We practically live on our outdoor deck from spring through fall. By this time of the season, it’s showing wear. How best to care for our deck? — A.G., Fitchburg, MA
Decks are constantly exposed to the elements and therefore will quickly show signs of weathering. If the wood is dirty (bird droppings, pollen, mud), sponge-mop your deck with a mild detergent and rinse well (I simply hose it off). Mineral spirits will remove tree sap, but be sure to rinse those spots well, as the solution can stain.
If your deck’s in the shade, mold or mildew may form. To remove it, mix a solution of 3/4 to 1 cup of bleach with a gallon of hot water. Sponge-mop and rinse, taking care not to splash too much bleach solution onto any plants bordering your deck.
If water’s soaking in and darkening your deck (rather than beading up on the surface), it’s time to treat the wood. Clean the deck first; then apply a stain according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Some homeowners like to use a wood brightener after cleaning but before applying the stain. Brighteners and stains are often sold as companion kits. We recommend using stain with a commercial sealant rather than treating wood with a clear finish such as shellac or varnish, because these tend to peel under too much sun and moisture. — Polly Bannister, Yankee Home Editor