The Cleaning Agent You Should Never Use On Composite Floor Decking

Composite floor decking has become popular for outdoor spaces due to its durability, low maintenance requirements, and aesthetic appeal. Composed of a mixture of wood fibers, plastic, and binding agents, composite decking offers the look of wood without the hassle of regular sealing or staining. Its resistance to rot, insects, and moisture makes it an attractive option as an outdoor flooring material over grass for decks, patios, and other areas. While composite decking is renowned for its longevity, regular cleaning and maintenance are essential to preserve its appearance and structural integrity. Dust, dirt, and organic matter can accumulate on the surface, leading to discoloration, mold growth, and a slippery surface.

However, not all cleaning agents are suitable for composite decking. One common mistake homeowners make is using bleach as a cleaning solution, thinking it will effectively disinfect and brighten the surface of composite floor decking. As a potent disinfectant and stain remover, bleach may seem like a logical choice for cleaning outdoor surfaces. However, when applied to composite decking, bleach can have detrimental effects. Chlorine bleach contains sodium hypochlorite, which can react with the organic compounds present in composite materials, leading to discoloration, fading, and even structural damage. Moreover, bleach does not discriminate between stains and the decking material itself. Its harsh chemicals can break down the polymers and fibers in composite decking, compromising its strength and durability over time. Since bleach is corrosive, it can also damage the metal fasteners used in your composite decking, further exacerbating the problem.

Recommended cleaning agents for composite decking

Opt for gentle cleaning agents to effectively clean composite floor decking without causing harm. Some safe alternatives include mild dish soap and water, a white vinegar and water solution, or specialized composite deck cleaners. A solution of mild dish soap and water is a gentle yet effective cleaner for composite decking. It helps to remove dirt, grime, and light stains without damaging the surface. White vinegar is another natural and non-toxic option for cleaning composite decking. Between mildew and mold, it works well for removing those stubborn stains. Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water to create this cleaning solution. You can also mix baking soda with white vinegar and warm water to make an excellent natural and gentle abrasive cleaner to lift tough stains and grime from composite decking surfaces. Mix a cup of white vinegar to a gallon of water in a pail, then add ¼ cup of baking soda. Apply this solution to the stained areas and scrub gently using a soft brush or sponge. Rinse each section you finish and let dry.

You can also purchase commercially available composite deck cleaners specifically formulated for this purpose, such as the Simple Green Oxy Solve Deck and Fence Pressure Washer Cleaner or Mold Armor E-Z Deck Wash for Wood Surfaces. These are available online or in most big box stores.

Composite floor decking cleaning and maintenance tips

When cleaning composite decking, always test any cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area of the decking first to ensure compatibility and prevent potential damage. Then, sweep away loose debris with a broom or brush. Remove any obstructions, including all of your outdoor furniture, to ensure total access to the entire flooring.  Pre-rinse your deck with water using a water hose to help loosen dirt, grime, and other debris stuck to the surface. Using a soft-bristle brush or sponge, apply the cleaning solution to the surface, working in small sections. Rinse thoroughly with water to remove any residue, and let the deck air dry completely before use. 

Regular maintenance, including sweeping debris and cleaning spills promptly, will help ensure you maximize the functional lifespan of your composite floor decking. Avoid using abrasive tools or harsh chemicals, such as bleach, which could cause irreversible damage. By following these simple steps, you can enjoy your composite decking for years to come with minimal effort and maximum satisfaction. Additionally, following manufacturer guidelines and recommendations for cleaning and maintenance can help prolong the life and appearance of composite floor decking.