Water toy #1: A pressure washer
If you don’t have a pressure washer in your tool shed, you’re missing out. Spring is a good time to add one to your arsenal of lean, green cleaning machines. They blast away dirt mostly without harsh chemicals, which is good for the planet and your deck and patio plants.
Plus, they’ve come down in price, and are easier to manage than they used to be, making pressure washing your deck and patio much more fun and much less hassle.
Most models have a detergent chamber or two, so you can add a little earth-friendly soap if you need more cleaning macho.
You also can rent one for $40-$75 a day.
Tip: Don’t rent one heavier than you can handle. That will take all the fun out of it. It’s tempting to go for power, but your deck and patio shouldn’t need the heavy hitter unless you’ve become an expert at deferred maintenance.
Once you start playing with a power washer, you might find yourself looking for more to clean, like your siding.
Water toy #2: Standard garden hose
If you’re not the power washer sort (maybe you don’t like the noise), arm yourself with a hose. It’ll still be fun. Just pretend you’re a kid again and launch an attack on an unsuspecting family member or neighbor. Before you know it, everything will have a good soaking.
Now that you’ve got your water tool of choice, here are some tips to make the job go easier:
Patio umbrella: When you open your patio umbrella for the first time in spring, don’t be surprised to see spiders and moth cocoons. Blast them off with your garden hose. Scrub fabric with a gentle water-and-dish-detergent mixture to avoid stripping the umbrella’s water-resistant coating. When you place the umbrella back into its stand, don’t forget to tighten stand screws.
Outdoor furniture: Heloise, our favorite cleaning tipster, says a scrubbing solution of ¾ cup beach and 1 tablespoon of laundry detergent mixed into 1 gallon of warm water will brighten dingy resin lawn chairs. Vacuum wicker furniture with an upholstery attachment.
Patio pavers: Scrub with a bleach solution (1 part bleach, 10 parts water), which will get rid of stains. More stubborn stains may require treatment with muriatic acid, which is best left to professionals. To prevent future stains, lay outdoor mats on stain-prone areas, like under the grill or patio table.
Grills: The best time to clean baked on gunk is to scrub when the grill is still warm — not hot! — which is nature’s way of softening grease and crunchies. Use a wire brush with scraper to strip off charred food. Or, soak grates in soapy water for 30 minutes, then scour with steel wool. Don’t forget to clean drip pans and ash collectors, too. To keep grills clean, spray on cooking oil before lighting, which keeps food from sticking and makes cleanup faster.
Another tip: Cut an onion in half and rub it on a warm grill either before or after you grill to keep the grill clean.
Water features: Scrub scum from your birdbaths and fountains. Mix a 1:10 bleach:water solution to kill algae, but make sure you rinse thoroughly until the water stops foaming. Use a water wiggler to keep water moving and discourage breeding mosquitoes.
Have fun and be sure to get a little wet!