A Solution for Cleaning Decks and Siding

Our house is heavily shaded on all four sides and we stay pretty damp. The result, unsurprisingly, is that we have a mildew problem on the siding and deck. Whether I'm power-washing or just trying to keep the mildew at a manageable level, I have to attack it at least a couple times a year.

Now, this might not seem too bad, but I quickly tired of buying the special deck and mildew "washes" at my friendly neighborhood home improvement center. Furthermore, I didn't think that the commercial washes were doing that great a job. Even the very expensive ones with special mildewicides or tri-sodium phosphate just didn't produce a lasting result.

So I started checking out the ingredients in the various washes and looking for alternatives on the Internet. Of course, most of the commercial washes and the recipes for homemade washes on the Internet contain laundry bleach. I started there and did a little experimentation. What works? How strong do you have to make it to get good results? At what point does it become so toxic that you can't work with it? What additional ingredients improved the mixture? How cheaply could it be made?

I'm happy to say that I arrived at a pretty darn good recipe for a wash. It's cheap, simple, and seems to work as well as most store brands.

WARNING!! I am not a professional wash cook! This stuff could be as deadly as nerve gas...or worse! Be extremely careful if you try to use it! I am not responsible for any damage to your house, deck, lungs, sprayers, garden tools, or anything else you get it on! You could put your eye out or grow hair on your palms! Chromosomal damage may result! Don't mix it up and use it if you're going to blame me for any of the results!!

Kile's Magic Mildew Wash

Mix together the following ingredients in a container with a capacity of at least 1.5 gallons. I use a commercial deck sprayer with a 2-gallon capacity.

1 gallon water

1 quart laundry bleach (use the cheap stuff)

1 pint rubbing alcohol

2 tbsp. Murphy's Oil Soap or other non-ammonia detergent

Remember, use a non-ammonia detergent. You can add a little more bleach if you want to, but a quart in a gallon of water is plenty. I have no idea why the rubbing alcohol helps, but it does. Try leaving it out and see. I buy the cheap "3 bottles for $.99" alcohol. And don't overdo the Murphy's... you want just a little bit of soap action.

If you did everything right, you're still alive. Just spray or brush on this mixture, wait a bit, and then wash it off with clear water. The mildew will come back, but it does anyway. At least this stuff only costs less than a dollar a gallon to make.

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