Day 1: Cleaning and Bleaching

First, line up the gear needed:
  • Power washer (3,000 psi) with a 40-degree fan tip
  • Pump sprayer (2-gallon) with fan tip, which covers better than an adjustable cone tip
  • TSP (trisodium phosphate), or a TSP substitute
  • Nonchlorine bleach, such as OxiClean (hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate)
  • Wood brightener (oxalic acid), for cedar or redwood decks only)
  • Boots and PVC-coated rain pants (you're going to get wet!).

Next, replace any cracked or damaged boards with the same species of wood, and secure them with stainless steel decking screws. Trim any foliage that may be in the way, and thoroughly wet down nearby plants.

Power-Washing Caveats

Power washers certainly save time and water, but the high-pressure stream can gouge wood, break glass, and cut through skin in an instant of carelessness. Take time to get used to the machine and make sure to use only the 40-degree fan tip. If you don't feel comfortable directing that much power at the wood, try using a stiff-bristle scrub brush. It will produce the same result, although it will take longer and require more muscle.

• Protect your legs and feet with boots, and never point the wand at yourself or anyone else.
• Take a test run on your driveway to get a feel for how a power washer works. Practice keeping the wand in continuous motion, using smooth, long strokes at a consistent distance from the surface and feathering up at the end of each stroke.
• If your power washer has adjustable pressure, set it to 3,000 psi, the level recommended for 40-degree fan tips. A lower setting will work, but the job will take longer. Higher settings are more likely to cause damage.
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