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Do It Yourself: Consider downsides before pressure washing

Q. I want to have my house and rain gutters pressure washed but don’t want to use a cleaner that contains bleach. Is there such a thing?

A. The short answer is yes, there are bleach-free cleaners. But there are some other things you should know before having the house pressure washed.

There are a number of house-and-deck cleaners that do contain bleach, often chlorine bleach, which is effective for killing mildew and mold. But the run-off from cleaners with chlorine bleach can harm plants around the base of the house if they are not carefully protected. Oxygen bleaches are considered safer, but plants still need some protection.

You don’t say what type of siding you have, but some wood siding can be damaged by excessive water pressure, paint can be removed and, if the washing is not expertly done, water can get behind many types of siding and cause damage inside the walls.

All this is not to say that houses should not be pressure washed to clean them; it is done every day and can sometimes greatly improve the appearance of the house. But there are ways to avoid most of the perils of bleach cleaners.

Mildew and mold can usually be removed by spot cleaning with a small low-pressure sprayer or even a bucket of cleaner and a brush. Once the mildew is gone, pressure washing can follow using a detergent solution that does not contain bleach.

It is also possible to clean your house and gutters and avoid all the perils of pressure washing. For example, some cleaners can be applied with hose-end sprayers – the cleaner container is attached to the end of a garden hose and the cleaner is metered into the low-pressure stream of hose water. An example of such a house wash is Concrobium House & Deck Wash (, which the makers say is bleach free but will kill mildew and mold and cause less harm to plants than a bleach cleaner.

Check home centers near you for this and other bleach-free cleaners; you can also search the Internet with the words Bleach Free House and Deck Cleaners.

Q. We are interested in a product called Deck Restore that promises lasting deck treatment. Can you give us some information about it?

A. I haven’t used Deck Restore myself, but you can find some user opinions, pro and con, on the Internet. Use a search engine and the words Reviews of Deck & Concrete Restore. The product has the benefit of an old and well-regarded brand name, Rust-Oleum, but was originated by a company called Synta, which Rust-Oleum acquired in 2009.

Deck Restore is basically a very thick paint – 10 times as thick as ordinary paint, according to one description. It is applied with a roller in two coats and puts a sort of shell on the wood that conceals splinters and cracks and provides a slip-resistant surface that is said to be “barefoot friendly.”

According to a company spokesperson, the average life of a Deck Restore coating is 10 to 12 years. A Deck Restore kit containing two gallons of the product and a roller sold recently at Home Depot for about $40 (the regular price was listed at about $50). The materials in the kit are said to cover 65 square feet – about 8 feet by 8 feet. Some users of the product complained about the cost; one said it cost $600 to coat his deck.

You don’t describe the age or condition of your deck, but you should keep in mind that covering up damage is not the same as repairing it. If the wood is weak and deteriorating, it will still be that way when covered up and is likely to continue deteriorating.

Decks in poor condition are best repaired or replaced. A life of 10 to 12 years is good for a deck coating, but some solid-color (opaque) stains will last almost that long, usually cost less and will let you keep a closer check on the condition on the wood.

If you are seriously interested in Deck Restore, I would try and get a look at an existing deck finished with the product and talk to the deck owner. I would also check the reviews on the Internet. Don’t be too impressed by reviews on the Internet sites of dealers; some good information is on discussion boards that you’ll find farther down on the list of sites.

Deck Restore has a limited lifetime warranty, which is basically similar to most paint “lifetime” warranties. If the product fails and you have saved the receipts and any unused product, you can apply for a refund of the purchase price. Labor costs are not covered, and warranty rules differ in some states.

Questions and comments should be emailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.

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