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Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The tools I use to clean a dirty, mossy, and algae-ridden brick patio and Trex deck

Last week, Farhana (in the comments) asked me which pressure washer I use for our patio and deck. I replied that I would go into more details in a post this week. So here it is.

I live amongst lots of trees and lots of rain and wind. This combo means our patio and deck wind up mossy and ridden with green algae, with a massive touch of dirt in every crook and cranny. The moss can be an inch deep in the shady corners. It's a chore to clean it all. Up until this year, I'd used only a pressure washer to clean the deck, patio, aggregate walkways, and patio furniture. Then I watched a bunch of videos where women showed their best tricks for getting the outdoor living spaces clean in less time. 

What seemed like it would work for me was this combo and in this order:

  • a sidewalk ice scraper to remove thick moss and weeds 
  • a pressure washer spinning spray attachment (RYOBI) to clean broad paths of surface in a few swipes 
  • the focused wand spray nozzle on the pressure washer (AR Blue Clean) to clean the edges where the spinning spray attachment couldn't reach, as well as the tough dirt/algae
  • an outdoor push broom to move pools of water and dirt/grit off the patio
  • and finally, the broad spray nozzle on the pressure washer to wash away remaining dirt
I already owned my dad's sidewalk ice scraper. It's a tool that looks something like this:

Since we don't have much sidewalk ice in my area, I primarily use it to scrape moss and edge the lawn.

I also already owned an outdoor push broom. I've seen workers use push brooms to clear large puddles of water effectively before. So I thought this might speed up some of my work by manually moving excess water out of the way.

A couple of years ago, we bought this electric pressure washer:

Here's a link to the model on Amazon:

AR Blue Clean AR2N1 Electric Pressure Washer-2050 PSI, 1.4 GPM, 13 Amps Quick Connect Accessories, 2 in 1 Detachable Cart, On Board Storage, Portable Pressure Washer

I prefer electric tools over gas powered, due to my sensitivity to gasoline fumes. However, electric pressure washers typically don't have the amount of power as the gas models, and electric motors will need some time outs after running for extended time. I found that my model didn't need a time out for a couple of hours, about the time I'd take a break for lunch anyways. I'd leave it to cool down for about an hour, then start it back up again. Pre-cleaning the patio by scraping the moss off first with the manual tool meant I didn't need to run the pressure washer for as long (saved water in addition to electricity and the motor). 
What I like about this model:
  • price, it was reasonably priced for a tool I'd use twice per year, for a couple of days at each time. I paid more than Amazon's price, though. I bought ours at our local Ace Hardware. I wanted to give my business to a locally-owned place. And I knew if I had any issues with it, my local hardware store would honor my purchase and do whatever was needed to help me out. 
  • it comes with 5 different nozzle attachments which are easy to pop on and off.
  • it does a good job cleaning.

This year I bought an attachment that works on many different electric pressure washer models, the RYOBI surface cleaner.

It snaps onto the extension wand of the pressure washer in the same way and point as the nozzles. The RYOBI uses 4 spinning, focused spray heads on its underside. It cleans an 11 to 12-inch span of patio or deck surface in a few swipes, speeding the overall cleaning time. The manufacturer claims this cuts the cleaning time to 1/4 that of using a spray nozzle alone. My experience is it likely cut my cleaning time to around 1/3 of that of nozzle alone. The end result for me was a mostly clean patio and very clean deck, compared to my previous experience of using a focused nozzle alone. Last year, I cleaned with a nozzle alone. I spent more time then, but did get the brick pristine clean. This year, after using the RYOBI, I went back over stubborn stains on the patio. 

The RYOBI not only cleans faster, but it's less laborious to use. With a nozzle alone, I have to keep tight control of the wand to get each section clean and without streaks. Using the RYOBI was more along the lines of using a vacuum cleaner.

Here's a link through Amazon to the model I bought:

RYOBI 12 in. 2,300 PSI Electric Pressure Washers Surface Cleaner

I bought mine, not through Amazon, but at my local Home Depot. I was going there anyways and wanted to get the RYOBI sooner rather than wait for shipping. I paid more at Home Depot than Amazon advertises.

I was able to clean the deck and almost all of the large brick patio on one Saturday by myself. I cleaned the secondary patio where we put the grill station, and an aggregate walkway between the garage and the patio on a subsequent day. I will finish cleaning our deck and patio furniture with the pressure washer nozzle in the coming week. The wand spray nozzle works very well on the outdoor furniture. And if I feel up to it, I may tackle our driveway with the washer when summer is underway. It's due to another sealing and crack repair this year.

So, these are the tools I use and my experience getting our outdoor spaces sparkling for summer lounging and enjoyment.

Alternatives to buying expensive equipment:

For many years, I used a scrubbing brush and soapy water. To deal with tough mold and algae, I used a bleach and water solution sprayed onto the brick. It was laborious and took an entire week to clean what I can do in a day with the pressure washer.

Equipment can also be rented. I actually think renting equipment like pressure washers may be a better option. You can rent more powerful equipment, plus when it eventually stops working, that's not your problem. Most folks only use a pressure washer for a day or two per year. If you know that you will be able to do all of your cleaning in a brief period, like 4 hours, the cost to rent is very affordable. Home Depot rents pressure washers, in case you want to compare the cost of rentals.


  1. Thanks for sharing more about this. I'm glad to know about the RYOBI surface cleaner. That sounds like something we should look into. We do have a pressure washer already, and many other RYOBI tools, so that item might make our cleaning jobs much easier.


    1. Hi Cat,
      I was dreading cleaning the deck and patio this year. Finding the surface cleaner was a game-changer for me. It made the work go so much faster that it didn't feel as burdensome. Anytime I can find a tool that will make the work a little quicker and easier, I'm on board.

  2. Thanks for the review. We borrowed our neighbors pressure washer (which they freely offered) to do cleaning this year, but are considering getting one of our own. So we are collecting information from various sources. This is a useful addition.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I'm glad to provide useful information. Good luck making your decision.

  3. It's so interesting to hear about the struggles at different locales--we don't really deal much with moss and algae buildup. Thanks for your thorough review of equipment.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Moss seems to grow especially well, here. You can't leave anything outside for very long, or moss will begin to grow. I'm glad that moss and algae are not among the issues you have to deal with in your region.


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