have will affect its durability and longevity.

Capped composite decking is the most durable type as the deck board is contained within a plastic shell that prevents moisture, dirt and debris, and other materials to get under the board's surface.

Uncapped composite decking is still more durable and easier to maintain than wood but it doesn't quite have the same protection as the capped type.

With both types of composite decking, your main job with regard to maintaining it is to regularly clean the deck surface. If you own a power washer or a pressure washer, you've probably wondered if you can go ahead and clean composite decking using it.

Many people will say that pressure washing composite decking is not recommended and this is because there is a chance that pressure washing will damage the deck surface. If you are careful with your pressure washing, however, you can clean a composite deck without damaging it. Let's take a look at how.

If you are still concerned about power washing your composite decking, you could always bring in a professional cleaning company to do the job for you. They will understand the material and will use the correct cleaning tools and products correctly to ensure that the decking is clean without damaging it.

What Are The Risks When You Power Wash Composite Decking?

Power washing a composite deck can be risky. Pressure washers and power washers work by using water expelled from a hose with high force to manually remove dirt and grime. And this is fine when the surface that you are cleaning is hardy but composite decks can be vulnerable to damage.

If too much force is used on a composite deck, and especially if the power washing is done against the grain and has created etching on the surface, the composite deck material can be compromised.

Small holes and scratches in the composite deck surface create openings through which moisture can seep into the boards themselves and get trapped. This can quickly lead to problems with mould and mildew that are nigh on impossible to fix without replacing the boards entirely.

Power Wash Composite Decking

How To Power Wash Composite Decking

So you've decided to take the plunge and power wash your composite deck. It is often a good idea to do a patch test before going ahead and power washing the entire composite decking surface if you can.

Choose a small area of decking that is relatively inconspicuous and try the cleaning method on this first. If it doesn't cause any damage, that's your green light to go ahead and clean the rest of the deck surface.

Step 1 - Clear The Deck Surface

Before you go in with the pressure washer, you should clear the entire decking of everything that is currently there. This includes all the furniture or ornaments but it also includes leaves, debris, and loose dirt. If you happen to own a leaf blower, this can be a very helpful tool for quickly shifting loose debris but a soft bristle brush and a garden hose can also work really well. You could even use a vacuum cleaner to get rid of as much dirt as possible.

Taking the time to remove surface debris makes cleaning composite decking thoroughly much easier.

Step 2 - Set Up Your Power Washer

This is a key step. To prevent damage when you clean composite decking, it is so important that you take the time to understand your power washer or pressure washer and set it up to be used correctly.

The only difference between a power washer and a pressure washer is that a power washer uses hot water whereas a pressure washer uses cold water. Otherwise, they work in the same way. 

The main risk when you power wash composite decking is damage to the composite deck boards due to the force of the water. Pressure and power washers often have a range of pressure options and you should aim to use a setting that is no more than 1500 psi. Any more than that could damage the decking material.

You should also use a fan tip nozzle so that the water is spread over a larger surface area. This will reduce the amount of force again.

Finally, you should make sure that you hold the wand no closer than 12 inches away from the deck's surface.

Step 3 - Choose A Cleaning Product

Many pressure washers have detergent tanks or, if not, a siphon hose through which you can spray cleaner. Using the correct cleaning solution is important to avoid damage to your decking. The wrong cleaner can cause all sorts of problems down the line that may become costly to fix.

Something as simple as dish soap can be an effective cleaner as it cuts through dirt and grime without causing damage. You should harsh chemicals such as chlorine bleach as this will likely damage the composite structure of your decking as it is extremely corrosive. You should also avoid other invasive chemicals that could damage the composite.

A specific composite deck cleaner is always a safe option as this will be designed to clean the composite without damaging it. An oxygenated cleaner is also a good idea as this will help to clean inside the pores of the composite decking as well as the surface.

Step 4 - Do Some Soap And Water Cleaning

It can often be a good idea to do some basic cleaning at this point before going in with your pressure washer, just using the soap and water method. Throw some warm soapy water on the decking before gently scrubbing with a soft bristle brush and rinsing.

Remember not to leave dirty water to dry out on the decking as it can seep into the pores. Rinse as soon as you can. 

In some cases, the dish soap will remove all the dirt and you may not need to use a power washer to finish it off but if your decking is still looking dirty afterwards, then you can go ahead with the next step.

Step 3 - Start The Power Washing

Remember to use a force no greater than 1500 psi when cleaning composite decking, use a fan attachment, and hold the wand no closer than 12 inches to the deck boards.

Spray the deck with your chosen cleaner and let it sit for a minute before you start the pressure washing.

When you power wash composite decking, you should always go with the grain of the board. Follow the length of each individual board, running the entire length. There are two reasons for this.

First, it helps with drainage. Second, and most importantly, it helps to prevent damage to the boards. Pressure washing horizontally across multiple boards can create etches in the surface which will compromise the structural integrity of the decking and can lead to further damage down the line.

Pressure Washing Deck

Bringing In The Professionals To Power Wash Composite Decking

If you feel that pressure washing your composite decking might be too much of a risk, you can always bring in some cleaning professionals to do the job for you. At the Tripleclean Gang, our team of highly trained technicians understands the particular needs of composite decking and will always choose the right tools, products, and techniques to ensure that the decking is sparkling clean and protected from damage.

The Bottom Line

So can you power wash composite decking? Yes, you can. But it does carry with it some risk. Using the wrong tools, techniques, or products can cause damage to your composite. This damage won't just look unsightly, it can also lead to the material being compromised and at risk of potentially unfixable damage later on. With that being said, if you follow the correct methods, you can power wash composite decking and it will work as an efficient and effective cleaning solution.

While you're exploring our site, be sure to take a look at our post on whether can you pressure wash solar panels for additional insights.

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