Luckily tackling this task is an easy weekend project. Here’s how to stain or seal a deck to keep it looking its best. Before you start, however, you should thoroughly clean the deck.Tools you’ll need to clean a deck:

  • Broom
  • Putty knife
  • Hammer/drift pin
  • Pressure washer
  • Vinegar (apple cider or white distilled)
  • Scrub brush

Step 1: Clear surface debris

The first step in cleaning a deck is to sweep off any surface gunk such as dirt, twigs, and leaves. This can be accomplished with an ordinary broom on the top, but be sure to pay special attention to the cracks. Use a putty knife or similar tool to dig out any leaves or other items lodged between boards in the crevices as these can rest on the joists and eventually rot the boards.

Step 2: Look for protruding nails

A worn deck that has been battered by the elements can have protruding nails caused by the boards repeatedly getting wet and then drying out. So, a good safety practice while cleaning your deck is to look for any nails that are sticking out and hammer them back down with a drift pin on the nailhead (to avoid damaging the wood itself) until they’re flush with the boards.

Step 3:  Power-wash the boards

If you have access to a pressure washer, this is the time to pull it out, or consider renting one (especially if your deck is large). This is a highly efficient way to thoroughly clean a deck regardless of the material. However, if your deck is made of wood, keep the power wand moving at all times and keep the water stream 6 to 8 inches from the surface to avoid damaging the grain.

Step 4:  Bring out the vinegar

Don’t have access to a pressure washer? You can do the cleaning by hand with some vinegar, water, and a scrub brush. Apple cider or distilled white vinegar is a recommended all-natural deck cleaner by many sources. Just pour vinegar on the deck and let it rest for an hour (preferably in the sunlight). Then vigorously attack the rust, mildew, or moldy areas with a scrub brush. Finally, rinse the deck with water.

Now it’s time to properly stain and seal the surface.

Kimberly Dawn Neumann, who is based in New York City, is an author, from Realtor .com

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