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Tame Exterior Grime: Cleaning Concrete and Decking

March 5, 2024

Tame Exterior Grime: Cleaning Concrete and Decking


As a homeowner, I know that keeping the exterior surfaces around my home looking their best can feel like an endless battle against the elements. Concrete sidewalks, driveways, patios, and decks quickly become magnets for dirt, mildew, and other unsightly grime. While power washing is an option for deep cleaning these surfaces, it can be costly, environmentally unfriendly, and even damage the materials if not done properly. Thankfully, with the right techniques and products, DIY cleaning can effectively refresh concrete, stone, and wooden decking safely, efficiently, and affordably.

Cleaning Concrete Surfaces

Concrete hardscapes like driveways, sidewalks, and patios are durable but prone to staining, mildew growth, and embedded dirt and grime when left unattended. Here are some of my best tips for tackling common concrete cleaning projects:

Remove Surface Stains

Oil stains – Sprinkle kitty litter or cornstarch over the stain to absorb excess oil, let sit for a few hours, then sweep away. Mix dish soap with hot water and scrub with a stiff brush. Rinse thoroughly.

Rust stains – Apply a paste of oxalic acid and water and allow it to sit for 15 minutes before scrubbing and rinsing.

Leaf/plant stains – Use a pressure washer or spray the area with bleach diluted with water. Let sit briefly before rinsing.

Eliminate Mildew and Algae Growth

Mildew and algae thrive on damp, shaded concrete areas. Cleaning regularly with bleach or other antimicrobial products inhibits growth. Use a stiff push broom to scrub the treated areas to remove unhealthy buildup. Rinse thoroughly.

Remove Embedded Dirt and Grime

Degreasing cleaners designed for concrete help break down and lift stubborn accumulated grime when applied with a stiff brush. Rinse thoroughly after scrubbing.

For a deep clean, use a pressure washer with proper training and precautions to prevent damage. Start at low pressure and test smaller areas first.

Prevent Future Staining and Growth

Sealing concrete after cleaning helps prevent future mildew growth andmakes stains easier to remove. Sweep regularly and clean up spills quickly to stop staining.

Cleaning and Protecting Wood Decks

Wood decks add beauty and functionality to a home when properly maintained. Here are my top tips for keeping wood decks looking fresh:

Remove Built-Up Dirt and Grime

Use a wood deck cleaning solution and a stiff brush to scrub the deck thoroughly from top to bottom. Let the solution sit briefly before rinsing.

For tough spots, use an oxalic acid-based wood brightener before scrubbing.

Avoid excessive water pressure when rinsing, as it can damage wood fibers.

Restore Weathered and Gray Wood

Oxygen bleach cleaners help remove gray, weathered outer wood fibers to reveal a fresh surface underneath.

For a deep clean, consider renting a power wood wash system which uses gentle detergents to clean wood surfaces without damaging them.

Remove Mold and Mildew Stains

Apply a deck wash product containing sodium hypochlorite (bleach) to stained areas according to product instructions. Let sit briefly before scrubbing and rinsing away all residue.

Protect and Seal the Wood Surface

Sealing protects wood from moisture and sun damage. Use a clear water-repellent sealant made for exterior wood.

Reseal the deck annually or biannually to maintain protection. Sweep and clean the deck regularly to prevent future buildup.


With the right approach and products, concrete and wood surfaces around the home can be restored to look like new again. Careful scrubbing, brightening, power washing and sealing will help control stains, dirt, mildew and other exterior grime. Consistent maintenance cleaning makes the process easier each season. Taking time for a deep clean each year keeps outdoor living spaces looking fresh.

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