6.03.2009

a greener way to clean concrete

A few months ago (or maybe even a year already) I got a harebrained idea to pressure wash our back patio. It was looking grimy and gross, and I was going to swoop in to save the day.


Except….I ended up making it look just plain ridiculous. The pressure washer basically made thin squiggly lines all over the place and I did not have the patience to carefully go over the entire patio as if I were filling in a coloring book with a fine-tipped pencil. I kind of hoped no one would notice, but Karl hadn’t even been home for 5 minutes when he walked by the back door, did a double take and said, “What is wrong with our patio?”. Heh. So much for that idea.

And so it has been ever since – an eyesore. A blight in our backyard. A distraction.


Finally I decided to take matters into my own hands (again). But this time, I did research ahead of time. I knew I didn’t want to use chlorine bleach or other harsh chemicals (sorry, it’s just not gonna happen….no way, no how), but I was intrigued by the concept of using oxygen bleach as a greener alternative to cleaning the patio. From everything I’ve read, oxygen bleach seems to be about the most safe and eco-friendly option out there to take care of a dirty/moldy/yucky concrete slab of patio (plus, it uses less water than if I used the pressure washer and it won’t strip/gouge the concrete like the pressure washer can). So I gave it a shot…


First, I bought the bleach and mixed up a big batch in a bucket. (actually, my first step was to clear the patio and give it a good sweeping)


Then I let it sit in the bucket for 5 minutes or so to ensure that it had fully dissolved before I dumped the foamy mixture onto half of the patio and let it sit for 10-15 minutes before taking a stiff-bristled brush and scrubbing the heck out of the patio. The resulting foam was brown and gross….a sure sign that it must be working, right?


Next we grabbed the hose and sprayed the oxygen bleach off using the ‘jet’ setting on our hose nozzle. I was feeling pretty defeated right about now because it didn’t look that different. Karl (the voice of reason) convinced me to go inside and let it dry in the sun for a while before assessing final judgment, so I took his advice and did just that. And when I came back I was pleasantly surprised to see that it had worked! In the photo below, the section on the right has been cleaned and the section on the left has not. Pretty clear difference!


At the end of the day, here’s a complete shot of the patio in all it’s clean(er) glory (that’s a shadow from our plum tree being cast over part of the patio). It's not 100% perfect yet, but I’m so glad that most of the squiggly lines are gone! And so far the grass around the patio doesn’t seem any worse for wear, so perhaps it really is a greener alternative after all.


Oh, and did you notice anything different about the patio? Many of you know that I’ve been dying to get comfy patio furniture for years now, but my cheapskate/skinflint/tightwad ways have held me back from shelling out so much dough for furniture that’s going to be sitting out in the elements. Well, my good friends at Target decided to discontinue a line that we’ve been drooling over and we snagged a few pieces for a steal (especially the loveseat…30% off in addition to the sale since it was a floor model). We still need some tables and a few other things to complete the look, but I’m so thrilled with what we’ve gotten so far!

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