Dirty Garden Gravel Stands No Chance Against This Kitchen Cabinet Staple

The idea of cleaning garden gravel sounds like the sort of thing that would have raised Katniss Everdeen's eyebrow about life in the Capitol. But the truth is that garden gravel gets crusted with all kinds of dirt and needs a good scrub. And since more and more people are seeing the wisdom of trading their lawns for a gravel garden, you want to keep your rock looking sharp. The key to clean gravel is an old standby: distilled white vinegar. You won't always need to use it, but it's the go-to when you're between a rock and a hard place.

The basics of cleaning gravel are pretty straightforward. A leaf blower is a good way to avoid getting off to a rocky start. Blow the top, loose layer of dirt from the stones. Give your gravel a good raking, or sweep the gravel surface with a broom or brush, which will clean the stones and probably uncover a few weeds. Pulling weeds by hand is usually the best approach to dealing with them, but there are other great ways to remove weeds from a gravel driveway or garden area. Use boiling water to kill stubborn weeds without harming the soil. A garden hose is usually sufficient for gravel cleaning, but when water doesn't do the trick, try a mixture of white vinegar and hot water — about a cup of vinegar to a bucket. Scrub with a stiff-bristled brush, then rinse the cleaning solution and dirt off with a garden hose.

Tips for getting the cleanest gravel around

Attack any particularly and stubbornly dirty gravel with a pressure washer on low, to prevent damage to the gravel and to help avoid pushing it all over your lawn. To really get rid of the dirt in a manageably small area, consider sifting shovelfuls of your gravel through a mesh-like ¼-inch hardware cloth, or rinse smaller amounts of gravel in a wheelbarrow, pouring off the water and dirt periodically. There are many types of gravel used in lawns and gardens, and a few common materials have slightly different cleaning needs than standard gravel. Limestone is easy to damage with chemicals and rough treatment, so consider using a sponge/mop and mild dishwashing detergent. To clean marble, spread baking soda over the stones, then rinse with the vinegar/water solution.

A rock-solid installation and good lawn and gravel maintenance will make cleaning far easier. When you're putting your gravel down, use an anti-weed landscaping fabric or geotextile fabric underneath your gravel to prevent weeds and dirt surfacing from below. After the gravel is installed, avoid blowing grass clippings into your gravel when mowing. Fill in any low spots every now and then to keep the surface level and prevent debris from accumulating. Rake and weed more frequently than you clean, to keep things from getting out of hand.