Can I pressure wash my vinyl railing and composite deck?

You can wash composite, however Trex does not recommend the use of a pressure washer. The use of a pressure washer on the deck surface could damage the decking surface and will void the warranty with respect to any condition caused by the pressure washing.

Pressure washing is not usually recommended for composite decking because getting too close or using too much pressure can be ruinous for your deck. Composite decking material is softer than natural wood and therefore can be “etched” more easily.

We have found using a mixture of soap and bleach does a very good job of loosening the mildew, dirt and algae. After application you can wait 5-10 minutes then with low pressure and a scrub brush wash off the soap.

Armstrong Clark stain: A penetrating oil

Ease of Application

  1. Can be in direct sunlight and the heat of the day no matter how hot it is without the risk of drying too quickly or leaving sticky puddles and shiners.
  2. No wiping – soaking in period is 24 hours
  3. Can be exposure to rain only 60 minutes after absorption into wood*
  4. No stripping or sanding required on maintenance coats
  5. One coat coverage. A second coat can be applied “wet-on-wet” or “wet-on-dry” to softwoods for extra protection only if the first coat soaked into the wood within 60 minutes. Do not apply a second coat of Semi-Solids except on siding.
  6. Blending all containers before applying is not required
  7. Stain can be applied to wood with a higher moisture content – up to 20%; 15% is recommended for cedar shingles and redwoood to help prevent tannin bleed
  8. Freezing after absorption will not affect newly applied stain
  9. Walk on stain during application without worries that footprints will remain.

*Ability to withstand rain 60 minutes after absorption (not application) applies to normal rain conditions; if heavy down pours are expected it is recommended that you let the storm pass and then let the wood dry for two days (or until moisture content is down to 20% or less). Additionally note that exotic hardwoods take much longer to absorb stain than softwoods. These woods can sometimes take 8 – 24 hours to fully absorb an applied stain.


  1. Color/ appearance lasts several years*
  2. Provides non-drying oils to condition wood
  3. No peeling or cracking of stain
  4. Stain in unopened cans has an indefinite shelf life**

*Pigment is the sacrificial raw ingredient that absorbs UV rays. Transparent stains have lower amounts of pigment and therefore a reduced ability to prevent premature graying of wood. Natural Tone has the least amount of pigment and can only delay the onset of the graying process. For these reasons semi-transparent, and not transparent stains, are recommended for higher elevations.**Periodically check cans for leaks. Although the stain may last a very long time the storage environment may provide conditions that lead to pin holes and stain leaking out of the can.Ease of Reapplication

  1. No stripping required (or at the very least a light and easy stripping)
  2. One coat coverage on maintenance coats

Final Appearance and Color

  1. All colors are intermixable to create custom colors.
  2. No worries about color mistints or color mismatches
  3. Natural looking, not pastel looking, colors allow the wood grain and or texture of the wood to be seen

Actual Wood Protection

  1. Allows wood to breathe
  2. Includes non-drying oils to condition and rejuvenate wood
  3. Provides water repellency and protection from mother nature
  4. Includes mildewcide to combat molds and mildew
  5. Includes UV inhibitors (Natural tone only as enough pigment to slow down but not prevent premature graying)*

*Pigment is the sacrificial raw ingredient that absorbs UV rays. Transparent stains have lower amounts of pigment and therefore a reduced ability to prevent premature graying of wood. Natural Tone has the least amount of pigment and can only delay the onset of the graying process. For these reasons semi-transparent, and not transparent stains, are recommended for higher elevations.

Add Curb Appeal with a house wash.

Power washing can improve the look of the home almost instantly. Using a high powered jet of spray, it eliminates buildup left on homes year after year. The solution that many contractors use is environmentally friendly and will not harm children, pets, or yards.

Power washing services are geared towards all types of building materials as it can strip away paint in order to have the exterior re-painted, brick, and siding. It is used to remove the following buildups off of homes:

  • Grime
  • Mold
  • Dirt
  • Dust

Pressure washers are very powerful tools which should be used wisely. The jets are so powerful; they can break windows and take paint off of surfaces unintentionally. A professional should always be called into supply this type of service.

Who provides the water for a house wash?

Most residential/commercial pressure washing companies will tap into the homeowners/businesses water supply. Getting companies to bring their own water is a possibility however getting trailers of water is more expensive than hooking up to your source of water. Most companies have their own water tank on their truck but only bring somewhere between 200 to 400 gallons with them to start the job. If you are on a well this can be more taxing on your system and you might need to buy a bulk tanker of water. Always make sure you talk to your pressure washing company before they come out and hook up to your water. Ask them how long they will need to run your water and how much water they will be bringing out with them.

What is the difference between soft wash and pressure washing?

While a pressure wash relies on the high-pressure water alone to clean properly, soft washing systems use a combination of soaps, bleach, and water to ensure your exterior stays clean for the long-term without damage from the high water pressure.

Pressure washing alone, without using some sort of bleach/soap mixture is and can be very harmful to siding and other surfaces. Many people think that a pressure washer along can remove all the dirt and mildew. The truth is, while you may remove some dirt, you will also etch and ruin your surface with to much pressure. The other fact is when using only water to remove mildew, the mildew/algae will come back very quickly.

Soft washing however uses low pressure and a cleaning solution to gently wash siding. This cleaning solution removes dirt, mold, and mildew from the surface. A Soft wash solution contains mostly water and high chlorination. The sodium hypochlorite found in the mix is what removes mold, mildew, algae, and other organic growths from the siding. Cleaning solutions often contain soap additives as well, such as surfactants and foaming agents to help the solution “cling” to the surface and work more efficiently.

There are problems with both ways of cleaning if you ask me and I’ve seen them both in action. Pressure washing alone is very harmful to whatever surface your cleaning without putting a soap on the surface to loosen the dirt first. And while soft washing uses low pressure the bleach content is way to high and can result in to many surfaces/plants getting destroyed. So what is the middle ground? The middle ground is lower water pressure with a good soap and a lesser percentage of bleach. With these things in play it will be less likely to ruin any surface while at the same time effectively cleaning and removing algae and mildew from you house.

What is soft washing and it harmful?

Soft washing uses low pressure with a cleaning solution to gently wash siding and remove dirt, mold, and mildew from the surface. While low pressure is great for not damaging siding and other surfaces around your house the soft wash system uses a high amount of sodium hypochlorite (SH). The sodium hypochlorite found in the mix is what removes mold, mildew, algae, and other organic growths from the siding. Using to much of this chemical may damage your siding or other surfaces along with potentially killing plants, shrubs and trees.

A good question to ask before having your house pressure washed is, how much sodium hypochlorite (SH) is in your mix or what percent of SH will you be using when you wash my house?

Why is my deck stain peeling?

Why is my deck stain peeling and how do I prevent this from happening? This a common question and occurrence for many exterior wood deck owners. Homeowners love their wood decks and patios and nothing ruins the outdoor experience more than an ugly looking peeling deck. In this article, we will look at the main reasons for deck stains failures, how to fix them, and how to prevent the stains from peeling in the future.

Did Not Prep the Deck Properly:

Improper prepping of the deck is the number one reason that a new decking stain will fail. In general, the better a deck stain penetrates into the wood the better it will perform. Here are a few examples of improper prepping.

  • Grayed deck was not cleaned with a wood deck cleaner prior to application of finish. The use of a quality deck cleaner will not only remove all the dirt, grime, and graying but it will make the prepping process much easier. Never use household bleach or chlorine based deck cleaners. This will damage the cellular structure.
  • Old failed coatings were not removed with a deck stain stripper. You should not apply a new coating over top of an old coating that has failed by peeling or wearing unevenly. This will prevent you new coating from performing properly as it will be subjective to the continual failure of the old stain.
  • The use of a wood brightener was not used after a deck cleaner or stain stripper. It is very important to use a brightener to neutralize the caustics of a cleaner or stripper. Failure to use a deck brightener will leave the wood in a high pH state. Decking stains will fail faster if the wood has a high pH balance.
  • Applying a water-based stain over top of an oil-based stain or vice versa. Many stains will not adhere to different brands or types of stains. If switching a brand or type of stain it is best to remove the previous coating as much as possible. This will give your new coating the ability to adhere and penetrate into the cellular structure.

Deck Sanding:

Sanding the deck to a super smooth surface such as a hardwood floor causes penetration issues. Wood decks are not the same as interior wood. The more porous the wood is the better the stain can attach to the interior of the wood. If you sand we strongly suggest that you sand with paper of 60 grit or less. In addition, it would be best to use a deck cleaner and brightener to remove the sand dust when done.

Wrong Type of Stain or Sealer Was Used:

Always use stains and coatings that re specifically designed for exterior wood decks. Coatings that are too thick or unable to penetrate the wood will fail much faster and will be difficult to fix in the future:

  • Never apply a polyurethane or varnish type coating to horizontal wood. It will peel, turn yellow, and will require heavy sanding to fix.
  • Interior stains such as Minwax will not work on outside decking. They will be prone to mold and mildew while offering zero UV protection
  • Exotic hardwoods such as IPE require coatings that are able to penetrate into their very dense cellular structure. Make sure to buy a brand of stain that is specifically designed for these wood types.

New Decks:

Just because a deck is new and free of dirt and old coatings does not mean it is ready to be stained. All new decking should be prepped to remove the mill glaze. This allows the stain to penetrate. This can be accomplished with a deck cleaner and deck brightener.

More Stain is Better:

Very common mistake here. Homeowners believe that if they apply another coating or two that the stains performance will increase. It is actually the exact opposite or less is better. In general, you want to apply as much stain as the deck allows to absorb into the wood. Coatings that are over applied will film “on top” of the surface instead of “in” the surface. Film forming coatings are much more prone to peeling and wearing.

Poor Quality Brand of Decking Stain:

There are many deck stains available today but one thing is certain, they are not all created equal. Do some research online for deck stain and reviews. You will find that many of the different stains brands have a history of failure and poor performance. Do not believe ridiculous deck warranties either. The best deck stains are typically not bought at your local Big Box store but rather online or at your higher end specialty stores and lumber yards.

Penetrating vs. Film Forming Stains:

Penetrating stains will always outperform stains that dry or “film” on top of the wood. In general, the better the deck finish penetrates, the better the performance. Many stains claim to penetrate when they actually do not, Be wary of water-based semi-transparent acrylic wood stains such as Behr and Sherwin Williams. They claim to penetrate when in actuality they are thin versions of paint.

Best Practises for Deck Stain Performance:

  • The better you prep the deck, the better a stain will perform. Do not skip steps and strongly consider stripping off old coatings first prior to reapplication.
  • Penetration is king! The better the stain penetrates into the wood the less chance of peeling and wearing
  • Do not over apply!
  • Read all manufacturer’s application directions.
  • Research the brands of stains thoroughly.
  • Choose a deck finish that allows ease of reapplication in the future. All stains fail eventually and choosing a coating that requires minimal prepping for reapplication makes future maintenance much easier!

How To Remove Snow & Ice From Composite Decking

While you won’t use your deck regularly during the winter season, you probably still want to clean pathways to your backyard and make it safe to walk.

To remove snow and ice from your composite deck, you do want to make sure you use tools and products that won’t damage the deck surface.

Let’s take a look at the safe ways to shovel your deck or use ice melt products.

Can you shovel snow off a composite deck?

Yes, you can shovel snow off composite decking without damaging the deck – if you have the right shovel!

Shovels with a metal cutting edge nick, cut, and damage the composite decking.

To avoid this damage, make sure you use a shovel with a plastic or rubber edge.  This removes the snow safely without scraping or harming the deck’s surface.

During light snows, you may not even need a shovel to clear your deck.  Many homeowners use a leaf blower or broom to clear light snow less than 1-2”.

Can you use a snow blower on your deck?

Some homeowners have large decks or long walkways.  If there is a lot of snow and you have easy ground access, it may be tempting to use a walk-behind snow blower to remove the snow.

This is not a good idea! 

Like a metal-edged shovel, a snowblower cuts and damages the composite decking.  It is not worth the risk or damage on your beautiful deck!

Can you use ice melt or rock salt on composite decking?

Removing snow with a plastic shovel or leaf blower is pretty basic, a thin layer of ice or sleet on your deck is a different ballgame.

Remember – you don’t want to use any kind of metal edge or object to remove or break the ice.  While this method removes the ice, it also damages your deck.

Instead, you want to melt the ice.  What ice-melting agents are safe for composite decking?

Similar to stronger cleaning agents, you should always check the manufacturer’s guidelines before using ice melt, especially if using a unique brand or chemical agent.

Calcium-chloride ice melts are usually safe for composite decking and our recommended solution.  This compound is highly effective at melting ice without damaging the composite surface.  It also does not hurt pets if accidentally ingested.

We do NOT recommend using traditional sodium chloride rock salt or sand.  These granules tend to leave unattractive and permanent marks on composite decking.

Can pressure washing damage my siding?

When done incorrectly yes! Even a small pressure washer can damage siding, even knocking it loose. In inexperienced hands, the pressure washer can destroy window screens, cause leaking in window seals, blow off shingles and more. It can also remove paint on wooden surfaces and if you were only planning on cleaning your house, you’ll now be faced with repainting as well.

So before hiring a pressure washing company you might want to ask a few questions, like: do you have liability insurance, do you use any chemicals when washing, how strong are the chemicals you use, do you use chemicals at all and how much pressure do you use when pressure washing? All these questions are a good place to start when trying to hire the right company.

What should the moisture content be in wood before I can stain a deck?

The quick answer is 12-17 percent moisture content in your wood. A longer explanation is the dryer the wood is the more stain the wood will absorb and the more it absorbs the longer the stain will last on your deck or fence. It is possible to stain a piece of new pressure treated wood, however the wood is already full of treatment and the wood has no more room left to absorb the stain. It doesn’t take that long for a deck to dry down to the proper percentage. In the heat of the summer it may only take a day and in spring/fall and couple days.