Central Florida is home to abundant lakes and waterways, which means that many homeowners have waterfront property with a private dock for access. But whether the home is a grand estate, a humble cabin or a typical family homestead, every dock needs to be cleaned on a regular basis. With weather, algae, mold, mildew and just plain dirt being the great equalizers, we at The Paint Manager offer this guide on keeping your dock shipshape and safe!
Why a Clean Dock is Important
To begin with, a dock is part of your home’s curb appeal. A dock that’s in poor repair and/or dirty detracts from the impression it makes to passers-by and – even more detrimental – to potential buyers should you put your house on the market. A dirty dock implies that you also have been lax on home repairs and maintenance, and those buyers will be looking out for expensive potential problem areas they may need to address. And if your neighbors take pride in the appearance of their dock, don’t be surprised if they look askance at those that don’t uphold community standards.
Beyond aesthetics and judgy neighbors, however, keeping your dock clean extends the life of its materials and structural integrity – as well as provides a safe, healthy area for people and pets to enjoy. The pros at EZ Dock of Texas have a very informative blog post about the detrimental effects that green algae, moss, mold and mildew have on wood docks. We invite you to read it in its entirety, but provide the following main points:
- Green algae is a green and slimy film that grows in dark, wet conditions. Because it causes any surface it grows on to be slippery, green algae can be a safety hazard. The moisture that green algae helps retain will slowly begin to penetrate into the wood, causing cracks, splinters and wood rot. Green algae reappears in a few weeks if not properly removed.
- Moss is soft, fuzzy and green, and grows in the same type of conditions as green algae. Like algae, it can be a slipping hazard.
- Mold and mildew show up on wood as greenish-black streaks. In addition to being unsightly, they are health hazards.
Use the Right Cleaning Method for Your Dock’s Material
Doing the job quickly and well requires pressure washing. Depending upon your level of experience operating pressure washing equipment, physical ability to do so safely, etc., you may choose to do it yourself. Our blog post – “Pressure Washing: Should You Hire a Pro or DIY?” – deals with exterior house cleaning, but includes information also relevant to cleaning docks.
Should you take the DIY route, inspecting your dock is the first step. The good people at VW Docks of Spirit Lake, Iowa, recommend looking for any loose/rotten boards, nails, or screws sticking up and fixing them. Also inspect the railings, ladders and other dock accessories and take corrective measures wherever needed. Even if you hire a pro, the dock will still need to be in proper repair before it’s subjected to the high pressure of a power washer. It must also be sturdy enough for the power washer operator to safely work there.
Owners of a larger dock should call a specialist in dock construction and repair should extensive repairs and maintenance be necessary. Our friends at Construct Co Inc. offer construction and repair of docks, boardwalks, decks and boat ramps – among many other marine structures – for residential, commercial and municipal clients.
Pressure treated lumber – Wash docks built of pressure treated lumber with a pressure washer every one or two years. Handle the pressure washer carefully to avoid splintering the wood. Scrub resistant areas with a stiff brush. Use a cleaning solution that won’t harm the environment.
Tropical hardwoods – You can clean hardwood docks every year or two, using a stiff brush and a pressure washer. Make sure you seal and stain the wood often to maintain it in prime condition.
Composite decking – Most composites decks require cleaning only every other year. As with wood docks, pressure washing works best to remove dirt and algae accumulation.
Safe, Natural Products that Effectively Clean Your Dock
It is always important to use environmentally safe products to clean your dock. ShoreMaster recommends a non-corrosive cleaning solution, such as baking soda or a few drops of water-based dishwashing liquid. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safer Choice Standard can help you determine which products are best to use. In general, choose a cleaning agent that’s biodegradable and phosphate-free, and has a neutral pH.
Keep in mind that some ordinary household cleaning products can increase nutrient pollution in lakes and other waterways, resulting in oxygen depletion and algae bloom. For example, never use bleach to remove algae from wooden boat docks. Not only is it toxic, it can change the color of the wood and cause the metal fasteners that keep your dock together to rust.
When it comes to safe products for cleaning wood docks, EZ Dock of Texas has the following recommendations:
- Use products specially designed for green algae and moss removal (a little more expensive than homemade solutions, but effective).
- Use hydrogen peroxide (will not stop algae from growing, but will remove it effectively).
- Apply white distilled vinegar (mix one gallon of water with one cup of vinegar).
On the other hand, avoid cleaning products that contain the following:
- Antibacterial agents
- Chlorine bleach
- Petroleum solvents
- Phosphorus and phosphates
The Take-Home Message
A boat dock is a great amenity that allows you to experience the full benefit of your waterfront property. Maintaining it properly will provide many years of fun and fond memories as you go boating in your slice of Central Florida paradise!
If you’ve already decided to call a pressure washing professional, The Paint Manager is ready! In addition to docks, decks and fences, our team has years of experience in power washing homes and commercial buildings of all sizes, construction materials and ages. We use professional-grade equipment and follow OSHA guidelines. Contact us for a free estimate!