How To

Keep mold off the deck

Trex has said its decks won't rot, warp, split or splinter. But they're not immune to mold, which can be a problem in most climates.
Trex has said its decks won't rot, warp, split or splinter. But they're not immune to mold, which can be a problem in most climates. (Trex Co.)
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By Jeanne Huber
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, October 28, 2010

Q I have installed two sizable Trex decks in the past two years. I thought I was installing a maintenance-free material. But now I find myself cleaning and scrubbing my decks every three or four months to remove mold spots. The company doesn't recommend power-washing. I have used several cleaning products, and none seems to maintain a fresh look. The mold spots return quickly. The company has no answer for my problem. Can you recommend a solution?


A Very little in life is truly maintenance-free.

The Trex company has advertised that its decking made from wood fibers and plastic won't rot, warp, split or splinter. The list doesn't include resistance to mold. But the company certainly implies that you don't need to resort to powerful cleaners to keep the decking looking good.

As far back as 1996, when the company was formed, its advertising said Trex maintains its natural beauty and color "all by itself." True, the color might not need refreshing with a stain. But in most climates, blotches of mold will keep the underlying color from showing unless you remove it periodically. Maintenance instructions on the Trex Web site ( list recommended cleaners, including several products that contain bleach, which can lighten the color of the decking and therefore make new mildew spots more noticeable.

As to how to reduce your cleaning chores, Adam Zambanini, the Trex director of marketing, says you should simply apply deck cleaner (he recommends Olympic Premium Deck Cleaner), and let it work for 10 to 15 minutes. Then rinse off the deck with a hose. "If you scrub, that kind of tears into the surface and exposes more of the wood fibers," Zambanini says. With the fibers exposed, mold comes back faster and is harder to remove.

I've saved my yearly calendars for years, like a family journal. Recently, I discovered those on top of a file cabinet in my basement have been dripped on by a leak from above. The pages stuck together. What can I do to separate them to salvage my records? They are semi-gloss pages with a spiral at the top. I've tried steam from a teakettle with very poor success.

Silver Spring

The glossy coating is a type of clay that softens when it becomes damp. When glossy paper gets wet but hasn't yet dried, paper conservators can sometimes salvage them by separating the sheets with a frictionless tool, like a soft spatula. But once the pages dry and become a solid mass, there's usually nothing they can do.

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