Fair Go puts patio cleaners to the test
Spring is here and cleaning your patio is more than just a vanity project.
The ACC revealed to Fair Go that in 2021 it was handling 10,823 active claims for deck slips at a cost of $21.7 million.
This year is set to be just as costly and harmful.
ACC statistics also show that most people who slip suffer from soft tissue injuries, but last year 144 people suffered a concussion or other brain injury.
So there’s no doubt that we should have these winter decks safely cleaned – but what Fair Go found was a bewildering array of options at hardware stores for cleaning mold and grime from a wooden deck. .
And many products claimed to do the job – despite using very different active ingredients. Such as?
“Sodium hypochlorite, which is standard household bleach, like at Janola. Oxalic acid is in one of the products. The strong acid is not good for the cells, which has an effect on mold. There’s also sodium percarbonate which is also an oxygen-based bleach,” says Associate Professor Joanne Harvey of the University of Victoria’s School of Chemical and Physical Sciences.
“Bleaches are not good for living cells and so they are good for inhibiting the growth and to some extent killing any mold that might be on your deck. They are also particularly good at bleaching. “
This means they make mold less visible, but does it clean it? Harvey says there is little controversy in the scientific literature about this.
“All of these active ingredients will play a role in killing fungal cells so it’s just a matter of whether you can kill them all the probability is not in a highly porous material like wood that’s why you need to repeat the application,” says Harvey.
She adds that annual cleaning may be enough in some places, while others will need it every six months to kill recurring mold.
These cleaners also require compounds that lift and spread mold and dirt by causing them to stick and disperse in water – this is called a surfactant.
“It’s attracted to charged dirt particles and the greasy end is attracted to greasy slimy bits on your deck.”
Armed with this knowledge and some online recommendations for homemade recipes, Fair Go went shopping and purchased three popular products.
- 30 Second Deck & Driveway Cleaner
- Cabot Bridge Cleanup
- Wet and Forget Hit the Deck
Our two homebrews were simple.
- A chlorine-based bleach – Janola – mixed 1 part bleach, four parts water with a squirt of washing liquid
- An oxygen-based powder bleach (from Eco Warehouse, but much like any bleaching powder) mixed in lukewarm water also with detergent.
Carefully following the manufacturer’s instructions, we applied all five to sections of a moldy, dirty section of wood.
Looking at the results, our expert Joanne Harvey and all the manufacturers agreed – good results in every way – including the homemade recipes.
The cost of these is difficult to estimate; we don’t know how much coverage we’d get from a bottle of bleach at $2.12 per liter or oxy-powder bleach at $14.90/kg.
As for the big brands based on what they claim they can cover, Cabot’s $22.48 for 1 liter works out to $2.25 per square meter, although buying larger quantities would be cheaper.
According to Hit the Deck, depending on how dirty the deck is, its $68, 3-pound tub would clean 60 to 90 square feet and cost between 76 cents and $1.13 per square yard.
30 Seconds claims its $36.98 2-liter premix would clean 83 square feet of patio, which equates to just 44 cents per square yard.
However, Fair Go wanted to know why 30 Seconds offers four different products that all have the same active ingredient – should shoppers buy its Outdoor Cleaner, Mildew Remover, Deck & Driveway Cleaner and Home Cleaner when a alone would do?
30 Seconds says all four use the same ingredient but mixed in different concentrations for the different jobs.
Buyers could instead buy a concentrate and mix it up for the job if they don’t want to pay extra for convenience, but that convenience seems to be the brand’s biggest selling point.
“Tthere’s no need to handle any chemicals, just attach the garden hose to the bottle,” the 30 Seconds team said in a statement.
Cabots uses oxalic acid and its manufacturer warns: “Bleach bleaches wood and high concentrations of sodium hypochlorite can damage the wood substrate.”
Wet & Forget says it’s gentler than either of these rivals: “We wanted a product that wouldn’t burn us, bleach our clothes, or kill precious petunias or the cat,” says company founder and CEO Rod Jenden.
“Hit The Deck has a pH10, which is extremely mild, compared to (chlorine) bleach-based deck cleaners which have a pH12.3 and are fierce oxidizing agents, and of course, very harsh on the skin. , fabrics, wood and metal.
Other products use oxalic acid which has an extremely acidic pH1.”
Jenden also recommends using his proprietary brush, which Fair Go also tested — at $25, it might be worth it.
As powerful as the chemistry is, you also need to add some physics – a good scrubbing motion.
“You just want a product that will do your job for you, but to be honest, you’ll get the best long-lasting results if you use elbow grease as well as chemical agents,” says Associate Professor Harvey.
Whatever you use, Harvey says you should add PPE: gloves, shoes, eye protection and plenty of ventilation, so mix everything outdoors if possible.
Here is one last but very important point. Mixing anything with bleach requires care. Read the label. Never add anything to bleach that contains ammonia; which can produce a dangerous gas instead of a cleaner deck.