Cleaning Hacks for Composite Decking and Cladding
Ecoscape UK® composite decking and cladding products - Forma® and Clarity® are made up of recycled high-density polyethylene plastic and reclaimed wood fibres. The durable polymer outer shell encapsulates the boards to form an impermeable layer that protects from scratching, staining and fading and despite composite decking offering a long lasting, low maintenance alternative to timber, you will still need to clean your garden renovation, patios or garden terraces every once in a while. Even commercial applications such as schools, hotels, restaurants and offices need a good scrub down.
Why? You have to remember that despite the low maintenance attraction of composite decking when compared to timber decking – which requires regular staining, fades quickly and is also prone to rot – your decking is still exposed to the outdoor elements. Any composite containing wood fibres will attract wood based issues, most commonly mould and mildew, as well as food spills and grease marks which, if left unattended over time, could potentially cause some unsightly marks on your decking.
The best form of action is to be proactive, rather than reactive when it comes to these common problems, and regular cleaning of your Ecoscape decking is definitely the best method of protection.
For that reason, we’ve drawn together a range of cleaning hacks, some weird and wacky, from across the Internet. It’s up to you to decide if these cleaning hacks for composite decking are moments of madness or moments of pure genius!
Never use household bleach to clean your composite decking
A common practice when dealing with a mouldy deck is to use Chlorine Bleach to clean it. It’s the go to household product for any dirt, grime and mould removal. This is not a great idea when it comes to composite decking.
American company, Rhino Hide says:
“Chlorine Bleach is referred to as Sodium Hypochlorite. The misconception exists that Chlorine Bleach will “kill it all”, but when it comes to mould, nothing could be further from the truth. Chlorine Bleach has been proven to kill bacteria and viruses on non-porous surfaces, but has not been proven effective in killing mould from porous surfaces, such as composite decking.”
Household bleach will simply hide the problem instead, by bleaching the black/green surface mould. It will not actually the rid the fungi or prevent any further spread of it.
Even worse, it could cause it to spread even further. Using bleach to rid mould is not only damaging to the deck, but will actually make the mould problem much worse in the long run. For starters, bleach will not penetrate the durable polymer outer shell. It will only sit on top layer and clean the surface area. To prevent mould, you require a cleaning product that will penetrate the top layer.
According to Rhino Hide, the best solution for composite decking cleaning is a sodium percarbonate based cleaner. It will provide you with a deep clean without damaging the deck.”
Always use a sodium percarbonate based cleaner to clean your composite decking and cladding
What is Sodium percarbonate? Sodium percarbonate is also known as Sodium Carbonate Peroxyhydrate and is a pure high quality oxygen bleach.
“Oxygen bleach breaks down to oxygen, water and sodium carbonate upon decomposition. It is an environmentally safe bleaching agent. Sodium Percarbonate / oxygen bleach offers many of the same functional benefits as liquid hydrogen peroxide. It dissolves into water rapidly to release oxygen and provides powerful cleaning, bleaching, stain removal and deodorizing capabilities in addition to being effective at killing bacteria, fungus, viruses and algae. It has the added advantage of having no odour.
It has plenty of benefits:
- No environmental hazards - breaks down to oxygen, water and sodium carbonate (soda ash) in your wash water
- Effectively kills wide range of bacteria, mildew, algae, viruses, fungi
- Colour safe and fabric safe. It brightens colours and prevents fabrics from becoming yellowed or darkened
- Effective stain removal on a multitude of surfaces
- In the laundry Sodium Percarbonate is used to de-stain, deodorize, and whiten. It is very effective as a laundry pre-soak for heavily stained articles.”
This should provide a deep clean without damaging your composite decking.
Source: Mistralni UK - https://mistralni.co.uk/products/sodium-percarbonate-ultra-pure
When using pure sodium percarbonate for your decking you should:
- Dissolve 50-60g of oxygen bleach per litre into warm/hot water
- Clear the decking of any loose debris, leaves, rubbish first with a brush
- Apply the solution to the surface and allow it to work for around 30-60 minutes
- Scrub with soft bristled brush
- Rinse off with clean fresh water
Each litre of solution will clean approximately five metres square of surface. For stubborn stains, further applications will be necessary.
Extra tips for cleaning composite decking with pure sodium percarbonate:
Only work on a small area at a time
The product is likely to foam when scrubbing with the brush. Do not be alarmed if the foam turns grey/black. That is the dirt, not any colour coming away from your decking boards
Make sure you let the Oxygen bleach stay on the decking for at least 10 minutes (ideally 30 as above), but make sure the surface remains wet. That means re-covering if necessary during the time period
A white powder residue may be apparent when your composite decking is dry. This is just the soda particles, which can be swept away.
Where to buy Oxygen Bleach
Pure forms can be bought from eBay and Amazon. Supermarkets also stock forms of Oxygen Bleach such as Ecover Laundry Bleach, Own Brand Soda Crystals and Bio D Laundry Bleach.
Or, why not make your own composite decking cleaner;
Bonnie Grant from Hunker says it is easy to make a homemade and effective solution to clean away mould, mildew and general dirt from your decking area.
She suggests “Mixing 1 gallon of warm water with 1-1/2 cups of trisodium phosphate and 8 cups of soap in a 5-gallon bucket. Stir the mixture until the trisodium phosphate dissolves.
Dip a long-handled brush into the cleaning solution and scrub it over the surface, going with the direction of the boards. Rinse the area completely and allow it to air dry.
Trisodium phosphate is another compound that is known for its cleaning and stain removing abilities, and also be bought in a pure form online.
Clean your composite decking away from direct sunlight
If you’re still convinced by the no bleach argument, we certainly recommended that you only clean your Ecoscape Forma® and Clarity® decking away from direct sunlight. So in the spring and summer months, we suggest cleaning either very early in the morning or at dusk. The corrosive bleach and direct sunlight together can lead to the premature breakdown of the high-density polyethylene plastic and reclaimed wood fibre boards. Frequent exposure will damage your decking and also corrode the fixtures holding your design together.
Step away from the pressure washer
Pressure washing is a fine art at the best of times, only the hardy of us will use it to clean our cars from example, and we urge you to be cautious when considering using it on your composite decking and cladding. It’s the fear of pressure washing too close or using too much pressure. Either way, you can simply ruin your deck.
In the blog, 5 mistakes to avoid when cleaning your decking, it says: “Composite decking material is softer than natural wood and therefore can be “etched” more easily. Once the material has been “opened up”, this can lead to a host of other issues including chipping, sun damage, and mold staining of the plastics inside the opening. Once mold has stained these plastics, it can be extremely hard to remove. In most cases, a garden hose should be sufficient for regular duty cleaning. If you must pressure wash, just remember to keep it at the lowest pressure possible and no closer than 8″ from the surface.”
Don’t forget to clean the gaps
The reason why there are gaps between decking boards is to allow for expansion and movement, but also to allow for airflow. The gaps get blocked by dirt and debris, stop air circulation, create damp areas and subsequently allow mould and mildew to thrive. Always make sure you clean the gaps once a year, preferably after the winter months.
How to remove Food Stains
WikiHow has a three part guide to cleaning composite decking which includes a section on removing food, oil and grease stains:
Remove the food or spill as soon as you possibly can!
- Rinse the area with hot water.
- Use a biodegradable soap and water with a soft bristle and brush the area. If this doesn’t work, test a small area with the homemade solution above.
Rinse with clean water
Stay away from dishwashing detergents
Dishwashing detergents contain ammonia, which gets into the pores of most composites. Always pick a soap that is suitable for car washing, as they are designed to come into contact with plastic and metals without damaging them.
How to safely remove candle wax from composite decking
Lay a clean rag over the wax spot and then press down with an iron set on a synthetic setting. The heat will melt the wax, and the rag will absorb it. Turn the rag and repeat until the spot is gone.
Remove olive oil stains from your decking
Outdure put together a blog with a six-step guide to successfully remove olive oil from your composite decking. All this was borne from the common case of ketchup and mayonnaise spillages by the kids, as well as the olive oil of course.
Outdure’s first rule is:
“If you want your deck to look like an interior floor surface, treat it like one. If you drop you steak on your carpet, you don't wait until the next day to clean it. Like wise for your brand new composite decking.”
His tips include removing any excess oil straight away before the stain has chance to set in, then apply some concentrate dish washing liquid directly to the effected area. “The idea is to break down the structure of the oil so it can then be rinsed away by the water.” Brush with a stiff decking brush in line with the wood grain. Apply hot water, and then brush again. Repeat the water and brush a couple of more times then rinse away any soap residue with clean water.
We hope you find these cleaning hacks useful in prolonging the life of your Ecoscape® Forma® and Clarity® composite decking and cladding products. Please note however, that these hacks are sourced from the Internet and Ecoscape does not endorse them or guarantee their success.
Our one final piece of advice for you is to stay proactive!
Clean your Ecoscape deck at least twice a year, preferably in the spring and in the autumn before stains appear, re-appear or before mould and mildew set in. However when our decking receives frequent moisture, i.e. rain, frost, ice, snow and humidity (by that we mean those three days of heat we class as summer in the UK) it will be prone to "mold spores", as well as decking that is under a tree, or actively used. We recommend a quarterly clean in the spring, summer, autumn and winter for these instances.
Remember, proactively cleaning your composite decking is the key to spending less time and money keeping composite decking and cladding clean in the long run.