At last week’s Home and Garden Show here in Des Moines, we had several folks ask “What do you use to clean a composite (wood-alternative) deck?” My answer surprises many: “The ‘Care and Cleaning’ section of the manufacturers’ web sites.” Seriously, its important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. Each decking product is made with slightly different materials and ratios of Material A to Material B; each can have a different reaction to different chemicals. So, different manufacturers recommend different care/cleaning procedures and products for their decking products. Also, different products are recommended depending on what it is you’re trying to clean or remove from your deck.
Not surprising , the “thing” most people are concerned about removing from their decks is…all that snow and ice we’ve had here in the Des Moines area this winter. So, another common question we heard revolved around how best to remove snow and ice from a composite (wood-alternative) deck. I’ll start that answer with how not to remove snow and ice:
- Don’t use a snowblower (though I did once, carefully; kept it up 4” – 6” off the surface and used it to get the worst of the 3’ drift I had across my deck)
- Don’t use a metal-edged shovel
Scratching is the issue with any tool you might use to remove snow or ice from your deck. Composite and wood-alternative decking products are not immune to scratching…particularly if sharp, fast-moving tools are used.
Plastic shovels are recommended when shoveling snow from a deck. Even then, I suggest a light surface contact approach to the shoveling and leaving a thin skim of snow on the deck surface (to melt, evaporate, blow away, etc.). If ice-build-up becomes a problem, again be careful with tools! And, again, refer to the ‘Care and Cleaning’ section of the manufacturers’ web site; many of those address snow and ice removal as well.
At a glance, below are the 5 composite and wood-alternative decking products we’ve used the most over the past 6 years here in the Des Moines area; listed with each is their recommendation for removing snow and ice and the link to the Care and Cleaning section of their web sites:
- For ice removal: Most products containing calcium chloride can be used without damage to the deck surface. These products may leave a white residue which can be cleaned using the cleaning guidelines above.
- Cross Timbers
- No reference to snow/ice removal
- Do not use a metal shovel to remove snow or ice from your deck, as you may cause damage to the deck surface.
- For ice removal, either rock salt or calcium chloride may be used without damage to the surface. However, either of these products may leave a white residue, which may be removed by either rinsing with water or a mild soap/water solution.
- Calcium chloride or rock salt, available in many home centers, will melt ice on Trex decking. Rinse off when first practical. Use caution when removing snow or ice with a snow shovel, and never use a metal snow shovel on a Trex deck. A shovel may scratch the deck, which is not covered under warranty.