Chlo­rine bleach not right for decks, docks, pa­tios and sid­ing

The Palm Beach Post - Residences - - Front Page -

Ques­tion: I need your help. I own a sum­mer home on a lake that has a dock and large deck. I’ve also got my pri­mary home, which has an out­door pa­tio sur­rounded by huge trees and ex­pen­sive land­scap­ing. All of these things, as well as the sid­ing on my home, need to be cleaned. On­line re­search has yielded a lot of con­tra­dic­tory ad­vice. Some web­sites say to use chlo­rine bleach and water to clean ev­ery­thing us­ing a 1:1 ra­tio. Oth­ers say to use oxy­gen bleach. What would you use and why?

An­swer: Your ques­tion re­minds me of a din­ner I had 22 years ago with a phys­i­cal chemist. Ten days ear­lier, I had started to do re­search for my first-ever deck clean­ing col­umn. Be­fore I share what hap­pened at the din­ner, al­low me to tell you what I knew be­fore meet­ing the chemist.

Back in the mid-1990s, all the in­for­ma­tion out there said to use chlo­rine bleach to clean decks and pa­tios. I in­tu­itively knew this was not the best prac­tice be­cause of what my next-door neigh­bor did each spring.

She al­ways poured three or four gal­lons of pure chlo­rine bleach onto her con­crete pa­tio step­ping stones that were un­der a ma­jes­tic maple tree. She spread it around with a push broom to clean the pa­tio, and the bleach seeped down into the soil. The fumes were so pow­er­ful they made me sick. I warned her that the chlo­rine was so toxic it would kill the tree. She frowned at me and told me to mind my own busi­ness.

Each year, more and more of the tree died. Af­ter my neigh­bor had spent thou­sands of dol­lars on root treat­ments and in­jec­tions, a com­pany fi­nally came and cut the poor tree down.

Here are some ad­di­tional detri­men­tal ef­fects of us­ing chlo­rine bleach out­doors on any­thing you own:

It de­stroys the lignin fibers that hold wood to­gether. It re­moves the nat­u­ral color of the wood. It’s highly cor­ro­sive to metal fas­ten­ers and fram­ing con­nec­tors on wood decks.

It will poi­son ponds and lakes. At din­ner, the chemist in­tro­duced me to oxy­gen bleach. I thought chlo­rine bleach was the only bleach out there. I was wrong.

It turns out oxy­gen bleach had been around for decades. This prod­uct is a pow­der that’s mixed with water. Once you mix it, it re­leases tril­lions of in­visi- ble non-toxic pure oxy­gen ions into the so­lu­tion. These ions are pow­er­ful clean­ers and blast apart or­ganic stains, mold, mildew, al­gae, sun-dam­aged deck seal­ers, cook­ing grease, etc. It’s safe to use on docks, as the so­lu­tion that drips into the water adds needed oxy­gen to the lake or pond.

The best part is the oxy­gen bleach doesn’t harm any veg­e­ta­tion or trees. It doesn’t re­move the color from any­thing. It doesn’t harm the lignin in nat­u­ral wood. Oxy­gen bleach is com­pletely safe for all composite deck­ing, vinyl sid­ing, fiber ce­ment sid­ing and out­door fur­ni­ture of all types.

The more the chemist told me about this mag­i­cal prod­uct, the more in­trigued I be­came. It turns out it was de­vel­oped for the hos­pi­tal­ity and hos­pi­tal in­dus­tries. Ho­tels, mo­tels and hos­pi­tals were tired of spend­ing vast amounts of money re­plac­ing bed­ding ru­ined by wash­ing it with chlo­rine bleach. Oxy­gen bleach was both color and fab­ric-safe!

In the late 1980s, an en­ter­pris­ing en­tre­pre­neur found out about oxy­gen bleach and in­tro­duced it to con­sumers like you and me. He started out sell­ing it as a car­pet cleaner at small home and gar­den shows. Soon he was advertising his brand on TV.

Fast for­ward to 2018 and now there are any num­ber of oxy­gen bleach brands out there that you can buy. Some are cer­ti­fied or­ganic and some are not. It’s prob­a­bly a good idea to use a cer­ti­fied or­ganic one if you want to en­sure you don’t dam­age any of your ex­pen­sive out­door pos­ses­sions.

Tim Carter

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