How to Care for Composite Decking

In the past, homeowners only had one choice of material when building a deck: wood. Though beautiful, wood decks require rigorous maintenance, and frequent resanding and refinishing. Several companies have offered a solution to this problem by creating composite decking. Composite decking material is made from wood byproducts (such as sawdust or wood chips) and plastics. The decking comes in many different colors and styles. Though this material will not require extensive upkeep, some maintenance is mandatory--you should sweep and scrub your deck occasionally. In most cases, stains can be removed, but since composite decking cannot be sanded and refinished, address stains immediately.

Things You'll Need

  • Composite deck cleaner or mild soap
  • Hot water
  • Soft bristle deck brush
  • Bucket
  • Broom
  • Hose

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Sweep all loose debris off the deck. Remove any sticks or leaves that may be stuck in the cracks between boards.

Mix the composite deck cleaner as directed, or combine mild soap and hot water in a bucket.

Scrub the surface of the deck, using a deck brush. A long-handled brush is easiest to work with and will prevent back strain. The brush should have soft bristles.

Spray the deck off, using the hose. Remove all soap residue.

Remove or lighten mill marks with acetone (fingernail polish remover). Wet a cotton ball, then rub gently in a circular motion to remove the mark. Visible mill marks can be avoided with careful installation.

Lighten or remove rust stains by using a cleaning product that contains oxalic or phosphoric acid. Apply the product full-strength and let it soak into the stain for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove patio furniture and grills at the end of the summer to avoid rust stains accumulating over the winter.

Scrub oil stains with a soft bristle brush a household degreaser, then rinse. Oil stains can seep into the material and will be permanent if not addressed immediately.

Remove stains from berries or red wine with bleach and water. Mix 1/4 cup bleach with 1 cup warm water, then use a soft bristle brush in a circular motion. Stains from berries may be permanent.

Tips & Warnings

  • Most manufacturers of composite decking material do not recommend the use of a pressure washer, as this can damage the surface. You may void your warranty if you use a pressure washer on your deck; check manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Do not sand your deck. This will ruin the surface and make it even more susceptible to future stains. This may also void your warranty. Don't allow damp leaves to remain on your deck; these may discolor the boards. Make sure that the deck is built with proper water drainage; standing water can cause discoloration.
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